Unfortunately, humans have grown more and more disconnected from their food and the environments in which their food is grown. This disconnect has led to food choices that contribute to the development of a myriad of chronic health symptoms including, mental and emotional disorders, hormonal imbalance, autoimmune and allergic symptoms, systemic inflammation, and cardiovascular disorders to name a few.

Consuming unhealthy foods has become too easy and too common. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is energy-rich, but it’s also nutrient-poor: When I say energy, I mean calories! That’s where the saying “empty calories” comes from — it refers to foods that provide a lot of calories without much nutritional value. The types of food that many people eat each day are high in added sugars, refined grains, and industrially processed oils, but missing the vitamins and minerals we need for optimal health. 

On the other hand, nutrient-dense foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients important for health. When we fuel our body with nutrient-dense real food we are laying a healthy foundation. It is important to note that diet alone is not going to do the trick without addressing other foundations to optimal health such as digestion, blood sugar regulation, essential fatty acid balance, mineral balance, and hydration. When these 6 foundations of health are in balance, we optimize our nutrient levels, reduce inflammation and improve all of our body’s functions like our digestive system, endocrine system, cardiovascular system, and our immune system.

We can all benefit from eating healthier food. Nutrient-dense food is by far the most powerful tool for optimal health. 

The first step in Nutritional Therapy is learning to eat properly prepared, nutrient-dense, whole foods. The term “nutrient-density” refers to the concentration of macronutrients, micronutrients, and amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, in a given food.  A primary goal of your chosen eating approach or diet should be maximizing nutrient-density because deficiencies of any of these essential nutrients can contribute to the development of disease.

So, what makes a food nutrient-dense? Nutrients are the chemical substances contained in food that are necessary to sustain life. Foods that are nutrient-dense have more nutrients that help provide our bodies with energy, structure, and function. Nutrients provide us the energy we need to move, think, digest, rebuild, and heal. They provide the basic building blocks we need to build our cells, tissues, organs, and systems. And they help create the enzymes and hormones we need to function properly. 

Nutrients fall into three basic categories:

  • Water
  • Macronutrients 
  • Micronutrients

The next steps to ensuring you are eating the most nutrient-dense foods for optimal health include, transitioning to real food and sourcing and preparing foods properly.

To maximize nutrient-density, avoid or at least limit energy-rich, nutrient-poor foods, like refined sugars and grains, processed vegetable oils, food dyes, and chemicals. Instead, focus on minimally processed whole plant and animal foods. Focus on food quality, when possible buy foods that have been grown in nutrient-rich soil, under responsible farming practices, locally sourced, organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised, and wild-caught to maximize nutrient-density and also lower exposure to toxins. It is also important to add a variety of different foods to our plates day to day and season to season to up our nutrient game.

What you eat matters a lot, but, so does how you eat. The last step to ensure the best absorption of macronutrients and micronutrients is to eat mindfully. Mindful eating involves bringing attention and awareness to what you are doing in the here and now. When you slow down and pay attention to the food you are consuming,  you are setting your digestive system up to properly and efficiently absorb and assimilate the nutrients you consume. 

The human body has an incredible ability to tolerate nutrient deficiencies—a useful evolutionary trait when food sources were scarce. However, prolonged deficiencies can lead to health dysfunction, dysregulation, and disease. Fortunately, when those missing nutrients are replenished, the body is very capable of healing itself. So, by focusing on providing the right nutrients for your body’s unique, bio-individual needs, we support the body in healing itself. Many people find it challenging to create more nutrient density in their diet. If you are ready to step up your nutrient game, give us a call, and get started today!

Eli Trave, Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner

About the author

Eli Priest is a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (FNTP), a Master Restorative Wellness Practitioner (MRWP), and one of Kansas City’s most passionate minds when it comes to the subject of how nutrition plays into an individual’s health and wellness.

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