You are what you eat. While we've heard this over and over again, new research appears to be highlighting this fact more than ever. According to an editorial published in OpenHeart, "Shifting the focus away from calories and emphasizing a dietary pattern that focuses on food quality rather than quantity will help to rapidly reduce obesity, related diseases, and cardiovascular risk."
In other words, to be healthy, we need to choose healthy foods. This means increasing nutrient density, choosing to consume foods which provide a lot of nutrition for not a lot of calories. These nutrient dense foods have higher amounts of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals such as lutein, quercetin, or resveratrol. Quality of food is also an issue as studies have found the level of micronutrients to be higher in organically grown vegetables. By consuming these healthier, nutrient dense foods we give our body the building blocks to achieve and maintain better health.
The opposite of nutrient dense foods is energy dense foods. Foods which have a lot of calories but don't provide a lot of nutrition. Examples of energy dense foods include sodas, candy, simple carbohydrates like white rice and pasta, and many snack foods such as potato chips.
3 fabulous nutrient dense foods
In addition to choosing nutrient dense foods, make sure you're getting a variety of foods in your diet to provide different nutrients. Eating the same 10 foods over and over again will not give you the complex range of nutrients that your body needs.
- Kale. This dark leafy green is popular for a reason. In addition to its delicious flavor it's loaded with Vitamins A, C, K, B6, plus potassium, calcium, copper and manganese making it a nutrient powerhouse.
- Garlic. Delicious and nutritious garlic provides vitamins C, B6, and manganese. It has been shown to lower blood pressure, lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and appears to help lower the risk of certain cancers.
- Blueberries. Rich in antioxidants, blueberries are a good source of vitamins K and C as well as manganese. One study linked consumption of blueberries to improved memory for older adults while other studies showed a reduction in blood pressure and LDL cholesterol.
Another great nutrient dense food is nuts and seeds. They are a good source of fiber and protein. And while they have fat, it's a healthy unsaturated fat (both mono- and polyunsaturated). However, nuts and seeds have a coating on them called phytic acid which can reduce absorption of the nutrients. By soaking them you can remove these phytic acids which allows the body to access more of the healthy nutrients. Very simple and easy to make, soaked nuts and seeds can be eaten plain as a delicious nutrient dense snack or added to dishes calling for nuts or seeds.
Try soaking and using nuts as part of your new nutrition plan
- 4 cups of nuts or seeds
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
Place nuts in a large jar or bowl, add salt, and fill with water to cover the nuts
Let soak 8-12 hours
Drain and rinse the nuts
If drying in a dehydrator lay out on trays, set heat to 150ºF and dry 18-24 hours or until completely dry.
If drying in the oven lay out on a baking sheet and place in oven preheated to 150ºF for 18-24 hours or until completely dry.
Mira Dessy, The Ingredient Guru, is a holistic nutritionist, a popular public speaker, and the author of The Pantry Principle: how to read the label and understand what's really in your food. She can be found online at http://TheIngredientGuru.com