Nutrient Density

Nutrient Density

How do you make sense of all the available advice about healthy eating?

There just seems to an avalanche of advice about eating, coming at us from all sorts of directions. It can be hard to know how to understand what is good eating. We get bombarded with messages about carbs, fats, proteins, sugars (and added sugars), processed foods etc. It seems that every week there is a new, and sometimes conflicting, piece of advice for us to follow when it comes to food.

Here is a really simple way to figure out what healthy eating is. It is intended as a general guide as each person is different. The easy rule to follow is to look for nutrient density. What this means is that you should look for foods that not only have fuel for your body (i.e. sugars and carbohydrates), but also a range of other nutrients such as fiber, minerals and vitamins.

There is a ratio between fuel and nutrients for optimal health. Too many people are getting too much fuel without enough nutrients. This excess fuel perpetuates a hunger cycle and also gets converted to fat in the body. Processed foods are the main culprit here. When the food is processed it is typically processed to increase the amount of sugar available (ironically to make it more palatable) and remove fiber, minerals and vitamins. Without these nutrients your body will not feel full as fast, nor will it get all the micro-nutrients it requires.

So, with your diet look for the least processed foods you can find. Ideally this means complete lack of processing, so go for wholefoods – my rule of thumb here is that if I can’t see each individual ingredient then it means it is processed. The more processing of the food then the worse the ratio between fuel and nutrients. Wholefoods will each have different amounts of macro-nutrients (carbs, fats and proteins) and they will also have a range of micro-nutrients (fiber, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants etc) as well. Try to get a well balanced diet that is predominantly made up of unprocessed wholefoods for maximum health and well-being.

As a final note, you also need to know that there are special interest groups who are spreading messages about food types to promote their own commercial agenda. Look no further that the dairy industry (“you need dairy in your diet”) or the sugar industry (“sugar is not responsible for obesity”) for concrete examples of this. Also, on a lighter note, did you know the idea of having cereal for breakfast was promoted by a man who wanted to stop you masturbating? Learn to take a critical approach to any dietary claims that seem to promote special interests.