Savor Health

It sounds contradictory, but a significant number of people in the United States today are simultaneously under- and overnourished. How can that be? If you’re significantly overweight, surely you can’t be malnourished, right?

As a former overweight person myself, a registered dietitian who has worked with many people on weight loss issues, and an epidemiologist who studies the science of chronic disease and body weight regulation, I know firsthand that it’s all too easy to be both overweight and malnourished.

The key to understanding this paradox is to understand the difference between macro- and micronutrients. Macronutrients provide the body with energy in the form of calories. Think carbohydrate, protein, and fat. There’s also alcohol, which isn’t an ideal source of calories, but which provides them nonetheless. Being a fan of a nightly glass of wine or a beer, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that alcohol provides calories! One gram of alcohol provides 7 calories. This means that in terms of caloric density, your drink is roughly halfway between protein and carbohydrates (4 calories per gram) and fat (9 calories per gram).


Tiny Nutrients, Enormous Benefits

Micronutrients are indeed “micro,” meaning that we need them in small quantities for good health. This includes vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, which are non-vitamin/non-mineral plant nutrients. Examples include carotenes and flavonoids. Vitamins and minerals are vital for life – it’s right in the name – vitamins. Without them, we’d end up with a deficiency, and eventually, a deficiency of essential vitamins and minerals can lead to death. Fortunately, in this country, severe vitamin and mineral deficiencies are uncommon. Unfortunately, they are very common in parts of the developing world (I’ll be revisiting this important issue in a future post).

Phytonutrients are different than vitamins and minerals. For one thing, there are thousands of them, compared to just a few dozen essential nutrients. Many phytonutrients are found in vegetables and fruit, and they give these foods their bright red, yellow, purple, green, and orange colors. Most of us are familiar with the phytonutrient beta-carotene, the nutrient that makes carrots and sweet potatoes orange. Other important phytonutrients hide inside whole grains, beans, and nuts.

Unlike vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients aren’t vital for life: you won’t die of a beta-carotene deficiency.  But if you don’t get enough phytonutrients, you can have major health problems, which can contribute to difficulty losing weight, and difficulty maintaining weight loss.


What’s the Connection?

Most people don’t give much thought to micronutrients and body weight. Many people figure if it’s not a calorie, it doesn’t matter. The truth is more complex. Sure, calories are one key to weight loss. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll see how adding in the right foods, rich in micronutrients, will aid weight loss, help your body function better, and may even help keep overeating in check. And this is no “diet.” This is how you want to eat. For the rest of your life.


Stronger and Leaner

Phytonutrients appear to help people maintain muscular strength, lean body mass, and muscle function. And if there’s one thing that anyone who’s tried to lose weight understands, it’s that more muscle means more calorie burning, even when you’re not moving. Who knew an apple, a blueberry, green tea, or broccoli could fuel your muscles?


Better Body Chemistry

Many obesity experts now consider obesity to be a state of chronic, low-grade inflammation. This matters a lot if you’re trying to lose weight, because inflammation makes it harder for you to shed fat and much harder for you to build lean, healthy muscle. It’s a vicious cycle: carrying extra body fat promotes inflammation, and inflammation makes it harder to lose weight.

Phytonutrients dampen inflammation. By including plenty of phytonutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory foods in your diet, you fight the low-grade inflammation that results from being overweight and that may be contributing to staying overweight. By dampening inflammation, phytonutrients appear to improve body chemistry, and improve the odds of weight loss success.


Less Overeating

If that’s not enough to convince you to change your dieting ways, consider this: noted nutrition experts now suspect that when we’re overnourished in terms of calories, but undernourished in terms of micronutrients, our bodies have a harder time judging how much food we truly require to satisfy nutritional needs.

We have basic needs for micronutrients – vitamins, and minerals, in particular, but likely phytonutrients, as well. Our bodies will tell us to keep eating until we meet those basic needs. If you eat foods that are low in micronutrients, which not surprisingly includes many “diet” foods, you need to eat more of them to reach the point where your body senses that you’ve gotten enough micronutrients.


