Nutrition Density… Why It’s Important.
November 10, 2010
November 10, 2010
Not all foods that are marketed as healthy are….it’s one of the reasons why Alisha and I use products like Shakeology, for it’s nutrition density. So what is Nutrition Density. Glad you asked. Here’s a great article I found to explain just that. After you read it, let me know your thoughts. If it sparks something inside of you and you’re wanting to make a healthy lifestyle change….let me know. We’ll be happy to send out some Shakeology samples so you can see what it is that this article refers to as "Super Foods". It’s amazing what happens to your body when you feed it right!
What Is Nutrient Density
How do you decide which foods you want to eat? Flavor? Texture? Convenience? Comfort? Many people choose the foods they eat based on immediate gratification, without much thought about the long-term effects of their selections. That often results in choosing foods that taste good, but are not good for you.
What about the nutritional value of the foods you eat? When you choose your foods, be sure to consider the nutrient density of the foods. Nutrient density refers to the amount of nutrients for the given volume of food. Nutrient-dense foods have lots of nutrients, generally with fewer calories. All those superfoods you’ve heard about are nutrient dense foods. Energy-dense foods have more calories for the volume of food and generally fewer nutrients.
How Nutrient Density Works
You are hungry and it is a few hours until dinner so you decide you want a snack. You can choose either an apple or a glazed donut. They are roughly the same size and either food works as a quick snack so you can get back to work. Which one do you choose?
Hopefully you chose the apple. Why? The apple has around 80 calories and lots of vitamins, fiber and phytochemicals that will keep you healthy. The fiber and water in the apple will fill your stomach and keep you satisfied until dinner.
The donut has calories. Lots of calories. In fact, the donut has more than 200 calories but it doesn’t have many nutrients. There is only about one gram of fiber so it won’t keep you feeling full either, so eating that glazed donut will frequently lead to eating a second one. The donut also has lots of unhealthy saturated fat and plenty of sugar. Sure it tastes good, but your body might pay quite a price for the immediate gratification.
You can also compare nutrient density using the amount of calories in the food rather than volume or portion size. Let’s compare a cup of carrot slices to four saltine crackers. Both snacks have about 50 calories, but the carrots have many more nutrients for the same number of calories. The carrots are nutrient dense; the crackers are energy dense. This is important for people on weight-loss diets. Foods that are low in calories, but high in fiber and other vitamins, will keep you satisfied and healthy while you lose weight.
You can probably already see from the examples that brightly colored fruits and vegetables are big winners in nutrient density. That’s one reason why so many fruits and vegetables qualify as superfoods, or foods that are rich in nutrients and other compounds that have healthy benefits such as fiber, phytochemicals and essential fatty acids. The superfood fruits and vegetables include carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, kale, spinach, berries, apples, cherries, pomegranate and oranges.
Other nutrient-dense superfoods include salmon, tuna, trout, low-fat dairy products, oatmeal and whole grains, soy, dry beans sand even some fortified foods. On the other hand, energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods include things that are high in sugar and fat such as refined white breads, pasta, pastries, processed lunch meats and cheeses, ice cream, candy, soda, potato chips and corn chips. In other words, junk food.
Choosing nutrient-dense superfoods at the grocery store is pretty easy if you stay along the edges of the store, where the produce, fresh lean meats, low-fat dairy and fresh bakery goods are found. These fresh foods may be more expensive than the energy-dense packaged foods, but you buy more nutrition for that price. Of course, most shoppers choose some packaged foods for convenience, but you can still make smart choices with those products — just read the labels.
You can easily find the Nutrition Facts labels on the backs or sides of the packages. Look at the serving sizes, note the number of calories per serving and look at the amount of fiber, vitamins, calcium and iron. The packaged food that has the better combination of lower calories, higher nutrients and less sodium is the winner.
You can prepare nutrient-dense meals by choosing nutrient-dense superfoods and ingredients for your dishes. A nutrient-dense meal should have one serving of a healthy protein source such as legumes, fish, poultry or low-fat meat. One serving is typically about the size of a pack of playing cards. The rest of the meal should be made up of healthy side dishes. Vegetables are always good, even with a little bit of cheese or sauce. Whole-grain pastas, brown rice and wild rice are good choices as well. A green salad with lots of vegetables can make a nice nutrient-dense superfoods side dish or can be a great meal on its own. Clear soups with lots of vegetables are nutrient-dense compared to cream soups which have more calories and are more energy dense.
Would I Ever Choose Foods That Are Energy-Dense?
People who are underweight need some energy-dense foods to make sure they are getting enough calories to gain weight. Healthy energy dense foods include peanut butter, dried fruits, starchy vegetables and cheese.
Why Should I Think About Nutrient Density?
Eating nutrient-dense food will ensure you are getting all the nutrition you need. A nutrient-dense diet won’t leave you feeling hungry so maintaining your weight is much easier. Choosing nutrient dense foods can become second nature. Once you understand which foods are more nutrient dense, the rest is easy. Just remember that the foods you eat can affect your health in a big way. To be healthy or unhealthy? The choice is yours.