Nutrient Density: the Key to Health

Your diet is the cornestone of your health. At the end of the day all that matters is the number of calories and the amount of nutrients that you have ingested. The combination of lowering calories and increasing nutrition is a combination punch that will prevent disease, dramatically slow the aging process and help us to live longer, more youthful lives! That's why I developed this simple Health Equation. The Health Equation describes Nutrient Density. Forget calories and start analyzing the nutrient density of the foods that you eat.

Macronutrients the Source of all Calories

Macronutrients are the nutrients that contain calories, thereby supplying us with energy.

Micronutrients- the Basis for Superior Nutrition
Micronutrients are those nutrients that don't contain calories, but have other essential roles to play. Examples of some micronutrients are vitamins, minerals and fiber. There are thousands of them.

My health equation simply states that in order to maintain superior health and a youthful vigor into later years we must maximize micronutrients as we minimize macronutrients. In other words eat as many micronutrients as you can for each calorie of macronutrient. To do this we must eat less fat, less protein and less carbohydrate as we increase our consumption of high nutrient foods.

The foundation of nutritional science is this simple formula:

Health = Nutrients / Calories (H = N / C)

This concept describes the nutrient density of your diet. The key to both longevity and maintaining a healthy weight is to eat predominantly those foods that have a high proportion of nutrients (non-caloric food factors) compared to calories.

We do not want to be deficient in any macronutrient. However, consuming more of any one of these three macronutrients than we need can have detrimental effects on our long term health. Protein, Fat and Carbohydrate are the only macronutrients that exist. All calories consist of one of these three macronutrients. If you are overweight, you have consumed more calories than you have utilized. Micromanaging the percent of fat, protein or carbohydrate isn't going to change the amount of calories much. You need to consume fewer calories.

Therefore, almost all overweight individuals need to consume less protein, less fat and less carbohydrates; the source of calories. Don't worry about not consuming enough. Unless you are anorexic, it is very rare to find an American deficient in fat, protein or carbohydrates. Inhabitants of modern western societies generally consume more macronutrients than needed.

Are micronutrients in our diet really that important?
Could we just take a vitamin pill and eat a low nutrient diet and do almost just as well? The answer that you will come to understand is that micronutrient intake is the most crucial factor that determines our health and that optimal micronutrient intake can only be achieved if we eat a relatively large quantity of non-starchy vegetables. Non-starchy vegetables contain the most nutrients per calorie of any other food. They also contain large amounts of not yet named compounds (phytochemicals) essential for maximizing health and preventing disease. Keep in mind that micronutrients include many that have not yet been discovered. New nutrients are being discovered all of the time. The incredible nutrient density of non-starchy vegetables and their ability to promote health and reduce our caloric drive is one of the secrets to Eat To Live and a long, healthy life.

Calories - Less is More
There are very few things in science that are proven. By "proven" I mean that every study performed on the subject, has always shown the same thing, and shown it convincingly. There is only one proven way to extend lifespan and retard aging.

Here it is:
When you feed an animal (and that can be an animal of any species) less food in a high or at least adequate micronutrient environment it will live considerably longer. The thinnest animals always out live the ones that are heavier. This has also been confirmed with studies on humans, the thinnest of us, live the longest.

Scientists have known for over sixty (60) years that if you reduce caloric intake below a certain set point while maintaining adequate nutrition you can extend life. This experiment has been performed on numerous species, including primates (we are primates too). In each case, the average animal lifespan was increased 25 - 50 percent. Reducing calories not only extends life it delays the onset of old age. You literally live younger longer. In all clinical studies published to date, animals fed reduced calorie diets were also more disease resistant. Evidence for increased lifespan by caloric restriction is enormous and irrefutable. Calorically-restricted animals are not only more cancer resistant, but oxidative stress is inhibited and youthful features of young tissue are retained with aging.

What is clear is that health and longevity are inversely proportional to caloric intake. Calorie reduction is the closest thing that science has to a fountain of youth. Typical studies suggest that you would have to reduce calories by about 30% to achieve significant life-extending benefits. This means that someone who would normally require 2200 Calories would need to reduce intake to 1800 calories in order to achieve life-extending benefits.

However, it must be noted that if one eats less food that is low or deficient in nutrients and as a result consumes less calories in a low nutrient environment, diseases will appear that will destroy the dramatic effects of caloric restriction.
Dr. Fuhrman talks about these issues in more detail in his books, and in the member center of DrFuhrman.com.

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David Sudarsky - July 30, 2006 11:58 AM

Your article states that a 30% reduction in calories is needed to achieve significant life-extending benefits, but you give the example of reducing from 2200 to 1800. That's only an 18% reduction. (2200-1800)/2200. Was there a typo?

Shauna - October 7, 2007 11:53 AM

This is such an old post, but I'm going to respond to this anyway, since nobody else has bothered. David, you're totally right. If a person normally required 2200 and wanted to reduce caloric intake by 30%, he would have to cut down to 1540 calories per day. I'm on the seventh day in a row of eating according to Eat To Live, and I'm so tired and lethargic I don't have energy to take care of my kids...so I'm starting to wonder if this will pass, or if this is what I have to deal with indefinitely.

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