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Nutrient density, nutrient-rich and micronutrient dense refer to the number of beneficial nutrients in a food product in proportion to energy content, weight or amount of detrimental nutrients.
The world health organisation classifies and ranks foods by their nutritional composition. Food that is high in nutrients but relatively low in calories. Nutrient-dense foods contain vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats. Examples of nutrient-dense foods include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free milk products, seafood, lean meats, eggs, peas, beans, and nuts.
Certain foods have a very rich nutrient profile and contain a wide variety of vitamin and minerals. The density of the nutrients is more, and they rate higher than their counterparts. However, even though these foods rate amongst the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, an individual should not rely only on these to complete his having a variety of foods in our meals ensures we get a varied nutrient profile and avoid any deficiency of nutrients. A well-balanced meal includes foods from the five food groups, namely carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals.
There is only a limited number of calories or food that we can consume in a day. It is wise to fill that calorie quota with a lot of nutrient-dense foods to fulfil our body's nutrient requirement.
Listed below are some of the foods that are extremely nutrient-dense and can be a part of the daily diet:
1. Salmon and Sardines: Fish, in general, is a nutrient powerhouse. But like all vegetables, all fish are not the same. Salmon is extremely rich in omega-three fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, selenium and B Vitamins.
a. This helps protect the body from serious ailments.
b. Enhances heart health.
c. Prevents dementia and Alzheimers.
d. Having salmon regularly also helps prevent depression.
2. Garlic: This versatile ingredient that can be a part of most dishes is rich in vitamin C, few B vitamins, calcium, potassium, copper, manganese and selenium. It also contains sulphur compounds.
a. Many studies show how regular intake of garlic can lower blood pressure, reduce the LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase the HDL (good) cholesterol.
b. It helps prevents colon and stomach cancers.
c. Raw garlic also acts as an antibacterial and antifungal.
3. Almonds: They are rich in protein, fibre, vitamin E, calcium, copper, magnesium and riboflavin. They are also a source of iron, potassium, selenium, zinc and the B vitamins, niacin, thiamine and folate. 8-10 soaked almonds every day is sufficient for a healthy individual. Having them soaked is the best way to ensure we absorb all the nutrition from an almond.
a. It provides us with a good variety of amino acids, thus helping in muscle recovery.
b. They help lower the LDL (bad) cholesterol.
c. Calcium and phosphorus in almonds help enhance bone health.
d. Selenium helps fight depression and anxiety.
e. Vitamin E helps the cells from damage.
f. Rich in fibre and proteins, this helps manage blood sugar from fluctuating and is a great snack for people with diabetes.
4. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower): Cruciferous vegetables are a good source of phytonutrients, rich in folate, vitamins C, E, and K, and fibre.
a. They help lower inflammation and reduce the risk of developing cancer.
b. They contain anticancer, antibacterial and antiviral effects.
5. Chia seeds: These seeds are a storehouse of proteins and boast of a complete amino acid profile. It is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, carbohydrates and fibre. It is rich in calcium and antioxidants as well.
a. Few studies have shown a regular intake of chia seeds to be linked to better heart health.
b. Rich in calcium, these seeds are a great replacement for dairy.
c. They help contain the spikes in blood sugar levels.
6. Black kidney beans: These are legumes that have a high protein and fibre content. They have good amounts of iron, magnesium, phosphorous, calcium and zinc.
a. The high amount of these nutrients ensures good bone health and elasticity of joints.
b. The calcium, magnesium and phosphorous help to control blood pressure naturally.
c. High fibre helps to manage insulin spikes and control blood sugar levels.
d. The fibre is also a pre-biotic and helps to maintain a healthy gut.
7. Peanuts: Peanuts are a good source of healthful fats, protein, and fibre. They contain plenty of potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, and B vitamins. Despite being high in calories, peanuts are nutrient-rich and low in carbohydrates.
a. Peanuts are very rich in biotin that is important during pregnancy.
b. Whole peanuts with skin are extremely rich in antioxidants.
c. Peanuts contain a lot of heart-healthy nutrients and protect cardiovascular health.
d. Some studies indicate that peanuts help reduce the risk of gall stones as regular peanuts consumption helps lowers cholesterol.
8. Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, mustard greens): Dark, leafy greens are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium and calcium. They are rich in iron, dietary fibre and also have a low glycemic index. These are extremely rich in phytochemicals and B-carotene flavonoids.
a. They help reduce the LDL (bad) cholesterol.
b. The low glycaemic index help reduce the sudden blood sugar spikes and regular intake help manage blood sugar levels.
c. Many studies show that leafy greens help protect against cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
d. The antioxidants help reduce the oxidative damage to cells, thus helping with anti-ageing.
e. Vitamin A helps enhance eye health.
9. Walnuts: These nuts are a powerhouse of calcium, iron, proteins, potassium and magnesium and Omega 3 fatty acids.
a. Helps ease inflammation that causes heart attacks. It also helps prevent blood clots.
b. Helps lower the LDL (bad) cholesterol
c. It helps promote the good bacteria in the gut.
d. Helps manage blood sugar levels and also protects against certain types of cancers.
10. Yoghurt: A good source of calcium and protein, yoghurt also contains live cultures called probiotics. These "good bacteria" can protect the body from other, more harmful bacteria. All health begins from the gut, and adding fermented foods is a great way to add the good living bacteria to your body. Homemade fresh curd is a great way to do that. This ensures that we have a well-functioning gut that expels toxins from the body regularly. The good bacteria help build immunity.
On A Final Note...
These are the top nutrient-dense foods. However, no superfood can make up for the body's nutritional needs. One needs to eat a wholesome meal with various variety to ensure the body gets all the nutrition it needs.