What is “Nutrient Density” anyway? Nutrient density refers to the amount of nutrients in a particular food for the given volume of that food, nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, essential fatty acids, good quality protein or carbohydrate, and phytonutrients . So, for example, a handful of walnuts is a nutrient dense food choice because in a small handful, you will get a good amount of vitamin E (a powerful antioxidant), healthy fat and concentrated energy.
There are some foods that are nutrient dense and calorie dense, and there are others that are nutrient dense and low in calories. I had a difficult time narrowing all the nutrient-dense foods there are into one short list of ten. Unfortunately I left numerous amazing foods off this list. Depending on your personal nutritional goals, you may want to add some of my top ten super foods to your eating plan! Remember though; don’t eat foods merely for their nutritional value if you don’t like them! Only eat foods that you find palatable and pleasurable.
Dried Fruit: There are many types of dried fruits on the market. You can try dried berries, apricots, cranberries, strawberries, blueberries and even tropical fruits like papaya, mango, and pineapple. You can give yourself a quick energy boost by eating dried fruits because they have less volume than their fresh equivalent and they are portable and non-perishable. They are packed with vitamins and minerals just like their fresh counterparts.
Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and seeds are rich in polyunsaturated fats that can be a healthy addition to your diet. Macadamia nuts, almonds, walnuts, peanuts, pecans, cashews, sunflower seeds, flax seeds and pumpkin seeds are all good for you, offer a variety of flavors and can be eaten in a variety of ways. You can eat them by the handful or try nut butters made from them. Spread some apple slices or banana slices with nut butters for a nutrient-dense and energy-dense snack or make a trail mix with your favorite nuts and dried fruit. Try them in oatmeal or yogurt, on top of ice cream or a salad. Eat them raw or toasted!
Greek Yogurt: There are so many yogurts on the market, it’s hard to choose between them all. My favorite by far, is Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is packed with protein, sometimes double or triple the amount of protein in a regular yogurt. In a 4 to 8 ounce container you can get as much as 15 to 20 grams of protein. That’s almost as much as a 3 ounce piece of chicken! My favorite brands are Chobani and Fage. You can get these brands in plain as well as several delicious flavors.
Quinoa: Although not a common item in most people’s homes, quinoa is a protein-rich seed that has a fluffy but slightly crunchy texture and a slightly nutty flavor when it’s cooked. It looks like a grain, but it is actually a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard. It is an ancient “grain”, once called the “gold of the Incas” because it increased the stamina of their warriors. Not only is quinoa high in protein, but the protein it supplies is complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids.
Garbanzo Beans (chick peas): Even though legumes are known for their fiber, most people do not know how helpful the fiber in garbanzo beans can actually be for supporting digestive tract function. Garbanzos contain about 12 grams of fiber per cup. This type of fiber can help you regulate your blood sugar and will help lower your risk of intestinal issues. You can eat garbanzo beans plain, in soups or salads, or in the form of hummus.
Avocado: Did you know that the avocado is often called the “alligator pear” because of its shape and the leather-like appearance of its skin? Avocados contain a great source of healthy fat as well as vitamins, minerals and fiber. They are also considered an anti-inflammatory food. You can enjoy them cut up in salads, as an addition to sandwiches or made into guacamole. Can you answer this question: Is an avocado a fruit or a vegetable?
Spinach: I feel stronger every time I eat a fresh bowl of raw or cooked spinach! There have been more than a dozen different flavonoid compounds identified in spinach that act as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agents. The vitamin K in spinach helps prevent the breakdown of bones. Spinach contains vitamin C and iron, as well as a host of other nutrients. You can mix spinach with pasta or in soups, or you can make a spinach salad and add feta cheese and toasted pine nuts.
Oats: Oatmeal, granola, granola bars made from oats, tofu/oat burgers (my own recipe) are all great ways to enjoy this grain. Oats contain a special kind of fiber that lowers blood cholesterol. Oats also help regulate blood sugar so you can feel energized for a longer period of time without suffering a low blood sugar “crash”. During the winter months, I love a big bowl of oatmeal with walnuts and blueberries and when the weather gets warmer, I love yogurt with an oat-based granola and raisins!
Dark Chocolate: Who doesn’t like to enjoy a “melt-in-your-mouth” piece of chocolate? Did you know that dark chocolate is good for your brain and can improve your mood? It is good for your heart and it also contains antioxidants that can help reduce free-radical damage. Cocoa, in dark chocolate, can also reduce inflammation. You can eat is by itself or mix it into other types of foods. Dark chocolate chips are a great ingredient in lots of your favorite recipes. My favorite is dark chocolate chips mixed into banana walnut muffins!
Green Tea: Green tea is the least processed of all teas. It has the highest concentration of “phytonutrients” and the least caffeine of all teas. Green tea is rich in health-promoting flavonoids, which play a fundamental role in green tea’s anticancer and antioxidant effects. These flavonoids are potent free radical scavengers. You can find great tasting green teas in every supermarket and health food store. You can drink them hot or iced.Share on Facebook