A high-nutrient, low-fat, whole foods, plant-based diet is the healthiest way to eat. The key to a healthy diet is eating foods that have a high nutrient density, as Dr. Joel Fuhrman expressed in his simple formula, Health = Nutrients/Calories. The more nutrient-dense food you eat, the more satisfied you will be with fewer calories, and the less room you will have for junk food with its empty calories.
Eating foods with high nutrients and low calories has allowed me to stay slim, healthy, and youthful. I’ve been able to avoid the many prescription medications that my friends and family members must take to control their blood pressure and cholesterol, and I’ve avoided the heart disease that took the life of my father when he was only 43. I weigh less, at age 53, than I did when I graduated from high school. I no longer suffer from indigestion, reflux, or asthma. I no longer crave unhealthy junk food, and my husband and I love the natural flavors in simple foods and don’t miss our former ways of eating.
I’m also a cancer survivor, and the mother of a child who died of cancer. I never want cancer to touch my family again. Hundreds of population studies, including The China Study, show that fruit and vegetable consumption protects against cancer. The National Cancer Institute reports that “People whose diets are rich in plant foods such as fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of getting cancers…They are also less likely to get diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension…To help prevent these cancers and other chronic diseases, experts recommend 4 to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, depending on energy needs. This includes 2 to 5 servings of fruits and 2 to 8 servings of vegetables, with special emphasis on dark-green and orange vegetables and legumes.” According to Dr. Fuhrman, fewer than 1% of Americans consumes enough calories from raw vegetables to ensure this protection against cancer.
In aging and longevity research, your ability to get optimal nutrition for the fewest possible amount of calories is related to our longevity, and the more you can decrease your calories while staying optimally nourished, the better your chances of healthy aging and longevity.
My goal is to eat and serve meals that deliver the the most nutrients per calorie and make the healthiest foods on the planet taste great. In so doing, I have lost my appetite for unhealthy, over-processed foods that lead to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. A whole foods, plant-based diet is for people who enjoy eating a lot of great tasting food that just happens to be very healthy.
Dr. Fuhrman developed the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI). ANDI scores (from 1 to 1,000) measure the total nutrient density of a food, including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant capacity. Whole Foods posts them in some stores. The ANDI scale evaluates an extensive series of micronutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidant capacities, and phytochemicals, and it rates nutrient density by calorie, rather than quantity, of food. The traditional way of evaluating and labeling nutrition facts evaluates nutrients based on the amount in a serving of food by weight. So if you compared the nutrients in 100 grams of kale to 100 grams of mozzarella, you would see that the kale has only 3.3 grams of protein, whereas the mozzarella has 22.2 grams of protein. But the snapshot would be inaccurate, because the mozzarella has 6 times the calories of kale, and nearly 32 times the amount of fat. The mozzarella has no vitamin C or fiber. On the ANDI chart, the kale scores 1,000 to mozzarella’s 14, making it much easier to see which one packs more bang for the calorie buck.
Here are some ANDI scores.
So how do I remember all this? I don’t. I just know that leafy greens are the most nutrient dense foods, while grains are more calorie-dense. What foods do I eat?
I eat unlimited amounts of :
- raw vegetables (with a goal of one pound per day)
- cooked green vegetables (with a goal of another pound per day)
- legumes (beans, peas, lentils) or bean sprouts (minimum one cup per day)
- fresh fruit (at least four servings per day)
- eggplant, mushrooms, peppers, onions, tomato, and other non-starchy vegetables, cooked and raw
I try to limit the following:
- cooked starchy vegetables and whole grains (butternut or acorn squash, corn, sweet potato, brown rice, cooked carrots) (maximum one cup total per day)
- raw nuts and seeds (one ounce per day) or avocado (two ounces per day)
- ground flax seed (two tablespoons per day)
- unsweetened soy milk (maximum one cup per day)
I limit more processed foods, including whole-grain flour, whole-grain pasta, fruit smoothies, fruit juice, dried fruits, and tofu to a few servings per week. I’m trying to limit salt as much as possible.
- all animal products
- highly refined grains, like white flour, white rice, and corn starch
An entire pound of raw vegetables will fill you up, and it’s less than 100 calories. I try to eat a big salad at the beginning of lunch, and then have some cooked or raw vegetables with dinner. I try to remember that “The Salad is the Main Dish.” Eating big salads is the secret to a tiny waist and a long healthy life.
My basic daily meal plan includes fruit and 1/2 cup steel-cut oats for breakfast, a big salad and homemade vegetable bean soup for lunch, and cooked vegetables, legumes, and 1/2 cup whole grains for dinner. I can’t wait to start posting recipes.
This blog uses the latest nutritional data available from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), as well as nutritional data provided by food growers and manufacturers about their products. We believe the information on this website to be accurate. However, we are not responsible for typographical or other errors. Nutrition information for recipes is calculated by Living Cookbook based on the ingredients in each recipe based on statistical averages. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, and other factors.
This blog is not a substitute for the services of a trained health professional. Although we provide nutritional information, the information on this blog is for informational purposes only. No information offered by or through this blog shall be construed as or understood to be medical advice or care. None of the information on this blog should be used to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease. Consult with a health care provider before taking any product or using any information on this blog. Please discuss any concerns with your health care provider.