Let’s talk numbers

You know what… forget gluten, forget lectins… let’s assume that grains and beans have no detrimental effects. With this assumption let us compare the nutritional content of grains, beans, vegetables, fruits and sugars. There’s actually very little I want to write in this post because I did a fair bit of research or data collection or whatever you want to call it and  have gathered some numbers which I’m sure will be very useful to you. So without further ado let’s just jump right in.

Note:

1. 200 calories of each food item is taken into account.

2. Carbohydrates, fiber and protein are in grams.

3. Vitamins are present as %DV i.e. Percentage Daily Value = Recommended Daily Amount. Find more information here.

Data:

Cereals and Grains:

- About 1 cup of grains/cereals will result in a calorie in take of ~ 200.

- All grains and cereals have a high carb load and contain little to no fiber and protein.

- Vitamins are available… but in trace amounts.

Beans and Legumes:

- About 1 cup of beans/legumes will result in a calorie in take of ~ 200.

- Beans and legumes have a high carb load but contain decent amount of fiber and protein.

- Moderate quantities of vitamins are available.

Starchy Vegetables:

- Each medium sized potato/yam will provide you about a 100 calories.

- Starchy vegetables are carb heavy and contain less fiber and protein (similar to grains)

- Moderate quantities of vitamins are available.

Fibrous Vegetables:

- Each cup of fibrous vegetable will result in a calorie intake of only 40 calories!

- Fibrous vegetables are not carb heavy and contain enormous amounts of fiber and protein!

- Monstrous quantities of vitamins are available!

Fruits:

- Fruits could be calorie dense or not depending on their type. Berries are generally super low calorie.

- Fruits can be carb heavy, again depending on choice, and can have insane amount of fiber (berries) or not.

- Protein content of fruit is generally very low.

- Moderate quantities of vitamins are available (mostly vitamin C).

Sugar:

- 1/4 cup (or less) of sugar will result in 200 calories!

- They have a very high carb load, no fiber and no protein.

- Sugars have little to no vitamins to offer.

- Honey and sugar ain’t too different.

Discussion:

Now that you have seen the data let’s throw in some graphs, pictorially represent them and put things in perspective.

1. All these foods offer pretty similar amount of total carbohydrates to provide a total of 200 calories.

So no big deal here. Let’s chill.

2. While we are looking at the carbs offered by these foods let’s see how much fiber each of these offer.

Oh wow! Now here’s something worthwhile.

- While sugars offer zero fiber and grains offer just about 4 grams/200 calories, fibrous vegetables offer a whopping 21 grams/200 calories!! That is 85% of your DV for fiber!

- Fruits offer a significant amount of fiber too and if all your fruits are berries… my oh my… you’re getting ~ 30 grams of fiber/200 calories! That is 120% of your DV of fiber!

Clearly from a fiber perspective (which is important for all this)… fibrous vegetables and berries kick some serious ass! So brown rice eaters… please quit being proud! The 2 grams of fiber/200 calories ain’t no thang!

Net carbs in any food = Total carbs – Fiber and this is the number of carbs that actually count and the lower the better. So net carbs for these dudes?

Seriously… check it out! Fibrous vegetables have more fiber than net carbs! Wicked! Show me one product in the market today that does this! Fruits don’t compare too badly either and if I make a column for just berries… that would be very similar to the fibrous vegetable column.

3. What about protein now? These things should come with some protein too right?

Hells yeah! Once again… fibrous vegetables top the charts with an average of ~ 17 grams of protein/200 calorie! Compare this to the 6 grams from grains and 0 grams from sugar (obviously!) Now let’s compare the amount of carbs to the amount of protein these foods offer.

Well… of course sugars have no protein and grains have a meager 4 grams of protein for every 40 grams of net carbs. But our awesome fibrous vegetables have 17 grams of protein for every 16 grams of carbs! Did you read that? Yes? Now read that again! Fibrous vegetables provide you with more protein than carbs.

4. Last but not least… satiety.

200 calories = 1 cup of grains/beans Or 6.5 cups of fibrous vegetables Or 3.5 cups of fruits Or 1/5th a cup of sugar. You can get all your calories from just one chocolate bar and stay hungry for the rest of the day or you can throw in a bunch of vegetables and fruits… eat till your full and realize you’ve eaten only 1/4th of your calories for the day.

Summary:

Calorie for calorie…

- Fibrous vegetables provide more fiber and protein than sugar, grains, starchy vegetables and even beans.

- Much higher quantities of fibrous vegetables can be eaten without piling on the calories (as opposed to sugar and grains). This helps in satiety when on a diet especially.

- Fruits (especially berries) provide crazy amounts of fiber and vitamin C compared to grains and sugars.

