CDC Superfoods? Why The Food Nutrient ANDI Score Is Flawed

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What are the top superfoods to eat a lot of?  The Bulletproof Diet Roadmap and Bulletproof Diet Book provide a framework for answering this question.  The CDC provides another.

The CDC has taken another stab at defining powerhouse fruits and vegetables, but they unfortunately got it wrong again.  (Watercress comes out on top!?)

Here’s why.

What Is the ANDI Score For Food Nutrients?

This CDC report calculated its list of top superfoods based on ANDI Scores, or “aggregate nutrient density index” scores intended to find the foods with the highest nutrient-per-calorie density.  Unfortunately, ANDI Scores are hopelessly broken because the denominator is the energy density of food: i.e., how many calories are in 100 grams of the food.

That means that if you take watercress – 100 grams of watercress is probably 95 grams of water and has exactly FOUR calories (yes, 4 calories)… you can ignore the water in the equation.

So if it has enough vitamins to equal 400 (quite a lot of vitamins), you divide by the number of calories and you get a nice score of 100. Sounds great, right?

Except you’ll starve to death on a watercress diet because there’s no energy in it.

You’ll also experience food cravings if you eat tons of it.

Following just ANDI Scores is a roadmap to starving.

The ANDI/nutrient density approach discounts some of the most important factors to look at when you eat.  ANDI scores make people try to avoid calories when it’s calories from the right foods that make your brain and body work.

A lot of the foods the CDC lists are indeed very good for you due to high vitamin content – lots of greens and cruciferous veggies of course – but you can’t subsist on them alone.

Truly high nutrient foods, like liver or butter or egg yolks, are penalized because they’re high calorie.

Guess what has the highest ANDI score? A multivitamin. Sure, I take supplements.

But I also eat real food too.

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By Dave Asprey

  • Marty Kendall
  • Dancing Crane

    I think that you are missing a major point here – the US is not short of calories to consume. Any balance approach would favor a higher proportion of high ANDI score foods over low ANDI score foods. That is the trick – I have lived it for the past 6 months and the body changes are astounding. They include – low blood pressure, low cholesterol, low blood sugar levels, lower body weight, higher energy etc,,

  • phasegen

    The CDC specifically says that the index is to help people ingest enough nutrients to avoid chronic disease. They only studied 47 foods. They were trying to find nutritional powerhouse foods with high bioavailability to recommend people include more of in their daily diet. Not eat exclusively.

  • CosmicV

    Indeed, I don’t think the average American has worries about starving. The scores are obviously guidelines towards a sane diet. No one suggests cutting calories if your emaciated. I think any reading of any diet assumes some common sense.

  • Soscipherr Starshine

    I will sleep well tonight knowing that you will surely have met your nutrient requirements for things like cholesterol and saturated fat. . . Oh, wait, humans don’t require ANY dietary cholesterol – it’ is in fact such a tremendous contributing factor to the leading causes of death among the “developed” world, that the World Health Organization has likened consumption of some those foods that you suggested had such “high nutrient” content to smoking cigarettes.

    Try not to worry about me either. You see, what you seem to be labelling as “real” differs immensely from the real food that I thrive on. The rainbow of nutrient-dense, whole food, plant-based deliciousness, loaded with both soluble fibre, water, and yes, even calories. In fact, while I am happy to be well past needing to count my daily caloric intake, it tends to fall well above a stingy 2,000 calorie RDA.

    All of that aside, I do wish you a happy, healthy, and very nutritious weekend.

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