To look and feel better individually, and as a society in general, we need to begin focusing on foods that have a high ratio of nutrients to calorie value. In other words, our diets need to be nutrient-dense. Unfortunately, nutrient-poor, empty calorie foods are commonplace in our modern, fast-paced world.
So, to truly experience a revolution in health, the first thing we need to address is diet. We need to ditch low-nutrient, "look-a-like" non-foods and replace them with healthy nutrient-dense foods – the ones provided by Mother Nature herself.
The term "nutrient density" refers to the concentration of proteins, the building blocks of life, amino acids and micronutrients in any given food. Deficiencies of any micronutrients is dangerous and can contribute to and be the cause of chronic disease and shortened life spans. So, maximising nutrient density should be the number one goal of our diet.
Let's face it, eating is a favourite activity for most humans because it engages most of our senses in one way or another with the sense of taste and smell being the most prominent.
But eating is way more than just sensory enjoyment. Eating provides us with:
• Energy to be active and move around
• Materials for growth and repair of tissue
• Regulation of our metabolism (the rate at which our body's burn fuel).
Lean grass-fed meats, free range eggs and poultry, fresh local fish, nuts, seeds, vegetables, coconuts, whole-grains, rice, beans, fruits and fat-free or low-fat dairy products are all nutrient dense foods that every diet should be made from.
Healthy nutrient-dense carbs provide us with muscle glycogen, giving us enough fuel to be physically active.
Comparatively, refined and processed non-foods such as candy, cakes, cookies, snack bars, chips, soda and other junk non-foods are most assuredly not nutrient-dense.
In fact, the only thing these make-believe foods are dense in is sugars, unhealthy fats and chemicals. They offer little to no protein, healthy carbs, fats or vitamins and minerals and thus the name "empty" calories.
Nutrient dense foods are critical players when it comes to combating weight loss resistance. They are also the primary key towards enjoying optimal health while providing other necessary health benefits such as:
• Balancing and restoring fat storing/fat burning hormones
• Eliminating or reducing pesky food cravings that destroy diets and lead to overeating and obesity
• Keeping us feeling satiated and full so we are not reaching for food as often
• Stabilising blood sugar levels – crucial for good health
• Optimising digestion and metabolism with proper nutrient intake
• Energising the body so you can be as active as you want to be
• Supporting mental and emotional health including depression.
When we focus on nutrients and eventually transition to a nutrient-dense diet, we've put ourselves in a much better position to detoxify our body and lose any excess weight naturally (moving past any "weight-loss" resistance that may be keeping us frozen at our current unhealthy weight).
In this healthy, thriving state, disease and ailments are reversed, we age slower, feel younger, look younger and live longer. What's not to like?
Since our bodies require a certain number of calories daily in order to function properly and we can only eat a limited amount of food daily, it only makes sense that our focus is on foods that provide our bodies with the proper nutrients needed to make it run smoothly and efficiently.
Nutrient dense foods are the best bang for your buck, so, it's time to change the game when choosing snacks and meals.
Try to think about power-plates that offer tons of nutrition in comparison to caloric intake.
If your diet doesn't currently support a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits, simply begin adding one or two servings every day and continue increasing it over time.
Remember, the more variety you have, the more likely you will provide your body with all the needed minerals and vitamins it craves.
In review: Lean meats, leafy greens such as kale and spinach, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, nuts and seeds (watch your calories intake on these), whole grains, fruits such as blueberries and strawberries, beans and peas, fresh salmon and low-fat dairy products are all great choices.
These healthy food choices also provide lean proteins and unsaturated fats and as a bonus, many provide a hefty dose of fibre. Of course, this is just a short list.
Nature has provided us with a bounty of nutrient dense foods in every colour imaginable!
However, they won't do you or anyone else any good unless you focus on and make them the star players in both your snacks and meals.
And, the best thing of all is, there is no guilt associated with most nutrient dense foods and those that are high in calories such as nuts and seeds are still providing a wealth of valuable nutrients in exchange for those calories.
Just kick your portion control in when choosing them.
• Carolyn Hansen is co-owner of Anytime Fitness.