Thursday, December 15, 2016
What is nutrient dense food?
Lets look at the question piece by piece. Nutrients are those little things that our bodies use for cell replacement and function. I am purposely avoiding heavy science here because that can be found many other places. The simplest way to consider the value and importance of nutrients is to acknowledge that the human body uses vitamins and minerals for growth and function. Some minerals are essential meaning that the body cannot fabricate them from combining other minerals. The absence of some vitamins and minerals in the body results in limited to no growth and poor functioning.
Some foods contain a greater variety of nutrients and a higher concentration of the nutrients than other foods. Foods taken straight from nature with no or limited processing, have the greatest nutrient density. Low nutrient levels in the foods we eat lead to disease and cause the body to pull nutrients from tissue and bones. While we may eat because we enjoy the tastes and eating with good company, our biggest gain from eating are the nutrients we need for our bodies, our fuel.
Vegetables are on the top of the list of nutrient dense foods with fruits and grains high on the list. Meats also contain much of what is needed as well. From there the discussion of which are best and why becomes fuzzy. The many studies and even more opinions cause confusion for anyone searching for guidance about what to eat. A few factors to keep in mind while assessing information about food quality and health benefit.
Starting in the 1940s scientists started to notice a decline in the level of nutrients in the soil. Much corrective action has been and is continuing to be implemented. Despite the improved knowledge about how to grow food best, not all food is grown with the benefit of the improved growing conditions. Some methods work better than others. Some methods are more expensive. Too often, crop improvement has focused on growth rate and size coupled with disease resistance. As consumers we demonstrate our preference for pretty, colorful, large, and tasty (for some foods we ignore the poor taste because these foods are good for us). Our purchase preference encourage production of the nutrient deficient foods.
It all begins with the soil. A soil that has a balance of all the needed minerals and microbiotic goodies will do the best job of growing nutrient dense produce. If we harvest that produce when fully ripe we gain the best possible nutritional benefit. This is true if we consume it directly or feed it to animals used for meat of dairy production. A wise farmer puts the balance of minerals in the soil with the microbiotic inputs will grow plants rich with nutrition. We can eat that food or the farmer can feed it to this animals which will use it to produce the best possible meat, dairy, eggs, etc. We consume this nutrient dense food and our bodies have what is needed to generate healthy cells, tissues, and function in a healthy manner.
Eating real food, food without any processing, is only the start for changing our lifestyle to a more healthy one. Real food that lacks nutrient quality only leads to what is being called “type B malnutrition” where we eat “good” but still succumb to disease and poor health. Know the source of your food, meaning the soil and production methods and be satisfied that you are eating the most nutrient dense food possible. Your search for improved foods will lead to interesting places. My choice was to grow my own food the greatest extent possible. I am 65, take no medications, have lots of energy, and feel great. This is working for me.
This post does not get to the details but foreshadows what I will be addressing in the future.