Nutrient-dense foods are those that give you the most nutrition (such as vitamins, mineral, antioxidants, phytochemicals, etc) for the least amount of calories. I’ve just recently discovered a nutrition-focused health practitioner, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, MD, who has created a very interesting nutrient-density list based on examining these factors. Here is a chart from his website (I hope I’m allowed to re-post this!):
As you can see, leafy green vegetables, followed by all other non-starchy veggies top the list. Now, as Dr. Fuhrman states, you don’t want 100% of your diet to be in the top 3 categories. Doing so may mean that you have loads of nutrition, but getting enough calories, fat and protein would be difficult. Here is his food pyramid, which lays out where and how the food-intake focus should lie:
Dr. Fuhrman believes that at least 90% of one’s diet should be taken from the bottom 3 tiers of the pyramid, and if desired (but my no means mandatory for health and not promoted in my own practice), the other 10% could be from the less nutrient dense/higher calorie animal products, sweets and processed foods.
I find that Dr. Fuhrman’s evaluations and recommendations make a lot of sense. Vegetables, with leafy greens taking top spot, should make up the majority of one’s intake, followed by fruits, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds. Foods that are not health-promoting, and are in many cases, deterrents to better health, should be kept to a maximum of 10% of your daily calorie intake. Better yet – avoid them completely!
One great and easy way to start upping your intake of leafy greens is through the daily consumption of green smoothies. If you’ve got a decent blender, then these drinks take only a few minutes to make, but they’ll pump your body full of easy to digest, nutrient dense food for hours. Check out my previous post for the basic recipe, or go to rawfamily.com to meet the “Green Smoothie Gurus” and find more yummy green recipes.
Although I haven’t yet read it, I plan on checking out Dr. Fuhrman’s book, Eat For Health, which explores these ideas in more detail.