Monday, June 18, 2012

Getting the Most from Your Servings Per Day

I joined the organization, The Center for Science in the Public Interest.  This is a good fit for me as I have the desire to share research(science) with others.  I do this here in the hopes that people will apply the best evidence to decisions they make about their health. My membership was only 10$ and I recently received a fact book on healthy foods from them as part of my signing up.   I do study nutrition matters on a daily basis, so I feel confident in my ability to wade through the junk and sensationalism - this book is neither.  It was created by nutritionists and the criteria used to determine a foods healthiness is clearly stated and scientifically supported.

The booklet has 2 charts that are of particular interest and relevant to our recent discussions.  In these charts, fruits and vegetables are given scores based on their ability to provide the nutrients we most need within the standard serving size ( RACC - 1 piece of fruit or 1/2 cup etc).  This includes vitamins and minerals; carotenoids, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, iron and fiber... with vitamin k and lutein included for vegetables.  Along with the score and some symbols for the amount of nutrient provided (i.e 20% of DV) the rows contain the calorie amount.  This is perfect as it allows me to iterate on an important point I continue to make.  Calories count!  A diet(meal pattern) that is considered healthy includes a certain amount of servings a day from select food groups.  These recommended servings are intended to be consumed at an individually based caloric level.  We can average that to 1800 calories a day for minimally active persons (perhaps).

The food groups from which to choose are fruits and vegetables, whole grains, protein and healthy oils.  If you choose your 4 fruits and 5 vegetables from among the most caloric ones, e.g bananas and potatoes - that is 900 calories worth!! 
Better yet, the booklet shows that the fruits and the vegetables with the absolute highest nutrient scores are often also the lowest in calories.  The low energy density high nutrient combination is well represented here.  (volumetrics)

For instance, the top 12 fruits include 10 with less than 100 calories per serving.  The lowest calorie highest scoring fruits include cantelope (1/4), watermelon (2 cups diced) strawberries (8 berries), grapefruit (1/2) and an orange.  Note that honeydew melons and bananas are much further down the list.  The highest score is 575 for 3 pieces of guava (watermelon is second at 314) and the score for the banana is 045. 

The vegetables are awesome.  So many nutrient dense low calorie choices exist.  This is so important because we should eat 5 servings of veggies and if they are high in calories, we won't be able to have that glass of wine at the end of the day - or small cup of ice cream! [note that if  10 percent of the 1800 calories can go to SOFas - that is just 180 calories for desserts] 
The number one vegetable with a phenomenal score of 1389 points - yes that is thousands... is KALE.  A 3/4 c of cooked kale only has 20 calories.  Another powerhouse is canned pumpkin (specifically canned) 1/2 c has 40 calories and 570 points.  I use canned pumpkin often. Brocolli rabe is low in cals and has a high score of 386. A medium sweet potato which has a good score (485), has 100 calories.  That is not a lot of calories but remember you have 4 more vegetables servings to get in the same day.  Some vegetables with low scores AND high calories are avocado, lima beans and white potatoes.  All of these have a score below 075.  [I am using the leading zero so you don't think I made a mistake on the potato and banana - I know that they are loved - but their overall nutrient content is not so great]

I think that a list like this is very helpful.  The book does the same thing for meats and for protein sources.

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