I write a lot about the benefits of nutritionally dense foods but have never really explained what the term nutritionally dense means. Nutrient density refers to the number of beneficial nutrients in a food in proportion to how many calories it has, so those foods that provide a high amount of nutrients but have relatively few calories.
Nutrient-dense foods are important because they provide us with essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids and more. They can be the first defense against preventing conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
To make it easy to understand it’s the amount of nutrients you'd get per calorie consumed. From the website www.draxe.com comes the following example; 600 calories worth of fast-food french fries is obviously not the same as 600 calories of kale. You would have to eat about 20 bowls of oatmeal to get the equivalent nutrients of one bowl of kale.
Nutrient-dense foods are real and unprocessed, contain no chemicals and are not made in laboratories. Nutrients found in healthy, whole food include micronutrients like essential vitamins, trace minerals and electrolytes, plus macronutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins and different types of healthy fats. The antioxidants and phytochemicals found in many plant foods support the immune system, the body's detoxification processes and cellular repair.
When researching which foods are the most nutritionally dense, I found a list of 30 foods, with 24 of them being plant-based. Here are the top 5 plant-based nutritionally dense foods.
Leafy reens, like kale, collards, spinach, watercress, dandelion greens and arugula
Broccoli rabe, broccoli, cauliflower and other cruciferous veggies like cabbage or Brussels sprouts
Exotic berries like acai and goji
Red, yellow, green and orange bell peppers
It's easy to incorporate these foods into your diet, and probably you are eating them already, the thing to consider is, are you eating enough of them? Is that green salad at lunch or dinner going to suffice, or could you be adding more to your diet?
This morning, for example, my smoothie contained sea moss and spinach, two of the top 5 nutritionally dense foods. For lunch, I am going to Mathida's a plant-based restaurant in Oshawa, and the meal I purchase contains a variety of peppers. For dinner, we are having roasted cauliflower, and a spring mix salad, with homemade hemp seed dressing (seeds are number 23 the list).
I encourage you to start thinking of little ways you can add more nutritionally dense foods to your diet.
Here is my favourite hemp seed salad dressing, from the blog Ohsheglows.com.
This quick and easy hemp seed salad dressing takes less than five minutes to make.
Hemp seed dressing
1/2 cup hulled hemp seeds
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/4-1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, to taste.
Blend all ingredients in your Magic Bullet or blender. It thickens nicely in the refrigerator.
Sheree's Hack; freeze your leafy greens before adding to smoothies, this helps them to break down easier.
Sheree Nicholson is the owner of Live With Spirit Yoga & Fitness studio in Whitby, Ontario. She has a certificate in plant-based nutrition from eCornell University and is working on her Masters in Metaphysics. Sheree holds certifications in Advanced Yoga, Pilates, Reebok Spinning and Kettlebell training. This benefits you as she focuses on functional movement, strength and weight loss. Sheree competed in both Canadian and American Kettlebell competitions placing in the top 3.
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