NutritionFacts.org

Health Topics

  1. #
  2. A
  3. B
  4. C
  5. D
  6. E
  7. F
  8. G
  9. H
  10. I
  11. J
  12. K
  13. L
  14. M
  15. N
  16. O
  17. P
  18. Q
  19. R
  20. S
  21. T
  22. U
  23. V
  24. W
  25. X
  26. Y
  27. Z
Browse All Topics

Calculate Your Healthy Eating Score

Rate your diet on a scale of 0 to 100 using the phytochemical index and compare your score to the standard American diet.

August 24, 2011 |
GD Star Rating
loading...

Topics

Supplementary Info

Sources Cited

Acknowledgements

Image thanks to desktopwallpaper.org

Transcript

A few years ago  a proposal was published for a healthy eating index and I though it might be interesting to look at the latest USDA dietary survey to see how the standard American Diet is doing. The index is simple,  it’s a score of 0 to 100 which simply represents the percent of dietary calories derived from foods rich in phytochemicals. Phytochemical is just a more technical term for phytonutrient, since nutrient implies essential for life, whereas phytochemicals are merely essential for a long healthy life.

So if 1% of your diet is composed of phytonutrient-rich food your diet gets a score of 1. If that’s where half your calories come from then your score is 50 and if that’s all you eat, you max out at 100, 100%.  How are Jane and Joe sixpack doing?

Here is the latest data on the  standard American diet: 3% of calories come from beans and nuts, 3% from fruit, 5% is vegetables, 23% from grain, 17% is added sugars, like candy and soda and other junk. 23% comes from added fats, butter, margarine, oil, and shortening, and 26% of the American diet is meat, dairy, and eggs.

For the healthy eating index we only get to count phytonutrient-rich foods, since they’re the ones most associated with chronic disease prevention, treatment, and cure. So, first off, the reason they’re called phytonutrients is that by definition they are found in plants, derived from the Greek word “phyton,” for plant.  So automatically we start with a score of 74. Neither lard nor candy are phytonutrient rich, so taking away the added fats and oils,  we’re down to 34. But the grain category is a combination of both whole grains—rich in phytonutrients, and refined grains, which had the phytonutrients largely removed. Of the 24,  only 4% of the American diet is composed of whole grains, oats, barley, whole wheat, brown rice, and the rest is highly processed garbage like white flour and corn starch.

Yikes, down to 15! But it gets worse. 2/3 of our vegetables are white potatoes, half of which are potato chips. The average American eats 23 calories of potato chips every day. But  none of the white potato products count, since they contain very few phytonutrients.

Similarly,  a third of our fruit calories are low-phytonutrient juices and a third are from bananas, which are pretty pitiful, but we’ll give it to them. So the typical American diet rates an 11. So on a scale of like 1 to 10 we get about a 1.

 How do you score a perfect ten? “Theoretically, a vegan diet that excluded refined grains, potato products, hard liquors, and added sugars and oils could have a perfect dietary index rating of 100. Sadly, the score of most current American diets would be unlikely to be as high as 20–yeah we wish it were 20—which means that there is quite ample room for improvement.”

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Dianne Moore.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger
  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/PeterHeeks/ Peter Heeks

    Another amazing video! Something to look forward to every day now, watch each video as soon as I get home.

    Is there any way to sort the existing videos in a particular order, I think I’ve seen them all by now but it would be good if you could do them in date order etc.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      Yes! If you just go to the home page the videos should be listed with the most recent first. So if you’re up to date then it’s just a matter of checking back after 8am EST every day!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/walfaro/ walfaro

    Excellent video Dr. Greger.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      Thank you. Please help me spread the word: folks can “like” us on Facebook, or follow us on twitter.

      • Green Smoothies Mom

        I am Always sharing your vital information on my facebook page… Thanks for posting all of the results from your research… Knowledge is key in preventing cancer and illness!! ~ Green Smoothies Mom https://www.facebook.com/GreenSmoothiesMom

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/41294/ 41294

    Is there any online calculator which we could put our diets into, and figure our own score?

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      Wouldn’t that be cool? The best diet analysis site out there that I know of (please anyone share any other suggestions!) is CHRON-O-Meter, and open-source (free) web application for tracking personal nutrition and health data, but it doesn’t have this particular functionality. If you just eat whole plant foods it would be pretty easy to calculate though :)

      • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/chadrm/ ChadRM

        http://www.nutritiondata.com

        In addition to nutrients, tracks amino acid score (protein quality), glycemic load, and inflammation factor of foods. Have not used CHRON-O-Meter, so cannot give a comparison.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/cyndy/ Cyndy

    Assuming you’re familiar witht he McDougall eating plan, where would you rate it on this scale?

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      I have tremendous respect for Dr. McDougall. Those following his prescription could presumably range anywhere from as low as 49% (by eliminating meat, dairy, eggs, and added fats) up to 100%, depending on how healthfully they choose to eat.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/beansngreens/ beansngreens

    “theoretically?” I’m so sick of the mainstream dismissing veganism a a pie in the sky idea! It’s proven, it’s doable, it’s a rational way to live!
    Thank you so much for this site!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/RobertEdmands/ Robert Edmands

    Amazing information!

