AHS 2012 – Mat Lalonde – Nutrient Density
As I mentioned in my first AHS post, Mat Lalonde‘s lecture was one of the ones that I was most looking forward to, and it didn’t disappoint.
Mat didn’t really cover a lot of theoretically new ground, but the work that Mat does and the knowledge that he brings to the table are incredible.
If you don’t know, Mat has a PhD from Harvard in Organic Chemistry (and a post-doc in Inorganic Chemistry), and he’s currently on staff at Harvard. Smart guy, and generally entertaining and funny.
Mat’s talk was on nutrient density, and the first quarter of his lecture tackled the existing measure of nutrient density, including things like ANDI, the nutrient density rating that you might see at your local Whole Foods.
In general, all of the existing nutrient density measures have huge flaws. ANDI, for instance, takes account of only 4 factors, and doesn’t address the great majority of essential nutrients.
So Mat decided to spend time creating his own nutrient chart. Took him 6 days (with very little sleep and food, in his own words).
Mat wanted to focus on all essential nutrients, including all essential fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. However, the largest database of nutrients in foods did not contain any information on amino acids, fatty acids, or several vitamins and minerals. Still, Mat was able to put together his own charts covering the majority of essential vitamins and minerals.
As an aside, I’m trying to get these charts from Mat, and once I do, I’ll post some of that information here and possibly in the November issue of Paleo Living.
Most of Mat’s speech covered the nutrient density of various food groups. I don’t think it’s useful to go through every group here, but as you’ve probably guessed, organ meats, meats, vegetables, and fruits all tend to perform pretty well (with variation within each group).
On the other hand, grains and legumes perform much less well (grains in particular – legumes do a bit better).
None of this is groundbreaking or shocking, but there are 2 very important takeaway points for Mat’s talk:
1. It’s great to see someone of Mat’s capability trying to come up with a new nutrient density system. This is something that the general public needs to understand, and Mat’s system is simple enough to be displayed in a graphic on any food. It’ll take a while before anything like this is required to be put on food packaging, but if it were, it’d be easy for everyone to see how each food performs with respect to essential nutrients (including amino acids and fatty acids). Might take a long time, though.
2. One of Mat’s main points was that every other nutrient density index lumps together raw and cooked grains and raw and cooked legumes. This makes no sense. You can’t eat raw grains and legumes (with the exception of certain soaked legumes). More importantly, once grains and legumes are cooked, they lose a great deal of the small amount of nutrients that they started with. More reason not to eat grains if you’ve otherwise got enough to eat.
All in all, Mat didn’t disappoint, and please check out his talk if you get a chance to see a recording.