- Starchy vegetables offer a high carb load with minimal fiber and moderate vitamins which make it an awesome candidate for post-workout meals.

- Fibrous vegetables offer insane amount of vitamins compared to any other food source that exists.

- Sugars have zero nutrition. Period. Honey is no better than sugar.

- I haven’t even discussed the gluten issue. You can read here about the havoc they wreck.

- If this is not enough information and analysis for you to base the bulk of your diet around vegetables and fruits… then you’re just an idiot (and will be a fat idiot  soon and will most probably be a fat diabetic idiot soon after.)

Once again… you don’t have to change your diet to eating just fruit and vegetables and nuts and lean meats all the time. Base the bulk of your diet on these things and have the occasional dessert or grain based meal.

Peace.

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63 responses to “Let’s talk numbers

  1. Pramod August 2, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Thanks for this amazing post. Breaking it down like this really helps drive the point in. I had a misconception about brown rice making me feel full with less quantity. But this shows that I should cut down on my rice in general. I knew that already but seeing it in graphs and charts makes it more motivating in general!

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  3. megan August 8, 2010 at 10:37 am

    this is great, but i feel like discussions of how veggies are so amazing and you can’t overeat them always leave out a key point: who eats their five cups of broccoli plain, with no oil, butter, dip, or dressing? once you factor in the fat that makes vegetables enjoyable to eat, you’re no longer getting so many cups for 200 calories.

    • RG August 8, 2010 at 11:11 pm

      Megan,
      A million ways to eat vegetables without butter or dressing! I’ll be sure to post some recipes… but dont hate the butter too much! ;)

      • megan August 16, 2010 at 4:39 pm

        please do! the only fat-free thing i can think of is vegetable soup.
        mind you, i’m not using the phrase fat-free because i think that’s a GOOD thing. and i love my butter. i love it so much that i always have my vegetables with butter or sesame oil or almond butter or some kind of fat — and i feel like that near-necessary addition voids any claims that you can’t overeat vegetables, that their calorie-to-micronutrient ratio is extremely favorable, etc.

    • Vizeet June 28, 2011 at 8:28 am

      Cooking improves bio-availability of nutrients. Carrot cooked in oil has ten times available beta carotene than raw. If you look into human evolution cooking accelerated brain growth in humans. But overcooking is bad; slow cooking is best.

  4. Jay August 8, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    You might want to check your math on some of the items like spinach. You can’t have carbs and protein grams adding up to more than 50. 50 grams is equal to 200 calories. Any more than 50 would be over 200 calories. I think your spinach is way over. And unless some of the items like apples have fats in them, less than total 50 calories would be less than 200 calories.

    Love the post, but since you are standardizing on 200 calories, the math has to work out. Still at great comparison on the value of vegatables vs grains.

    • RG August 8, 2010 at 11:12 pm

      Jay… good point but these numbers are approximations. The point is to prove that vegetables >>>>> grains. Thanks for your comment though… I’ll keep a closer look moving forward.

  5. AndreAnna (Primal Matriarch) August 8, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    This was awesome, thanks so much! I shared it over on my Facebook page. It’s a great way to show people why I don’t get my fiber from “whole grains.”

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  8. rich August 8, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    @Jay:

    the ratio of carbs to protein for a certain food is still valid. also, the quantity in some cases (like spinach) used the approximation symbol “~” so that that might explain the additional 5 grams.

  9. Aaron Curl August 9, 2010 at 3:09 am

    I am doing something similar to this right now. I am taking the vitamin and mineral content of a spaghetti dinner with bread and comparing it to a paleo dinner of chicken, brocolli and strawberries. Should be done in a couple of days. I eat for micro-nutrient content not macro.

    • RG August 9, 2010 at 8:38 am

      That’s great Aaron. Do post your the link to your post once its ready. Would love to check it out and link to your post.

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  12. Willow NyteEyes August 11, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Nice graphs. Sharing on my tumblr.

  13. Peachy August 12, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Just came over from a link at Mark’s Daily Apple.

    This is great, talk about making it easy to see!

    Thanks so much for this, it really drives the point home. I’m trying to get this primal/paleo type stuff down but keep falling off the wagon. This kind of thing gives me some great ammo against my weak will power!

    Will definitely pop over here on a regular basis, great stuff!

    Thanks again.

    • RG August 16, 2010 at 12:01 pm

      Glad you liked the post! I’ll be sure to post more grain-free recipes too. Most times the difference between good and bad food is the recipe!

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  19. Arun September 14, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Putting the numbers side by side with the facts present a good story. This post reminds me of my mom begging me to eat green veggies especially spinach :)

  20. Vivek September 21, 2010 at 11:52 am

    You posted this way back. This is really informative and can be used as a reference by anyone on deciding what to eat., backed by scientific facts .

