For optimum health, you should eat a varied diet and include nutrient dense foods.
Nutrient density is a ratio that compares how many nutrients are in a food versus how many calories that food provides.
The healthiest choices are food that give you a lot of nutrition when compared to their total calorie amount. These are nutrient dense foods.
Foods that are often said to provide “empty calories,” are not nutrient dense foods; they provide calories, but no real nutrition.
Not only can choosing nutrient dense foods help you stay healthy, it can help you maintain a healthy weight.
Nutrient dense foods contain a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Generally the less a food is processed, the more likely it is to be nutrient dense. When a food is processed, it generally loses much of its nutritional value.
Whole grains and whole grain products are more nutrient dense than products made with processed flour. Choose whole wheat bread over white or enriched bread.
Choose steel cut oatmeal over quick cooking oats. Choose long grain brown rice over instant white rice. Whole wheat pasta is better for you than pasta made with processed flour.
Dairy products are naturally nutrient dense. Reduced fat and no fat dairy products retain all of their nutrients. Skim milk, reduced fat cheese, reduced fat cottage cheese, and yogurt are all good choices.
Vegetables and fruits are a good source of carbohydrates, which give the body energy. Choose whole fruits and vegetables whenever possible. An apple is better for you than a glass of apple juice.
A serving of carrots is better for you than a serving of vegetable juice. Corn on the cob is a better choice than corn tortilla chips. A baked potato is a much better choice than potato chips or french fries. When possible, eat fruits raw, and cook vegetables using as little heat and water as possible.
Lean sources of protein include beef, chicken, pork, and fish. Prepare meat using as little added fat as possible.
A steak with a side of salad and a baked potato is a much more nutrient dense meal than a hamburger on a white bun with a side of fries.
Baked chicken is better for you than fried chicken. Try serving shrimp with a side of tomato-rich cocktail sauce rather than fried with high fat tartar sauce.
Healthy fats also have a place in your diet. Choose avocados, nuts and seeds, and healthy oils like olive oil.