Better Gut Health

The human “microbiome” is a hot topic right now. The microbiome refers to the collection of bacteria, fungus, and yes, even viruses, that reside in and on our body. These microbes appear to contribute significantly to health, and this is particularly true for gut health. In fact, the latest research has shown that some microbes in the gut may contribute to obesity, while others help keep us lean. But it’s a chicken and egg thing… which came first? Is a poor diet of unhealthy processed food the cause of “obesity-inducing” microbes? Or are “obesity-inducing” microbes present in higher numbers in the guts of some people, and this is what contributes to obesity, and inability to lose weight and keep it off?

The latest research on this topic was presented on March 5, 2015, at the 97th Annual Meeting of the Endocrine Society in San Diego. Researchers studied people who had recently undergone bariatric surgery – the type of surgery used to induce rapid and dramatic weight loss in people who are significantly overweight (obese). Those people with the highest proportion of gut microbes that produce methane and hydrogen had the least weight loss. The researchers speculate that these methane-producing gut bacteria may be preventing or slowing down weight loss after bariatric surgery.

Other studies have shown that overweight and obese people have different combinations and numbers of specific gut bacteria compared with “lean” people. When you transplant microbes from obese people into “germ-free” mice, they put on weight, but the mice did not put on weight if transplanted microbes came from a lean person. Further, the “lean” bacteria can crowd out the “obese” gut bacteria, which prevents the mice from gaining weight… but only if the mice also ate a healthy diet.

Consider all of these facts together, along with the known gut health benefits of whole plant foods, and it makes sense that these foods can nourish our “lean” bacteria. These foods also may limit the number of “obesity-contributing” bacteria in our digestive tracts, helping us maintain a healthier body weight.


Go Low on the Food Chain

In order to nourish your body properly, you need to eat real food, not count calories. Eating “low on the food chain” gives your body the micronutrients it needs to build muscle, keep fat-promoting inflammation in check, and help you minimize the chances of overeating and bingeing. Of course, much of managing body weight is emotional, psychological, and mental. We know that binge eating disorder (BED) is a real medical condition, and using food to cope is very, very common. No amount of healthy eating will “fix” obesity without getting the emotional help and support you need.

However, once you begin working with a qualified mental health professional to address these very important mental health issues, food choices can help you move closer to your goal of a healthy, happy body, regardless of whether you shed a single pound. Yes, I’m a firm believer that everyone deserves to be healthy, and am a supporter of the Health at Every Size approach to wellness. Beating yourself up for “failing” diets is the last thing you need to do. Further, we live in a toxic food environment; people don’t fail diets, our toxic food environment – in which a bag of chips is cheaper than a bag of apples – fails people!

Now, getting back to eating “low on the food chain…” this means eating mostly whole, unprocessed, plant foods. The closer a food is to its natural form, or what it looks like when it comes out of the ground or off the tree or vine, the more micronutrients it contains. It’s also helpful, of course, that these foods tend to have the fewest calories per amount or volume of food. You get more micronutrients with fewer calories – a win-win all around.

I’m living proof this approach works, and I “walk the walk” every day. At my heaviest, I carried about 50 extra pounds on a 5’4” frame, which I lost for good about 14 years ago to reach a healthy body mass index (BMI) of 21.


Work with the Plate

To best understand the proportions of different phytonutrient-rich foods you need, visualize a typical round plate. Divide that into quarters. Three of those quarters should be filled with plant foods. Keep the balance tipped toward eating mostly vegetables, followed by slightly less fruit, and a very small amount of whole grains. It’s not that I don’t love whole grains, I do! However, between the bread, the bagels, and the cereal, most Americans do not need to be encouraged to eat more grains, whole or otherwise.

The other one-quarter is left for lean protein. Focus on plants – legumes (beans, peas, chickpeas), nuts, and seeds for most of your protein. Eat fish if you’d like, a couple of times per week.. Enjoy organic, free-range/grass-fed chicken, beef, or pork twice per week at most. And if you have a sweet tooth, save room in that last quarter for dessert!