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  22. Adam September 29, 2010 at 9:49 am

    I like the math comments, because they point out a fundamental flaw: if you are standardizing for calories, then carbs*4 + protein*4 + fat*9 must equal 200. Items in this list are generally fat-free, so you should see protein+carbs = 50. Like you do in the sugar and starches. If that’s the case then all you can compare is ratio of carbs to protein, aside from vitamins and fiber. It’s also important to note that not all carbs are created equal, which is why (especially raw) honey has far more health benefits than sugar, even though they look the same by this chart.

    The biggest issue I see is that it’s not reasonable to compare eating 5 cups of broccoli or spinach to 1 cup of lentils. I don’t think I could eat that much broccoli, but I could eat that many lentils. So I would modify the conclusions to include beans in the list of nutrient-dense foods.

    • Jen October 1, 2010 at 8:24 am

      Arguably the carb part of the honey IS created equal with the sugar — but honey arguably offers some other health benefits that aren’t carb-related.

      I think the fact that it’s hard to eat 5 cups of broccoli or spinach is part of the point here…

  23. RG October 1, 2010 at 8:40 am

    Jen & Adam,
    Yes… honey has some health benefits. But if people start replacing sugar with honey the ‘carb load’ due to honey is identical to that from sugar. All your health benefits are buried deep when you include honey is excess. FYI – Our ancestors had access to honey and they consumed it. But then… they only had access to it rarely (considering you have to go through a lot to procure very little quantities) and only consumed when they did not find more nutritious food. So honey is slightly better than sugar is consumed by the teaspoon few times a week… but in no way beneficial if consumed by the cup every day.

    As far as vegetables and quantities. Not being able to have 5 cups of spinach or broccoli or asparagus is BS. I eat at least 2 lbs of vegetables everyday and that comes up to ~ 8-12 cups depending on the vegetable. It all depends on how well you can cook them. Again you dont ‘have to’ eat em raw or by themselves. For example adding 1 tablespoon of butter/ghee to cook 5 cups of spinach is totally legit considering the micro-nutrient blast you get from the spinach.

    Adam – Lentils have a pretty high carb load and that’s exactly one of the reasons to not go crazy on them. In addition to that lentils, though not as bad as gluten products, have a bunch of anti-nutrients (lectins) that wreak havoc in your gut. Use the search button to learn more.

    • Adam October 1, 2010 at 10:35 am

      There are many different sources of sugar: corn, sugar cane, honey, fruit. The body digests them all at different speeds and has differing insulin responses. No high load of any of these is a good idea, we all agree on that. Other carbohydrates, including those in grains, have differing complexities, and unrefined “complex” carbohydrates give you energy over a longer period of time. A good meal contains a balance, and the body is well-adapted to handle that. We tout fiber as a great nutrient, but it’s also a carbohydrate just like the others. As far as I know we don’t actually digest it, but it does wonders for your digestive health. The true “carb load” of any food really does not include its fiber, and the insulin response to 50g of table sugar will be much different than the insulin response to the same caloric quantity of lentils.

      For vegetables, I 100% agree they are an awesome food; I think you should eat as much of them as possible. But we use standardized “serving sizes” as an imperfect solution to the troublesome comparison idea: do you compare foods based on weight, calories, volume? Choosing to standardize for calories, while informative, leads to misleading conclusions on the total quantity of nutrition. If you are a performance athlete, you require more nutrients than the average person, and a variety of sources is a wonderful thing. Eating 10 cups of broccoli in a day is great, but that’s only 400 total calories and a LOT of food, possibly more volume than many people eat in that time period. A cup of lentils, on the other hand, is a filling lunch, and is loaded with complex carbohydrates as well as its fair share of fiber and protein.

      As for lectins, I don’t know a large amount. I do know that the cooking process lowers them to “safe levels,” but from the nutritionists I have talked to the amount left after that process has not been studied. Personally I can say I have benefited greatly from adding beans to my diet.

      If it helps, I have been studying nutrition for over a decade, specifically as it relates to weight control (loss and gain) and athletic performance. I am a national-level strength athlete and have been experimenting with foods like this for a long, long time.

      • RG October 1, 2010 at 10:52 am

        Appreciate the response. We both agree on most of the stuff.

        Standardizing is always an issue. You could standardize for quantity or calories or even carbs or protein or whatever you are comparing. The reason I compared calories is this. Assuming one has a calorie budget of 2000/day, he/she would rather get 200 calories from vegetables than grains. The whole post is based on that…

        “You know what… forget gluten, forget lectins… let’s assume that grains and beans have no detrimental effects. With this assumption let us compare the nutritional content of grains, beans, vegetables, fruits and sugars.”