    I have a BS in genetic biology, so I can even understand some of the scientific jargon. As an avid hiker, I’ve witnessed the spreading obesity epidemic with horror. I’m not hitting many home runs with my diet, but am seeking to improve steadily. (Baby Steps!) I’m buying some nuts at the GS tomorrow!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/capebreton/ CapeBreton

    Hi Michael,

    Brilliant insights. Thanks for all the work and efforts to share.

    Could you reference your source for the percentage of calorie distribution you use in this video.

    Thanks!

    Michael

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/capebreton/ CapeBreton

      Just found the reference above, thanks.

      • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

        Sorry you had to hunt around! I always link to all the sources (or at least the source citations if they aren’t available full-text online) in the Sources section below the videos. Thank you CapeBreton for your interest!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/KarenLaVine/ Karen LaVine

    Hi Dr Greger:
    Based on the “Greger Dietary Recommendations” of getting in daily servings of greens, beans, nuts, berries and tea, would 2 Tbsp freshly ground flax seed be included in the nuts category?

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

      Hello Karen,
      to answer your question, definitely! Nuts and seeds fall under the same category and to include flax seeds in this is definitely very beneficial! Keep up the good work!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/evanbrand/ evanbrand

    Thank you for the helpful video. As an economical, convenient juicing alternative to the norwalk juicer, what juicer do you recommend for juicing kale and greens (as well as fruits and veggies in general)? (Assuming of course that your learnings have not suggested that juicing is not beneficial…)

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

      Hello evan,

      Sorry to tell you but juicing is not very beneficial!
      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/fruit-juice-fail/

      • DrBarbaraHoldeman

        This video link is about fruit juice vs the whole fruit, not about juicing at home with veggies. Juicing is beneficial when it is done at home and is a part of your whole food plant based diet. Juicing has been shown to greatly increase the phytochemical intake since you can drink much more (for instance carrot) juice than you will ever be able to eat in carrots, adding greens to your juice aids in blood sugar regulation and many many patients have great beneficial outcomes when juicing.

        • Toxins

          The issue presented in the video is that we are throwing out the fiber and much of the nutrients in the pulp. Plus, if someone is trying to lose weight or is insulin sensitive, fruit juicing has a lot of sugar not binded up in the fiber which can lead to spiked blood sugars and a large intake of easily consumed calories that do not satiate. Overall it seems quite wasteful.

          • Joe

            There is a huge difference between home vegetable juicing and sickly sweet store bought pasteurized fruit juice! My favorite at the moment is kale, lemon, ginger and apple. Quite a bit of the fibre stays in – some of the insoluble, and nearly all of the soluble.Of course, it should be used in moderation like everything.

          • Tobias Brown

            Maybe you mean blending?

          • Toxins

            Smoothies preserve the fiber, juicing does not.

          • Joe

            Supposedly, 80% – 90% of the antioxidants are in the juice. That’s a serious amount of antioxidants and other phytochemicals if you’re juicing several kg of produce – condensed into a large glass. Most of the insoluble fiber is removed, but the soluble fibers like pectin mostly remain, and they do slow the absorption of nutrients (and sugar) considerably. Most juicers also leave some insoluble fiber, and my juices are quite ‘pulpy’.

            It is absolutely different from store bought juices – where the antioxidant activity has been pasteurized out, and any remaining pulp removed (then preservatives + sugar added and sat on a shelf for a few months)

            Having said that, juicing isn’t natural. There is a huge industry behind it pushing it as a cure-all – and plenty of exaggeration everywhere on the net. Whole foods will give you the full nutritional load in a balanced package.

            Personally, I don’t see a problem with kale, ginger and lemon juice – with an apple thrown in for sweetness. The shear volume of veggies would be hard to eat on their own. Dr Gregor’s video on Kale juice seems to be in favor as well – http://nutritionfacts.org/video/smoking-versus-kale-juice/ . In an ideal world, maybe we’d spend all day eating masses of greens – but in reality I think it a good way for people to add greens to their diet. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence showing very positive results – including from diabetics – so until further evidence comes to light, I think it’s a good addition to my day.

          • Toxins

            The bulk of the antioxidants are in the pulp
            http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/fruit-juice-fail/

          • Joe

            Your point is valid – and you have inspired me to research this further. But – your statement is a generalization. That video also talks about 3 studies: and none of them clear this matter up. Eg The apple study makes no comparison between juice and waste – it just mentions the source of the phenolics as the apple waste. It also deals with an extraction – not exactly comparable to the whole food – and it only looks at specific compounds – so generalizations cannot be made. The grape study is interesting, but the highest ORAC value was in the seeds – something we don’t digest anyway. The skins were high.

            I couldn’t view the orange study from the USDA thanks to the Government Shutdown!

            Both these fruits contain most of their power in the skins – and most water and sugar in the centre. I don’t know how home juicers perform extracting from the skins. They must be partly effective, because purple grapes make purple juice – but my guess is not as great as juice promoters make out. RE the 90% claim – I have found no evidence.