[i] Kolehmainen M, Ulven SM, Paananen J, de Mello V, Schwab U, Carlberg C, Myhrstad M,…, Dahlman I. Healthy Nordic diet downregulates the expression of genes involved in inflammation in subcutaneous adipose tissue in individuals with features of the metabolic syndrome. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015;101(1):228-39.
[ii] Hartstra AV, Bouter KEC, Bäckhed F, Nieuwdorp M. Insights Into the Role of the Microbiome in Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2015;38(1):159-165
[iii] Rebello CJ, Greenway FL, Finley JW. A review of the nutritional value of legumes and their effects on obesity and its related co-morbidities. Obes Rev. 2014;15(5):392-407.
[iv] Farhat G, Drummond S, Fyfe L, Al-Dujaili EA. Dark chocolate: an obesity paradox or a culprit for weight gain? Phytother Res. 2014;28(6):791-7.
[v] Herieka M, Erridge C. High-fat meal induced postprandial inflammation. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2014;58(1):136-46.
[vi] Kim H, Suzuki T, Saito K, Yoshida H, Kojima N, Kim M, Sudo M, Yamashiro Y, Tokimitsu I. Effects of exercise and tea catechins on muscle mass, strength and walking ability in community-dwelling elderly Japanese sarcopenic women: a randomized controlled trial. Geriatr Gerontol Int. 2013;13(2):458-65.
[vii] Uusitupa M, Hermansen K, Savolainen MJ, Schwab U, Kolehmainen M, Brader L, Mortensen LS,…, Akesson B. Effects of an isocaloric healthy Nordic diet on insulin sensitivity, lipid profile and inflammation markers in metabolic syndrome — a randomized study (SYSDIET). J Intern Med. 2013;274(1):52-66.
[viii] Willcox DC, Willcox BJ, Todoriki H, Suzuki M. The Okinawan diet: health implications of a low-calorie, nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich dietary pattern low in glycemic load. J Am Coll Nutr. 2009;28 Suppl:500S-516S.
[ix] Martin C, Zhang Y, Tonelli C, Petroni K. Plants, diet, and health. Annu Rev Plant Biol. 2013;64:19-46.
[x] Aoi W. Exercise and food factors. Forum Nutr. 2009;61:147-55.
[xi] Mattes RD, Kris-Etherton PM, Foster GD. Impact of peanuts and tree nuts on body weight and healthy weight loss in adults. J Nutr. 2008;138(9):1741S-1745S.
[xii] Coates AM, Howe PR. Edible nuts and metabolic health. Curr Opin Lipidol. 2007;18(1):25-30.

0 Responses

  1. Thank you for the insights on micro-nutrients. I wasn’t aware of how powerful they can be in my diet and I’m going to look for more info on how I can incorporate them.

    Do you have an article on where I can make my diet rich on the nutrients? 🙂

    Thank you!

  2. Hi Cesar, we don’t have a blog specifically on micro-nutrients, but that’s a great idea for a future topic. I’ll see if I can get one of our dietitians to write it. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Susan started Savor Health after losing a close friend to a brain tumor and, through that experience, becoming aware of the significant unmet nutritional needs of people with cancer.  Struck by the fact that her friend was told “nutrition doesn’t matter” and “eat whatever you want,” Susan read the evidence-based literature on the subject, interviewed oncologists, oncology nurses and oncology dietitians, as well as patients and caregivers, and found that, in fact, nutrition does matter in oncology. Armed with solid scientific evidence supporting the clinical and quality of life benefits of proper nutrition, Susan left Wall Street and created Savor Health, an AI-based provider of personalized and clinically appropriate nutrition solutions for cancer patients, their caregivers and health enterprises. Susan brings to Savor Health over 25 years of industry experience in healthcare and business as well as expertise in strategy, finance and management.

