↑ comment by Ishaan ·
2013-09-09T18:55:43.131Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
It's almost as if the internet's nutrition websites weren't designed for munchkining your diet!
This is because while the field of nutrition is currently at the point where it can prevent serious deficiency (a relatively simple matter of making sure all the important nutrients pass through your guts in sufficient quantity), it's not at the point where it can confidently point to the optimal diet for the average human.
Everyone agrees that fruits and vegetables are generally positive. Everyone agrees that heavily processed foods are generally bad. By the way, Calorie counting is a reasonable path to weight loss and weight gain (though there are other methods) - and everyone agrees that being over/under weight is generally bad. That's about where the agreement ends.
Tackling the harder problems of nutrition would require us to understand more about human metabolism, nutrient absorption, non-nutrient factors like anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, natural toxins (never forget that being eaten is not in the genetic interests of most plants), gut flora, immunological function, and things of that sort.
Just to give you a sense of the chaos here: there are nutritionists who make a case that you shouldn't eat beans or lentils at all. These same folks say that while you are at it stop eating grains in general, and make up the calories with animal fat. At the opposite side of the spectrum, there are nutritionists who say that the optimal diet contains almost zero meat (see - china study). All this confusion is before you add in ethical complications about sustainable food and animal rights.
If you both these strands of advice simultaneously and cut out grains, legumes, and animal fat ... at that point you'll have to start to getting rather creative in order to get sufficient calories, and you're probably pretty far off from optimal at this point.
I could take your request and give you a professional nutritionist's dietary recommendations, but the nutritionist I recommend will necessarily conform to my own stance and you'd be foolish to trust anyone on expert opinion when expert opinion is so diverse. From your perspective, my opinion that the optimal strategy is to model your diet off of what humans ate during the paleolithic would constitute a random shot in a space of common schools of thought - I think Paleolithic diets have a relatively high likelihood of being better than almost all diets which became possible post-agriculture, but as far as you're concerned who the hell am I? Nutrition isn't even my primary area of study, and even if it was, taking the recommendation of a random expert is probably worse than taking the recommendation an expert who was recommended by a random non-expert
Anyway, aside from general purpose tools like google scholar, cochrane reviews, etc... http://examine.com is one of the most user-friendly primary source databases I've come across geared specifically to nutrition. Unfortunately, it's mostly about supplements and single nutrients rather than whole foods, and that's largely because we can be more confident when talking about single molecules than we can about entire foods. On a less empirical note, I've got a generally favorable opinion of the blog posts from http://www.marksdailyapple.com/ which clued me in to several things I hadn't considered before (offal & bones, Vitamin K2, etc) and lean on the practical side. If you prefer to listen to people who are prominent in academia, Loren Cordain has a blog http://thepaleodiet.com/ and several influential papers.
Replies from: tgb
↑ comment by tgb ·
2013-09-09T19:54:56.893Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Great points - thanks!
How confident is the consensus regarding whether one absolutely should meet the basic FDA minimums for all nutrients/ This would be my first approach towards 'munchkining' - at least looking to see whether I have any deficiencies.
Replies from: Ishaan, ephion
↑ comment by Ishaan ·
2013-09-09T20:15:56.949Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I'm not sure. You'll have to research each nutrient individually - each nutrient is its own little research project.
I'm fairly confident that the optimum amount of vitamin D is probably much higher than the recommended dose. You can take that information into account as you see fit when judging the FDA recommended doses. My guess is that they generally tend to be too low. This might be ignorance, or it might be a precautionary measure to prevent supplement overdose - I'm not sure.
Being of the evolutionary-nutrition school of thought, I'd say the first place to look for deficiencies are the places where our ancestors would have gotten more than us even if we ate optimally given the resources we have. That means Vitamin D (we're sun deprived) Vitamin K2 (we grow up sterile so our gut flora do not synthesize enough) and Omega 3 (grain fed meat is lacking this).
Further deficiencies would probably depend on your individual diet and physiology. And by the way, if you are going to put lots of effort into being healthy, be sure to direct a good portion of that effort into optimizing exercise regimen and stress regulation, both of which are probably more important than diet.
↑ comment by ephion ·
2013-09-09T21:30:21.913Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Most FDA RDAs are to avoid a state of deficiency. Example: If you don't eat enough Vitamin C, you'll get scurvy. So eat at least this much vitamin C to avoid scurvy -- there's the RDA.
There are a few examples of nutrients which are naturally produced in the body, but supplementation provides a solid benefit beyond what you'd expect from satisfying a deficiency. Vitamin D is a good example of this: I've been taking 10,000IU Vitamin D (~17xRDA) and I feel MUCH better. Creatine is another good one, where you will produce enough to avoid a deficiency state, but additional supplementation significantly improves performance.
The kicker is that everyone is essentially individual in how they respond to things. Some people react really well to a paleo diet (ie high meat, low starch), whereas some people respond very well to a vegan/high-starch diet. Some people don't respond to creatine or fish oil supplementation, and some people are markedly worse off without it. So approach the question methodically: Change one variable at a time and record how you feel.
Replies from: kalium, Douglas_Knight
↑ comment by kalium ·
2013-09-10T19:15:16.095Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Actually, the FDA RDA for Vitamin C provides enough of this (non-fat-soluble, and therefore very poorly stored in the body) vitamin that your reserve, at equilibrium, will get you through thirty days of complete deprivation with no symptoms. Which is nice, but means that if your intake is below the RDA but decently reliable you will still be fine. I'd be surprised if my intake were above 30% RDA on average, but I have never had symptoms of scurvy.
I second the "individual response" paragraph. A lot of people say they feel hungry and unsatisfied after a full meal of mostly starch. I feel great after eating starch but feel hungry and unsatisfied after a full meal of mostly meat.
↑ comment by Douglas_Knight ·
2013-09-11T03:03:40.430Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Most FDA RDAs are to avoid a state of deficiency.
I don't think that's true. As far as I know, they are largely based on normal consumption from a few decades ago.