Feel a little, well, dense when it comes to knowing about nutrient-dense foods? Today’s guest post from Kevin Jones provides a few examples of nutrient-dense foods that can fuel your workout (and your life!), plus he explains why they’re so great for you. Kevin is a freelance writer, researcher and fitness instructor/consultant who has helped hundreds of people find ways to become more fit and healthy through a balanced life focusing on an individualized approach to their nutrition and fitness. He’s also written extensively in the fitness and health industries, including writing for companies such as a ICON Fitness brand NordicTrack.
Nutrient-Dense Foods Defined
For decades, dieters, athletes, and anyone who wanted to lose weight and stay in top shape focused on counting calories. However, they quickly found out that this was not an effective method of eating nutritiously. For example, egg yolks received a lot of bad publicity even though they are loaded with nutrition.
Basically, nutrient density refers to the nutritional value that a food carries when compared with the amount of calories. Think of it as the opposite of “empty calories” with no nutritional content.
But that doesn’t mean you should run away from carbs — at least, not all of them! If a food comes from the ground or grows on a tree, vine or stalk, it’s probably healthy for you. The most nutrient-dense carbs are colorful and pack a lot of punch for the amount of calories they hold. If possible, eat them raw or minimally cooked to maximize the benefit of the vitamins. Super grains, such as quinoa, are the exception to this rule. While they aren’t colorful, they also carry rich nutrition content and offer you a complete protein.
The following list of six low-carb, nutrient-dense foods will help you maintain your energy levels. The fat in these foods provides a stabilizing advantage because they digest slowly, allowing for timed-release energy. Some studies show that full-fat dairy helps control body fat while, on the other hand, skim milk provides a temporary illusion of feeling full without offering much value in the way of nutrition.
- Greens: Anything green that grew in the ground acts as a super food, such as kale or spinach. Try to eat these delicious veggies fresh or blend them into a smoothie. However, you can steam them with a squeeze of lemon juice and add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.
- Nuts or seeds: Nuts add nutrients and work as a great pick-me-up if you start to feel a mid-afternoon slump. You can eat them plain as a snack or toss them in a salad for extra crunch.
- Eggs: This protein-packed bundle is a great snack and can be prepared numerous ways. For ease, hard boil them and take them to work for a handy snack.
- Salmon or other fatty fish: Season salmon with herbs or add it to a salad. Serve with wild rice or quinoa.
- Greek yogurt: Serve this with oats, in a parfait with fruit or add some to a protein shake for extra energy.
- Avocado: Toss an avocado with tomatoes, green onion, cucumber, a bit of lemon and herbs to flavor. Add to a salad or spread on a whole wheat bagel.
These nutrient-dense foods do more than just help you feel satisfied during the day!
Nutrient-dense foods provide you with lasting energy for your workout. These foods provide you with some of the optimal fuel needed for intense cardio workouts, especially for longer durations. If you plan to include high-intensity interval training, be sure to consume enough carbohydrates to power your workout. Your body needs the optimal fuel possible to stay at peak performance. If you’re training for a marathon or do intense cardio workouts four to five times a week, you will burn out unless you consume nutrient-dense foods.
They help you achieve your weight loss goals. Consider your weight loss or gain goals as well. For healthy weight gain, consume more carbs. To boost your weight loss, eat more protein.
What are your favorite nutrient-dense foods? —Kevin