Susan is an outspoken and tireless advocate for cancer patients receiving proper nutrition and nutrition support before, during and after treatment. She strongly believes that the U. S. healthcare system requires new innovation to transform it into a more holistic and integrated system of care whereby multiple disciplines coordinate care together for the benefit of the whole patient. As part of this, her goal is for nutrition to be an integral component of such an integrated cancer care delivery system.  Susan’s commitment to the field of oncology extends beyond Savor Health to volunteer work at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in pediatrics and as a runner for Fred’s Team to raise money for research at Memorial Sloan Kettering. Susan participated in the Cancer Moonshot in June of 2016 where she was a breakout session group “igniter” tasked with starting and leading discussion. Susan’s first book, the Meals to Heal Cancer Cookbook, was published in March 2016.

In addition to her role as CEO of Savor Health, Susan speaks nationally about the importance of ensuring proper nutrition in the cancer patient and on topics including leadership and startups. She has been a speaker at the Harvard Medical School’s Career Advancement and Leadership Skills for Women in Healthcare, ESMO World Congress on GI Cancer, BioPharm America, AARP Live @50+, Lake Nona Impact Forum, and IIR ePharma Summit.

Prior to starting Savor Health, Susan had a successful career on Wall Street as a healthcare services investment banker working at prestigious firms including Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, Wasserstein Perella and Robertson Stephens. Susan earned a B.A. from Duke University and M.B.A. from the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business.

This will close in 0 seconds

Marissa Buchan is a registered dietitian, with advanced practice certifications in Oncology Nutrition (CSO) and Clinical Research (CCRP). She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Duke University, and Master’s of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. Marissa worked for 10 years at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in both the clinical research and nutrition departments.  In addition to counseling patients before, during, and after cancer therapy, she spearheaded nutrition-research efforts for the bone marrow transplant service. She has co-authored over 20 articles and has a particular interest in the role of nutrition on the intestinal microbiota and its impact on patient outcomes. When Marissa’s not wearing her lab coat, she’s in her apron whipping up healthy and delicious recipes that you can find on her blog, Get Off Your Tush and Cook.

Marissa is Chief Operating Officer of Savor Health where she leads operations working with the technology, clinical, and business development teams and management. Prior to assuming the role of COO in March 2020, Marissa was Vice President, Clinical Research and Operations at Savor Health where she worked closely with Savor Health’s Chief Medical Advisor, Scientific Advisory Board, and Clinical Operations Team to evaluate, design and conduct clinical research.  She also counsels patients on oncology nutrition issues and contributes to the Company website’s clinical content.

This will close in 0 seconds

Dr. DeFrance has a unique background including clinical interventional cardiologist, chief medical officer, educator, outcomes researcher and entrepreneur. He has expertise in Lifestyle medicine in which he was board certified in 2020 and is highly interested in the prevention and reversal of chronic disease. Dr. DeFrance also has expertise in appropriate utilization of technology in medicine, healthcare economics, value-based metrics, and educational design and delivery. He worked as Chief Medical Officer for HealthHelp, one of the largest specialty benefit managers in the US, and led large teams of healthcare professionals in writing evidence based appropriate care guidelines and rule sets which improve the quality and safety of medicine for over 20 million people in the US while also creating sustained savings in healthcare. He has also designed clinical decision support systems that are currently in use helping to improve patient care.

In 2018 Dr. DeFrance founded MedMentor Education, a company that provides state of the art CME content using the latest in eLearning science and online delivery platforms. Dr. DeFrance is also the founder and President of Digimedica, a consulting and educational design and delivery company for healthcare professionals, hospitals, and universities. He is passionate about creating systems to optimize knowledge transfer and has won numerous awards for teaching excellence during his career. He is an expert in cardiovascular CT imaging and has taught more than 3,000 physicians how to perform and interpret cardiac CT nationally and internationally and has lectured extensively on this subject.

Dr. DeFrance has a stellar reputation in the medical field and continues work to improve the quality and safety of patient care in the US.

