Nutrient Dense Foods - What Are They?
Nutrient-dense foods have a high nutrient/calorie ratio. Meaning
they are rich in nutrients when compared to their calorie content.
A good example of a nutrient-dense food is strawberries. One cup
of strawberries contains only 150 calories, but 3.5g fiber, a massive
86mg of vitamin C and a useful 26.9mcg of folate.
Nutrient-dense foods are the oppposite of empty-calorie foods which
are low in nutrition when compared to their calorie content.
Food fulfills three basic needs: (1) to provide energy; (2) to
support new tissue growth and tissue repair; and (3) to help regulate
metabolism. These three requirements are met by components of foods
called "nutrients", which consist of six classes: carbohydrates,
fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water.
Foods that are "nutrient dense" supply a significant
amount of these nutrients for their calories. A high-performance
diet emphasizes nutrient-dense carbohydrates necessary to maintain
muscle glycogen - the primary fuel for most sports.
Such foods as whole-grain breads and cereals, rice, beans, pasta,
vegetables, and fruits are thus considered to be nutrient dense
because they not only are high in carbohydrates but supply other
nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber. By comparison,
sweet foods that are high in sugar, such as candy bars, donuts,
and cookies, contain carbohydrates but they are not considered nutrient
dense because they are also high in fat and contain only insignificant
amounts of vitamins and minerals. This is why such foods are often
referred to as supplying "empty" calories.
Nutrient-dense carbohydrates have another advantage over fats and
sugary foods. Because they contribute significantly fewer calories
for a given amount than foods with a high fat or sugar content,
nutrient-dense carbohydrates actually contribute to weight-loss.