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Basic foods provide top nutrition

When Welsh researcher Zoe Harcombe discovered that the Brits and Americans consume around 1100 calories a day from just two ingredients — sugar and flour — she set out to match that number of calories with real food items that would meet the recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals. Here’s what she came up with.

Below is her list of foods along with the nutrients they provide: 
35 g Porridge oats (manganese)
125 g Whole milk (vitamin D and calcium) 
75 g Liver (all the B vitamins, iron, copper and zinc) 
50 g Broccoli (Vitamin C) 
200 g Spinach (vitamins C, A and K1, iron, manganese and magnesium)
25 g Cocoa powder (magnesium and copper) 
125 g Sardines with bones (vitamins B3, B12, D, E and K2, calcium, phosphorus and selenium) 
200 g Eggs (vitamins B2, B5 and E, Folic acid, phosphorus, selenium and zinc)
20 g Sunflower seeds (vitamins B1, B6 and E, plus copper). 

Zoe’s not suggesting this as a daily food plan; it’s just an exercise. And 1100 calories leaves you with a few to play with (government guidelines recommend about 1800 calories for moderately active women over 50).

But it’s relevant because when we’re older nutrient density matters. We’re after the most bang for our nutritional buck, i.e. plenty of nutrients without too many calories.

In coming up with this list, Zoe acknowledged even with every food on the planet to choose from, it’s actually pretty hard to eat what we supposedly need of some nutrients — especially calcium, magnesium, zinc, and vitamins D and E.

And her calculations don’t allow for variable quality produce, the nutrients we lose in cooking or the fact that our metabolism and absorption of nutrients drops off a bit with age.

That means it’s impossible for vegetarians or vegans. If it’s a challenge to meet the daily recommended allowances with these foods, imagine taking out the sardines and liver, or in the case of vegans, eggs and milk too. So supplementation’s clearly necessary for anyone on those paths.

Finally, there’s not a ‘superfood’ on the list. No goji berries, kale, quinoa, spirulina or turmeric lattes. In fact, it’s not a fashionable or expensive line-up, and almost harks back to the kinds of foods we might have grown up on.

Sometimes we need a reminder of that. 

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Monday, February 25, 2019 | Rhonda Anderson