How You Can Boost the Nutrient Density of Your Meals

If you find yourself eating the same dull things every day, it may be time to mix it up and take your diet up a notch. We are constantly scrolling through Pinterest looking up recipes and pinning them to our boards, but how often is it that we start trying new things. The best way is to start small and ramp up what you already got.

If weight loss is one of your goals, or if you are simply looking to increase the nutrient density of your meals for health purposes, the best place to start is by switching out some ingredients instead of taking them out and having no replacement. For example, toss the processed foods that you buy in packages and start eating natural, whole foods that have phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. As a result, you won’t even feel that you are missing some of the less-healthy things.

1. Start with Nutrient-Dense Foods
As mentioned above, the first step is to pack your refrigerator with the foods that make you feel good and look good. These are considered to be nutrient dense leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and arugula instead of iceberg lettuce. Another easy swap would be your sugar-filled protein bars with some raw mixed nuts. Heading over to the pantry, you can take out the packaged and processed products that have been hiding in there and replace them with nutrient-dense whole grains. That would include, quinoa, buckwheat, and barley. Ditch the dried fruit and replace it with some green apples, fresh berries, and pomegranates.

2. Store Food Properly
If you find yourself getting excited at the grocery store and purchasing all the vegetables you hope to eat that week, then you are setting yourself up for success. However, if you are unable to store the foods correctly, you may be dropping the ball. Storing foods is an essential step to making the most of the nutrient levels of each of the fruits, vegetables, and oils you purchase. This will help preserve them so that you can enjoy them later. Whether it is exposure to light or oxygen, foods can spoil fast and be a complete waste of money.

Consider storing avocados, tomatoes and fruits at room temperature and directly out of the sunlight. If you want to ripen an avocado that is not ready yet, just place it in a paper bag with a banana and store it in a dark place. Veggies are best stored in the refrigerator. However, root vegetables are not. Do not wash berries until right before you are ready to eat them. Typically apples will last about 1-3 weeks, blackberries 2-3 days, grapefruit three weeks, cherries three days, clementines five days and oranges two weeks.

After going grocery shopping, come home and chop up some vegetables like celery, carrots and bell pepper and store them in an airtight container in the fridge. Fresh herbs can be chopped up and frozen in ice cube trays with water or olive oil to be used at any time. Stored nuts and seeds should be in mason jars that are airtight or kept in the freezer.

3. Prepare the Food Properly
It is not uncommon to lose nutritional value through heat when cooking. Some foods deliver the most health benefits when eaten raw because they include water-soluble vitamin B1 and B5. These include foods such as spinach, turnips, broccoli, and avocado. Also, be aware that any foods that contain vitamin C will lose its nutrient density when cooked.

Cooking food is generally easier on digestion and increases the body’s absorption of the nutrients. Do not, however, overcook vegetables. Consider blanching, sauteeing or steaming to preserve all the nutrients inside. If the vegetables are boiled, some of the nutrients are lost in the water

4. Incorporate Healthy Fats
Incorporating fats into your diet is an amazing way to provide layers of protection and insulation for organs. It also helps to keep our body’s temperature normal. Fat-soluble vitamins are more easily stored in the body when consumed with healthy fats. These vitamins include A, D, E and K, and they keep our metabolism moving and body functioning.

Coconut oil is considered a very healthy fat. It is composed of 90% saturated fat, which is comprised of 65% medium chain triglycerides that are much easier for our bodies to break down before being absorbed and used for energy. Long chain triglycerides are not as easy to digest and may lead to heart conditions when eaten in excess. Consider using subtle tasting fats if coconut is not your preference. These would be MCT oil, avocado oil or olive oil.

5. Fiber, Fiber, Fiber
A healthy digestive system is important for overall well being and incorporating more fiber into your diet will happen if you choose more nutrient-dense foods. The fiber content ensures digestion works smoothly and it feeds the good bacteria in our stomach. While taking a probiotic helps the good bacteria to thrive, eating fiber will provide prebiotics which helps the bacteria increase. The fiber feeds the good bacteria, helping your body function healthily by encouraging them to grow more. Soluble fiber includes greens, vegetables, beans, and legumes such as chickpeas and nuts such as almonds. Consider incorporating these into your daily diet. If you find it difficult to incorporate a plate of greens to your meal, remember to keep it simple. A quick roast or steam with a topping of olive oil, salt, and pepper is just fine!

6. Add Stress Protecting Foods
These include foods such as ashwagandha, maca, rosemary and licorice root. They can help bring your body back to normal after stress and keep it functioning properly. Adaptogens started trending in the wellness communities and have been used since ancient times to address mental and physical stress. Studies have also shown that adaptogens help the body resist stress. When you’re stressed, cortisol levels increase, which is a natural hormonal reaction to danger. Adaptogens modulate the release of hormones and keep the body system functioning properly.

Include these into your diet every day. Adaptogens can be found in supplement form. They are herbs at their core and can be an adjunct therapy to modern medicine. Some more examples of adaptogens include mushrooms, herbs, spices, and tinctures.

Conclusion
Rather than focusing on foods to avoid in your diet, try maximizing the nutrient density by selecting proper foods for your meals. Not only will this help with weight loss, but it will also play an essential role in improving your overall health. Switching out various foods such as fats for good fats and sweeteners with fruit can make a big difference in the impact you have on your long-term health.

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