            I think it is a different issue with veg like kale and carrots, where there is a smaller difference between the skin and the flesh. With kale, I’d expect the antioxidant loss to be much less. Then Also, nutrients are probably more bioavailable – so thats another factor.

            I have become more skeptical. The problem I see is huge lack of data. Sites like nutritionSELF and the USDA database contain no data on fresh raw juices. The closest was canned carrot – of which 100g was more nutritionally dense than 100g of fresh carrots – but obviously took a lot more raw ingredient to make. Although not fresh – pasteurization and shelf storage are two important factors that make store bought juice incomparable.

            I’d love to see a study comparing the most common home-juiced vegetables versus the whole food. I think that’s the only way we’ll know. For now, the data just isn’t there, and we should refrain from deciding one way or the other. Without knowing the nutritional values of the juices we consume, or the effect on bioavailability, we are in the dark.

            I will continue juicing because of positive personal experience – but my mind will not be made up until there is some decent research on the subject.

            Thanks for the interesting conversation!

          • VegAtHeart

            I agree that it is probably better in general to eat whole fruits and vegetables than their juices. But, what do you think of the argument that fruit and vegetable juices are less filling (due to loss of their fibre) and are therefore more likely to be consumed in greater quantities without having to stop due to satiation, thus providing more of other nutrients (including antioxidants)?

          • Toxins

            I think the argument is sound, I remember Jeff Novick discussing the phenomenon when people consume a fruit before a meal vs a juice or smoothie. The people who consume the fruit eat less of the meal as it triggers satiation better then pureed liquid. Of course, I do not have a study on hand. But it makes sense.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/pabloc/ PabloC

    Dr. Greger, I’m curious… Based on that phytochemical index, ¿would you say a vegan diet is the healthiest?
    Thank you

  • Desert_solitaire_524

    I score 100 most days, though I do still eat white potatoes on a fairly regular basis, though never with unhealthy toppings.  (My favorite topping is a mixture of nutritional yeast and yellow miso mixed with a little water; second fave is home made salsa…)  Still, this video demonstrates what a sad state of nutritional affairs we are in for a society as a whole.  How do we change this?

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Also be sure to check out my associated blog post How to live longer in four easy steps!

  • daisy clover

    is air popped organic plain popcorn a healthy whole grain i can eat daily?does popcorn have a good phytochemical amount?so according to your dr greger dietary prescription ,an optimal diet would be comprsied of:vegetables,fruit,legumes,2 Tablespoons of ground flaxseed and whole grains/starchy vegetables optional or always daily?thanks!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/ Michael Greger M.D.

    Also be sure to check out my associated blog post, Preserving Vision Through Diet

  • http://www.facebook.com/KatherineDesmond Katherine Desmond

    one of my favorite dishes is kale, shitake and potatoes. but its a usually about half a potato per serving. I don’t see how this can be an unhealthy part of my vegan diet.

    • Lyra

      Try a variety with colored flesh (not just skin).

      http://nutritionfacts.org/questions/what-is-the-healthiest-potato/

    • Joe

      I think the point in the video was that french fries are not a source of nutrition – and that makes up the bulk of potato eating in America. Boiled potatoes have a good nutrient content – they’ve sustained cultures in the past!

    • Ashley

      Potatoes are not bad, per se, but they are not as nutrient-dense as other starchy foods. I see no problem with eating potatoes in moderate amounts on occasion, especially steamed or baked in the skin. Fried potatoes obviously are not healthy.

      Just because something is not chock full of phytonutrients does not mean that is ‘unhealthy.’ Potatoes are a good source of a carbs to keep you going! If you are eating kale and shiitakes alongside your spuds, and that’s how you like it, then keep it up. Maybe try it out with sweet potatoes, if you really wanted to add a few more nutrients to your meal.

    • Sean

      It is healthy, to think otherwise would be silly. The video was referring to crips or deep fried potatoes. Boiled, dry roasted or steamed potatoes are very healthy.

  • Ashley

    I think I score around 85-95%. I cook with oil and use margarine on occasion… and I eat refined grain in tortillas.

    Some days it’s more of an 85%. Fruits, veg, nuts, beans, and greens compose the majority of the diet in our home. We love it and feel great.

  • Tobias Brown

    There are many superfoods with very high antioxidant values. For example, amla or gooseberries. Any implications? (Specifically, is there any benefit in adding more after 100%?)

  • Ann

    I score a 9 out of 10 or something

  • David

    This should be the leading headline on the evening news, like every day – until “they” get it!!!! That may eventually foment complacency. But, ce la vi, eh?

  • pj

    Great video…. so white potatoes baked… would be 100% phytonutrients???

  • Luc

    Below website is just an illustration of the fact that we know everything about healthy food as soon as we can make an extra penny out of growing animals in a more healty way. As a teenager 35 years ago, I was calculating feed for cows and believe me , at that time we where applying more knowledge in our cow feeding then we do today for feeding people.
    http://bronto.ua/pages/more/extrusionofricebran%E2%80%93thebestwaytoobtainhigheffectiveanimalfeed.html

    So what people are eating today, all comes down to “money”
    besides , political propaganda in old sovjet union was nothing compaired to modern advertising for food.