Nutrient Density: Eat Less, Benefit More
What if there was a way to eat less, but get more from the food you’re eating? We all know how to read a label, count calories, track carbohydrates and notice fat intake. However, it isn’t just a matter of numbers – the truth is that there are large differences between the qualities of the fuel sources you’re providing to your body. It turns out that there are better calorie sources for you than others, and the form that your food takes makes a huge difference in your physical performance, and even in your energy levels.
Efficient fuel sources are ones that are low in calories and high in nutritional content. These nutrient-dense foods are generally ones that are found naturally and aren’t processed or manufactured. Here is a list of some of the most nutrient dense foods out there:
- Brussels Sprouts
- Sunflower Seeds
- Black beans
- Sweet potatoes
- Green peas
Alternatively, foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients are energy-dense foods, and can be considered empty calories. Here are some of those high-energy, low-nutrient foods.
- Sugar-sweetened drinks like sodas or energy drinks
- Whole milk
- High-fat meats
- Sugary baked goods- cakes, cookies, candy
- Chips, French fries and other fried foods
- Breads made with refined flour
- High-fat salad dressing
When you opt to eat foods that aren’t efficient fuel sources, your body has to work a lot harder to process your calories. You’ll actually end up using some of your precious, saved up nutrients to burn the empty calories that you’re eating (http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/empty-calories-v-nutritious-calories-1250.html). These empty calories are fast carbohydrates, which means that they will burn, or be digested into sugars quickly, elevating your blood sugar level. These fast carbohydrates may give you a sugar rush and quick crash, leaving your body hungrier, and more tired much quicker than if you were to eat nutrient dense foods.
If you’d like to learn more about nutrient dense foods, check out these articles:
Nutrient-dense foods are generally high in fiber, which makes you feel full longer, and gives you more energy. If you’re eating nutrient-dense foods you’re getting more ‘bang for your buck’, or more nutrients for your caloric intake. This is how you’ll be able to eat less, benefit more from your food, and have more energy to live a healthy life. Other than increased energy, there are many health benefits to eating nutrient-dense foods. Firstly, based on a study published in the Journal of American Dietetics Association in 2011, “Foods that are nutrient dense may help to lower your risk for metabolic syndrome.” Metabolic syndrome increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. A second study published in the Nutrition Journal in 2010 notes “The vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals in a nutrient-dense diet help rid the body of free radicals and other damaging waste products, which can sometimes cause oxidative stress or inflammatory reactions with symptoms people sometimes mistake for hunger.” (http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/nutrient-dense-vs-nonnutrient-dense-2716.html)
The inclusion of nutrient-dense foods in your healthy lifestyle diet is one of the core principles that have helped us create our Summer Slimdown program. With the program, you are eating from low calorie but highly efficient fuel sources, thus you can eat less for the same amount (or more) energy output. You can continue with your active lifestyle, whether that be swimming, biking, hiking and partaking in all of your favorite summer activities while feeling satiated and energized.