This will close in 0 seconds

This will close in 0 seconds

Alyson is a registered nurse and is certified in oncology nursing (OCN) through the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS). She also has her certification as an ONS Biotherapy and Chemotherapy Provider. Alyson studied nursing at Thomas Jefferson University where she obtained her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN). Since starting her nursing career in 2004, Alyson has had a strong dedication and commitment to oncology patients. She has worked inpatient specializing in Bone Marrow and Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplantation. Alyson currently works in outpatient oncology at the North Shore-LIJ Monter Cancer Center. Alyson is part of the clinical team at Savor Health where she counsels patients on oncology and oncology nutrition issues and contributes to website and other Savor Health content.

This will close in 0 seconds

Chelsey is a Registered Dietitian and Board Certified Specialist in Oncology nutrition (CSO). She completed her Dietetic Internship at Northwell Health, received her BS in Dietetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her MS in Nutrition at Stony Brook University’s School of Medicine. Chelsey works as an outpatient dietitian at Mount Sinai covering all of the downtown cancer services at Mount Sinai Beth Israel and Philips Ambulatory Care Center. Chelsey works with patients and families before, during and after treatment to optimize their nutrition through dietary counseling and support. Chelsey has experience counseling clients with a variety of diagnoses including breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, head & neck cancer, and more. Chelsey also enjoys sharing nutrition knowledge with her peers by running a monthly Employee Wellness program that showcases healthy topics, recipes and food demos.

This will close in 0 seconds

Michelle is a Registered Dietitian specializing in oncology. She works as a clinical dietitian at an ambulatory cancer center in New York City and is a consultant for Savor Health. She is passionate about educating oncology patients on the importance of nutrition during their fight against cancer and helping them to optimize their nutrition through all phases of treatment. Michelle received her Bachelor of Science degree in dietetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her Master of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University.

This will close in 0 seconds

Denise Sievering is a Registered Dietitian who is board certified in Oncology Nutrition as well as Nutrition Support. A fluent Spanish speaker, Denise joined the Savor Health team to support Spanish speaking cancer patients and to continue to expand the Platform’s nutritional strategies and recommendations in Spanish. Denise holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Rutgers University, and completed her internship at New York Presbyterian Hospital (NYP). Denise started her career as a registered dietitian at NYP-Columbia University Medical Center, primarily covering inpatient Oncology units. Denise also holds a Master of Arts degree in Mental Health Counseling from New York University, and incorporates her advanced training in motivational interviewing and empathic listening in her patient encounters, particularly those whose lives have been forever changed by a cancer diagnosis. A New Jersey native, Denise now resides in sunny San Diego, CA where she works as a part-time outpatient Oncology dietitian at Scripps Health-MD Anderson Cancer Center, and also works as an inpatient dietitian at Kaiser Permanente. In her spare time, Denise can be found at a mom-and-pop taco shop, one of the many local craft breweries, and exploring her new city of San Diego with her husband and her rescue pup, Ripley.

This will close in 0 seconds

Karen is a Registered Dietitian, Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition and registered in New York as a Certified Dietitian Nutritionist. Fluent in Spanish, Karen joined the Savor Health team to support Spanish speaking cancer patients and to continue to expand the Platform’s nutritional strategies and recommendations in Spanish. Karen received her Bachelor of Science degree from Ithaca College and her Master of Science degree from Hunter College. She works as an outpatient oncology dietitian in New York. Karen often works with local community centers to host nutrition programs for cancer survivors and their families, leading classes on how to live healthier lifestyles throughout their continuum of care. The American Institute of Cancer Research selected to showcase one of her many programs at their conference in 2019. Karen has written for and lent commentary to various publications and truly enjoys teaching people how to eat better. She loves to cook and strongly feels that healthy food doesn’t have to taste bad.