        For endurance athletes, an excellent source of dense carbs is sweet potatoes (or yams or heck even white potatoes). You can pack in 500-800calories very easily and there’s a whole bunch of stuff you can make with them (from baked fries to pies!).

        As far as beans/lentils are concerned, I’ve eaten them my entire life. Love them. They’re a great source of carbs and fiber IF you need the carbs (endurance athletes for eg). Dense, complex carbs if you will. But truth is a lot of people don’t tolerate them well. About cooking reducing the toxins… it’s party true. But soaking lentils/beans for ~ 24hours prior to cooking has shown to drastically reduce (by 50-90%) the toxins.

        But hey… if beans/lentils are the worst thing in your diet… you’re eating pretty darn well!

        It definitely did help that you mentioned your background on nutrition and fitness. I’d love to check out your blog/website if you do have one out there.

  24. Adam October 1, 2010 at 11:25 am

    RG, is there a way to send you a private message? I love your blog (was reading through it looking for some sort of “send a message to the author” button), but I’m cautious about where my name is linked. I thought your most recent post, regarding eating out, was spot on. We need more voices teaching what healthy eating is so that a larger portion of the population demands quality choices. I’m not sold on the theory behind paleo, but it still advocates a solid diet.

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  26. Anand October 25, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Great Article. I hope you don’t mind me linking it on my Facebook. I have already linked some others.

    The only thing missing was Minerals.
    If they were there, then Honey would not come out very similar to sugar.
    Also Sweet Potatoes would come out stronger.
    The Legumes would become weaker.
    Grains would be even weaker than they are.

    One more thing that I have noticed here, that you don’t fully appreciate the importance of protein combining. Lentils/Legumes don’t have complete protein. Because of this most of the cultures mix grains with legumes to create a complete food. You have recommended drinking lentil soup to vegetarians. That would not be very useful, because the lack of Methionine.

    For vegetarians the only realistic protein source is cheese/paneer, unless they can consume eggs. Luckily the protein requirement for a healthy life is not much. More is required to build muscles, but not for a healthy life. The only real requirement is an active life. Milk/Curd/Ghee is very important for vegetarians, that is why they are called Amrits in India.

    • RG October 26, 2010 at 2:53 pm

      Anand,
      Thank you. You bring up some great points.

      I’m not really worried about protein combining and the lack of methionine in lentils since I don’t consider lentils as a source of protein. In addition to being incomplete they provide a pretty significant carb load (about 3:1 in most beans/legumes) which is unnecessary unless you’re training hard. The vegetarian diet I recommend contains a good amount of milk proteins (cheese, whole milk, yogurt, cottage cheese) which are complete proteins. I addition to this I very strongly recommend eggs and a good whey protein powder, both of which are complete and very bio-available.

      As for those who won’t eat milk products and eggs…

      “God be with you! Awesome car seat by the way. Leather?”

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  28. HeMan February 1, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    You won’t absorb most of those vitamins without fats. Along with inferior vegetable “protein”… boring.

    And using fiber to feel full? LOL. Eat some meat.

  29. Taj February 22, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    Thanks for this post, great comparisons, this link finally convinced my fiancée that grains are not very good, which was tough thanks to the stupid advertising efforts on 100% whole wheat high fiber foods.

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  31. Sheetal G April 26, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    Just wondering if you know where I could find the nutrient breakdown for soyabean?

  32. Chi April 26, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    Hi Raj,
    Good work collecting all the data in tabular and graphical form.I’m forwarding this link to my family(I’ve been trying to pursuade my mum to go grain free for months now)- I’m trying to read as much as possible butI still have a few questions…

    About fruits and vegetables”- Monstrous quantities of vitamins are available!”
    Is it allright to consume 350%, 2320% of any recommended value?

    • RG April 26, 2011 at 11:43 pm

      Good question. The RDAs are in general very very low in comparison to what we really need. As far as overconsumption, there are very few minerals and vitamins you can OD on. I’ll write a post on this soon If I dont… please send me a reminder of some sort!

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  34. Vizeet June 28, 2011 at 10:09 am

    Another awesome post. Just posted it in my facebook page

  35. swarna mani June 28, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    Excellent post !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!forwarding it to my friends and relatives…who is asking me when will I end this torture and move to sustainable food(torture here refers to me eating real food) :)

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  39. Shilpa March 1, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    Your writing is so easy to follow and it nails the point. I am cutting out on sugar this very moment.
    Will give up my love for cakes :(

  40. GROTEFELD March 19, 2012 at 1:35 am

    Excellent comparison ! Nice job.

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  44. Connie Ulsh August 6, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Fiber foods are really necessary for the digestive health. It keeps us from getting colon polyps and colon cancers..’`*:

    Yours trully http://www.foodsupplementdigest.com/melatonin-side-effects-on-children-suffering-from-autism/

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