High-net-gain foods deliver us energy by way of conservation as opposed to consumption. Here's what I mean by that: the digestive and assimilation process is in fact an energy-intensive one. At the onset of eating, we begin spending digestive resources in an effort to convert energy stored within food—also known as calories—into usable sustenance to fulfill our biological requirements. And, as we know, whenever energy is transferred from one form to another, theres an inherent loss. However, the amount of energy lost in this process varies greatly and depends on the foods eaten.

Highly processed, refined, denatured food requires that significantly more digestive energy be spent to break it down in the process of transfer- ring its caloric energy to us:

net energy gain = energy remaining once digestive energy has been spent

While its true that a calorie is a measure of food energy, simply eating more calories will not necessarily ensure more energy for the consumer. If there were such a calorie guarantee, people who subsisted on fast food and other such calorie-laden fare would have abundant energy. And of course they dont. This is a testament to the inordinate amount of digestive energy required to convert such food into usable fuel.

(By the way, its no coincidence that the cultures that have their largest, heaviest meals for lunch are the same ones who have afternoon siestas. Digestion is tiring.)

In contrast, natural, unrefined whole food digests with a considerably lower energy requirement. Therefore, we can gain more usable energy from simply eating foods that are in a more natural whole state, even if they have fewer calories.

When I grasped this concept, I began viewing food consumption as though it were an investment of sorts. My goal became to spend, or invest, as little digestive energy as possible to acquire the greatest amount of micro- nutrients and maximize the return on my investment.

For that reason, I refer to foods that require little digestive energy but yield a healthy dose of micronutrients as high-net-gain foods:

high net gain = little digestive energy spent, substantial level of micronutrients gained

With this principle in mind, I shifted my prime carbohydrate sources from processed and refined carbs, such as pasta and bread, to fruit and pseudo grains. Both are packed with carbohydrate in the form of easily assimilated carbs, considerably easier to digest than refined grain flour. And both provide a higher micronutrient level than these processed, refined carb sources.


Drawing from concepts in my first book, Thrive (The Thrive Diet in Canada), and from my latest book, Thrive Foods (Whole Foods to Thrive in Canada), here are four elements of my overall plant-based, whole food nutritional philosophy.

In addition to how food affects us on an individual level, I believe its in our best interest to also consider the environmental implication of our food choices. Looking at the amount of each natural resource (arable land, fossil fuel, fresh water, and the emissions created) in the food production process and considering the amount of nutrition (micronutrients) gained in this exchange is topic I cover in Thrive Foods. Specific examples may be found here:

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