What are the Healthiest Foods?


the latest Dietary Guidelines the 2015 guidelines won’t be out probably until January 2016 have a chapter on food components to reduce but when they say things like reduce intake of solid fats major sources of saturated and trans fatty acids what does that mean in terms of which foods to reduce similarly there’s a chapter on nutrients we should increase our intake of so-called short fall nutrients but when they say we need more magnesium for example what does that mean in terms of actual food let’s look at 20 different types of foods to see based on the federal guideline criteria which foods are the healthiest and which foods are the least healthy to illustrate I’ll use traffic light labeling like the UK sound signpost system which assigns colors for like green meeting go yellow amber meaning caution and red meaning stop and think before you put it in your mouth added sugars is easy anyone could have guessed sweets and soda but there’s often surprising levels even in savory snack foods like Ritz crackers which I’m using as my snack example the top 5 offenders are basically soda donuts kool-aid ice cream and candy next is caloric density calories per serving we’re oils join dessert and process snack foods as the worst the one cannot consider eggs fish nuts and seeds poultry other meat or soda to be low calorie foods the top 5 sources of calories in the American diet a–basically desserts bread chicken soda and pizza can you guess where our cholesterol is found desserts dairy eggs fish chicken and other meat number one by far is eggs but then chicken contributes more cholesterol to the American diet than beef then cheese and pork here are the foods high in saturated fat coming from Dairy Dairy donuts dairy chicken salt levels highest in lunch meat and snack foods but Americans give most of their sodium from bread chicken and pizza about half of our food groups here have trans fatty either naturally or artificially added or created cakes cookies crackers pies and Donuts number one then animal products margarine french fries chips and microwave popcorn now to the nutrients Green is a high source pale green as a medium source and white is a poor source for calcium fiber magnesium potassium vitamin A vitamin c vitamin d vitamin E and vitamin K okay I know that was a little fast let’s put it all together okay now this is nutrients per typically 100 grants about three and half ounces but that’s not how our body keeps track of what we eat the body’s food currencies and calories not grams our body monitors how much energy we eat not how much weight we eat weight of food we only have about what 2,000 calories in the calorie bank to spend every day so to maximize our nutrient purchase we want to eat the most nutrient-dense food so I just changed this from nutrients per weight to nutrients per calorie the foods are just listed here in alphabetical order to look for trends so we can kind of rank them based on these scores from best to worst so the foods to emphasize in one’s diet are unprocessed unrefined plant-based foods which in general lack the disease promoting components and as the Dietary Guidelines Committee putted these foods contain not only the essential vitamins minerals but also hundreds of naturally occurring phytonutrients that may protect against cancer heart disease osteoporosis another chronic health condition so this chart actually extends far to the right hundreds of additional bright green columns capturing all the phytonutrients found in whole plant foods but largely missing from processed and animal-derived foods there would just be hundreds more white columns here in the middle with a few green tiles far off at the end and the lack of disease preventing compounds may be compounded by the presence of disease promoting compounds so that’s why people eating more plant-based tend to end up eating a more nutrient-dense dietary pattern closer to the current federal dietary guidelines and the more plant-based we get apparently the better you