This will close in 0 seconds

Allie is a Registered Dietitian and a Certified Specialist in Oncology (CSO). She joins Savor in 2023, bringing years of experience from the John Theurer Cancer Center in New Jersey, where she worked with patients with a variety of cancers. Her goal is to help people feel their best, both mentally and physically, when physical health challenges arise. She believes in the power of nutrition ever since the impact it made on her athletic career as a volleyball player during college. Allie graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree from University of Maryland-Baltimore County and has her Master’s degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Wisconsin Stout. She enjoys travelling, enjoying different cuisines, cooking, and hiking and other outdoor activities with her family and dog.

This will close in 0 seconds

Julia Penberg is a seasoned healthcare professional with more than 30 years of experience focusing on maximizing operational excellence, leading clinical program development and building strong cross-functional teams. Her previous roles include overseeing the performance of clinical managers and nurse practitioners across multiple markets within United Healthcare-Optum’s Medicare Advantage and dual-eligible special needs populations, payer outreach and program development at Mayo Clinic, ground level specialty hospital development and direct patient care as a family and dermatology nurse practitioner. Julia volunteered as an operating room nurse and nurse practitioner on several mission trips to Romania and was a support group leader for the Kansas City chapter of the International Myeloma Foundation. Her motivation throughout her career has been with wellness promotion, disease risk modification and ensuring the best patient experience across the health continuum. Ms. Penberg received an MBA from the University of Dallas; a MS in Nursing from the University of Kansas and a BS in Nursing from the University of Texas-Austin. She is board certified as a Family Nurse Practitioner.

This will close in 0 seconds

Rachel is a Registered Dietitian and Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition (“CSO”). She joined NYP-Columbia as the outpatient oncology dietitian in 2020 after working at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center for two years. Rachel completed her dietetic internship through Keene State College in 2017. She is pursuing an MS in Integrative Nutrition at Stony Brook University and has a BS in Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise from Virginia Tech. Rachel provides nutrition counseling to all types of oncology patients and helps them understand the mental and physical benefits of nutrition as an ally in their fight against cancer. In her free time she enjoys slow meals with family and friends, Pilates, and tending to her fire escape garden.

This will close in 0 seconds

Allie Werner is a Registered Dietitian at Fresenius Kidney Care where she provides medical nutrition therapy diet counseling to patients on Dialysis. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in nutrition from Indiana University and completed her Master’s Degree and dietetic internship at Loyola University Chicago. In her free time she enjoys spending time with friends and family, checking out the amazing food scene in downtown Chicago, and exercising on her Peloton bike.

This will close in 0 seconds

Immersed in the tech world for a decade, I've coded, led teams, and honed my skills in architecture and design. As a tech enthusiast, I've seamlessly woven through full-stack projects, fusing my love for code with the art of leadership.

This will close in 0 seconds

Mohit is a full-stack developer with expertise in Python and JavaScript, known for his efficient coding and ability to deliver scalable software solutions. His technical contributions are highlighted on GitHub and Stack Overflow, demonstrating his commitment to the tech community and problem-solving skills. With a solid educational foundation and a diverse project portfolio, Mohit excels at navigating complex challenges and is well-equipped to contribute to dynamic software projects.

This will close in 0 seconds

Rayna McCann is a Registered Dietitian and Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition. She is a Registered Yoga Teacher and yoga4cancer certified. She received her BS in Nutrition at Penn State University and her MS from Stony Brook University. For work, Rayna wears many hats in the world of nutrition and worked for years in clinical settings focusing on oncology nutrition. She is also an Adjunct Professor and passionate about inspiring the future of dietitians. Throughout her career, she has received awards recognizing her dedication to patient safety and her contributions to improving malnutrition awareness. In 2022, Rayna was proud to accept the ‘Dietitian of the Year’ award through the Long Island Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Rayna has co-authored abstracts for poster presentations within the American Institute for Cancer Research conference, as well as, the Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference Expo and subsequent publication. She has enjoyed authoring articles, including an article for The Cure magazine regarding Multiple Myeloma and nutrition. When Rayna is not participating in nutrition related activities, she is dedicated to dog rescue.

This will close in 0 seconds