Nutrient status is associated with obesity:
An association between obesity and low nutrient levels is being investigated. The hypothesis is that a nutrient poor diet that is high in calories may leave the body still signalling to eat because it doesn’t have enough B vitamins (for example) to complete important processes. Continuing to eat nutrient poor calorie dense food just perpetuates the cycle. Maximizing nutrient density has become a big focus in the nutritions world with vegans, vegetarians and paleo enthusiasts all taking note.
What is nutrient density?
- Generally, nutrient density refers to the amount of vitamins and minerals in a food per gram or calorie. Researchers are undecided on the specifics. The trouble arises because they keep trying to peg the nutrients (usually vitamins and minerals) to the calorie content of the foods they are rating.
Common problems with nutrient density scales:
- Rating scales likes those described above mean calorie dense foods like chicken liver which are very nutrient dense per gram and contain many more calories than kale look less nutritious.
- They assume that everyone is trying to minimize calorie intake and thus should be eating fewer calories (not the case)
- Sometimes if a food has saturated fat in it, the rating scale discriminates that food based on the outdated and incorrect evidence that saturated fat is inherently bad for us.
- Nutrient density is about more than vitamins and minerals and these scales often don’t take into account important fatty acids like EPA and DHA (from fish) and plant phytochemicals like antioxidants.
Fall in love with nutrient dense foods:
Skip the trouble with the nutrient density scales and focus on these key food groups:
- Organ meats(Offal)
- Animal and fish proteins (including dairy if you tolerate it well)
- Nuts and Seeds
Find some distance from nutrient poor foods:
Skip processed foods found in the centre of the grocery store that have a long shelf life
- grain based cereals
- boxed foods like crackers
- sugary drinks
Pump up your breakfast and relax for the rest of the day!
Breakfast typically has the most potential for increased nutrient density because it’s often skipped or mostly carbohydrates. It’s also a great time to be giving your self an extra shot of energy boosting compounds.
Grain based carbohydrate breakfasts fill up our stomach but they prevent us from having other nutrient dense foods. Depending on the preparation method, they can also spike our insulin making us more likely to crave carbohydrates and sweets during the day. The lack of nutrients and blood sugar effects sets one up for the classic afternoon crash.
Prepare ahead of time. Make sure you have some staples on hand and ready for heating up or throwing in a smoothie.
Note: Cap carbohydrates at 60 grams or less unless you have a work out around the corner and customize the amounts to your daily needs and taste preferences
- Yogurt (dairy or other)
- Protein powder (if you tolerate it well, a few eggs or some other protein on the side can substitute for this)
- Nuts and seeds (soaked overnight to reduce phytic acid which can interfere with digestion)
- Greens – frozen organic spinach is my go to because it never spoils and is easy to stock up on
- Avocado or olive oil
Solid food tips:
- Prepare some proteins (fish, meat, soaked nuts and seeds) on Sunday or the night before.
- Prepare some root vegetables like sweet potatoes, parsnip on Sunday or the night before.
- Typical plate:
- 1/2 root veggies
- 1/2 other veggies
- 1/4 fruit
- 1/4 protein
- Mix and match to keep it interesting.
What I ate for breakfast:
- The picture above is my actual breakfast
- 1/2 root veggies: parsnip and turnip steamed
- 1/2 other veggies: cucumber
- 1/4 fruit: blue berries
- 1/4 protein + a fat if needed: scallops and lobster, I also added some home made chicken liver pate.
- A note about the lobster: I treat myself from time to time since I don’t eat out a lot I have saved the money to splurge bit on nutrient dense favourites
- A note about the scallops: bay scallops are small and cheaper per lb than the larger ones.
- Other protein ideas: fish of any kind, lentils if you tolerate them, ground meats are easy to prepare ahead of time, calamari is a favorite, see my recipe here.
- Want to do your own comparisons of the foods you are actually eating? I usually use Fitday.com to track day to day meals every once in a while to see if I am keeping my nutrient density up. I don’t have any affiliation with the site, but find that it gives more detailed information than most. I even found the nutritional information for ghee today when I looked for it.
- Track your diet for a week or two to get an accurate reflection of how your doing on your nutrient intake and keep in mind that even though grains have nutrients in them they don’t have as many antioxidants as their leafy veggie counterparts. The vitamin and mineral content isn’t the only thing to gauge your nutrient intake on as it doesn’t measure everything in the foods we eat. How you feel is also a great indicator.
Making changes to your breakfast and finding it’s not going as you had hoped? There could be underlying health issues affecting your digestion, energy levels and metabolism that I’m hereto help make sense of.
Dr. Amanda Hennigar, ND