As a nutritional therapy consultant, I recommend eating nutrient-dense whole foods that are properly prepared, but what does it mean to eat a nutrient-dense diet?
As a society, we have become so far removed from the diet of our ancestors that has sustained us throughout history, and have lost the traditional wisdom in properly preparing our foods for optimal nutrition.
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Many people no longer know how to eat healthily and wonder what a nutrient-dense diet is. Regardless of what diet you follow, there are some universal basics to eating nutrient-dense whole foods for a healthy balanced diet.
Many people have turned to processed foods of convenience or trendy diets that are not healthy in the long term.
Eating nutrient-dense whole foods that are diverse is necessary for obtaining all the vitamins and minerals needed by the body.
The quality of food is of the utmost importance when learning how to eat healthier. One simple rule to follow is to avoid all processed foods and only eat whole foods found in nature.
Why is it important to eat nutrient-dense whole foods?
For optimal health, the body needs pure water, protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals following a general guideline of 30% protein, 30% fats, and 40% carbohydrates, which can vary according to bio-individuality. All the macronutrients are necessary and play a role in the body.
Most importantly, eating nutrient-dense foods high in vitamins and minerals is crucial for making energy in the body and liver detoxification.
Vitamin and minerals also act as co-factors for every enzyme (gene) in the body. For example, the MTHFR gene needs folate (found in leafy greens) and vitamin B2 (found in dairy) to function.
Choline is a crucial nutrient found in eggs required by the PEMT gene to make phosphatidylcholine and thus, prevent fatty liver and gallbladder problems. Eating a nutrient-dense diet is the best way to get these nutrients and others into the body.
Carbohydrates will provide fuel for the brain and a quick source of energy for our muscles. Whole food carbohydrates contain fiber to assist in promoting healthy bowel movements. The fiber found in whole food plant-based carbohydrates is essential for optimal gut health.
Many people fear carbohydrates these days, but there is a big difference between good carbs and bad carbs.
Fats will provide another source of energy that is slow-burning to maintain steady energy levels. A wide variety of healthy fats are required to make up every cell membrane in the body.
Fat also makes food taste good and helps with the absorption of the fat-soluble nutrients A, D, E, K. The omega-three fats found in fish oil are beneficial for weight loss and reducing inflammation in the body.
Proteins are the building blocks for the body and are used to form organs, nerves, muscles, and flesh. Protein also makes up enzymes, antibodies, hemoglobin, and hormones, which all have essential functions. Many vegetables, beans, and seeds are excellent sources of plant-based protein.
How to eat a nutrient dense diet
Proper balance is the key to providing the body with the appropriate macronutrients that contain the vitamins and minerals to fuel the body and its many functions.
The quality of the food is of the utmost importance when obtaining macronutrients and micronutrients in the diet. Processed versus nutrient-dense whole foods will impact the body differently and provide different nutrition.
Avoid all processed and refined foods including, refined sugar, white flour products, canned foods, pasteurized, homogenized, skim milk, toxic additives, and processed table salt.
It is best to avoid fruits and vegetables that are grown in artificial fertilizers and heavily sprayed. Eating organic or local is always best but eating whole fruits and vegetables is still better than processed foods.
Hydrogenated fats, margarine, rancid/refined vegetable oils are unhealthy fats. Commercial animal products from animals that have been raised in crowded pens and fed antibiotics are best avoided as well.
Instead, we want to be sourcing nutrient-dense whole foods such as free-range organic eggs, organic or locally grown fruits, and vegetables.
Whole raw and cultured dairy products, grass-fed beef, free-range poultry, deep seawater fresh fish are the best sources of animal products.
Cold-pressed oils, butter, avocado, nuts, and seeds are the best sources of healthy fats.
The importance of soaking nuts and seeds for optimal nutrition
Soaking whole grains, beans, legumes, raw nuts, and seeds before eating is the best way to prepare these foods for optimal nutrition and digestion.
Soaking and sprouting these foods will provide more availability of the nutrients to be utilized by the body.
All nuts seeds, beans, legumes, and grains contain enzyme inhibitors that block the absorption of vitamins and minerals. Enzyme inhibitors such as phytic acid put a strain on the digestive system.
Soaking these foods for 12 hours before cooking helps to deactivate the enzyme inhibitors in these foods. Sprouting and soaking will make the nutrients in these foods more readily available and absorbed by the body.
Fermenting and culturing foods is another great way to increase the enzyme content of foods and probiotic bacteria that aid in digestion and add more nutrition.
A diet including 30-50% raw foods will also provide live enzymes and keep nutrients intact that can be damaged through heating.
Mineral-rich bone broths are also highly recommended to add to the diet as they provide a great source of minerals for the body. Here is a delicious homemade chicken soup recipe made with mineral-rich bone broth.
Achieving optimal health through nutrition begins with eating a properly prepared nutrient-dense whole food diet. A nutrient-dense diet is a foundation that leads to optimal health.
It is the food choices that we make daily, that impact our well-being and health. Taking steps to eat a healthy diet by replacing processed and refined foods in the diet with whole natural foods found in nature is key to obtaining maximal nutrition.
It is not a coincidence that health issues are rising with the increased consumption of processed and refined foods. These foods are nutrient deficient and should be replaced with nutrient-dense whole foods that nourish the body.
For more information on how we have been led astray from our traditional diets and how to properly prepare your food for optimal nutrition, I recommend reading Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Staying Healthy with Nutrition by Elson M Haas.
We truly have the power to transform our health with optimal nutrition. Here is a list of my top holistic nutrition books that changed my life.
With so many conflicting diets, I help to cut through the noise by making dietary recommendations that are tailored. There is no one size fits all diet that will work for everyone but eating nutrient dense whole foods is the first step for everyone. If you need more dietary advice I help you to find out what diet is best for you.