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Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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12 Nutrition Rules That Have Stood The Test Of Time

by Kimberly Evans    October 29, 2015 

Nutrition is an ever-changing field. For science-minded individuals like me, that can be exciting, but for those who just want a consistent answer to their health-related questions, it can be frustrating.

Nutrition is a fairly new science, and we’re just beginning to understand the complex interactions between nutrients in food and the human body.

However, there are a few solid morsels of information that have stood the test of time:

1. You don’t have to like everything you eat, and you don’t have to eat everything you like.

Now, truth be told, as a nutritionist I want my clients to like healthy foods, but there are some foods that are just worth learning to like. Beets and salmon are on the top of that list.

The second part is a little trickier. Simply put, making a choice to eat healthier may sometimes mean choosing NOT to eat certain foods even though you know you like them. Making peace with this is an important step in making a lifestyle change.

2. Let food be your medicine.

Three to five times a day, every day, we have an opportunity to influence our physical and emotional health.

I divide food into three groups: zappers, neutrals, and helpers.

The zappers are foods that may take more from our body than they give. If you can’t pronounce the ingredient, chances are that your body won’t know how to make use of it. Stay clear of ingredients with the words hydrogenated, hydrolyzed, artificial, and autolyzed, and ingredients that have a # next to them (like red #3).

Most of us, even those who are already health-minded, are eating the neutrals. These are foods that are neither harming nor helping. Think of whole-grain (although processed) cereal.

Helpers are foods that have a robust offering of nutrients like phytochemicals and antioxidants and increase our vitality and energy. Foods like blueberries, broccoli, turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon are all helpers. For those of you ready to step it up a bit, consider trying maca root or spirulina in your next smoothie.

3. Respect your body.

I used to tell my kids that there was a tag attached to them at birth stating, “You have one body, take care of it. Move daily. Eat well.” I believe in that philosophy whole-heartedly.

4. Rest, digest, and stress less.

Think of mealtimes as opportunities for mini-meditative moments in your busy and hurried day. Pause before a meal. Take a moment and some deep breaths to move out of fight-or-flight mode and into rest-and-digest mode.

This practice will allow your digestive system to really engage in making use of those beautiful foods you’re about to eat. Your whole body will benefit.

stir fry

5. Create a colorful plate.

I challenge my clients to get at least five colors of the rainbow onto their plates each day. This can be easier than you think:

  • Green smoothie to start the day
  • Fresh blueberries and Greek yogurt mid-morning
  • Tomato soup on the side of lunch
  • Carrot, red pepper, and hummus plate mid-afternoon
  • Baked butternut squash and a simple arugula salad for dinner

6. Return to ancient wisdom.

Even as the science of nutrition is quickly advancing around us, it turns out that some of the best foods for health may still be those foods that our grandmothers put on the table. (Think bone broth.)

Rich in gelatin and the amino acids glycine and arginine, bone broth is a cost-effective way to sooth body and soul.

7. Make your sweet treats count.

Everyone likes something sweet now and again. Refill your muscles with sweet fuel it can actually use, like dates, crystalized ginger, chocolate almond milk, or a homemade sports drink.

8. Fast more than you eat.

Keeping eating restricted to nine to twelve hours of the day at three- to four-hour intervals, as opposed to the graze-all-day plan, has a positive effect on metabolism.

9. Follow the 80:20 rule.

It might not be healthy to be healthy ALL of the time. Keep a balance of 80 percent healthy foods and the other 20 percent reserved for fun and pleasure.

Fun and pleasure can mix with healthy in a nice bowl of popcorn with nutritional yeast or even a kale salad with a supremely nice cheese.

10. Keep the real, real.

It’s easy to be drawn in by packaging, but real foods don’t come in a box or a bag. Keep the state of your plate real by focusing on foods that look closest to their natural state. Foods like salmon, brown rice, and roasted Brussels sprouts are the real deal.

11. Understand the connection between food and how you feel.

This goes beyond “you are what you eat.” It’s important to appreciate the way nutrients in food communicate with your body and influence your health and mood. This is powerful information we can use to shape our health and energy.

12. Make mealtime a break time.

Meals are a natural break in the day. Use this to take the time to appreciate and be grateful for all of the ways in which life nourishes you, including the food you eat. Being mindful at meals doesn’t take much time, just a little practice.


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The Health Benefits of Bananas

Are Bananas Good for You?

TrimDownClub, Apr 30, 2015

You probably think that bananas are good for you. But the banana is one of nature’s candy bars: wrapped, ready to eat, and full of sugar. That makes bananas bad for you. Or does it?

After all, we now know that because high blood sugar levels are very dangerous for your body, your body aggressively stores sugar as fat.

This means that eating sugar—or foods that the body can rapidly convert to sugar, such as refined carbs—can cause massive hormonal and energy swings when your body stores that sugar as fat…leaving you hungrier than ever.

However

What Makes Bananas so Good for You?

For most of us, the answer to the question, “are bananas good for you?” is a resounding “Yes”!

Even with all their sugar.According to the USDA, bananas have less water than other fruit: they are 75% water, compared to oranges, which are 86% water. The result? They tend to have about 89 calories per 100 grams, while oranges have about 49 calories per 100 grams[i].

A medium-sized banana is from 7-8 inches/18-20 cm long, and at about 4 ounces/118 grams, is considered a single serving. A medium banana contains 105 calories, 14.4 grams of sugar, 3.1 grams of fiber, and 1.3 grams of protein.

This means you get a lot of sweet, natural goodness in a small, easily digestible package, making bananas a great way to cure a sugar craving. Just like a candy bar, a banana will satisfy your sweet tooth—but unlike a candy bar, a banana won’t take you for a ride on the sugar roller coaster that leaves you empty, drained, and craving more sugar. That’s because bananas have a lot more going on than just sugar.

So let’s open up that bright yellow wrapper and learn why bananas are so good for us.

What Makes Bananas Healthy?

Bananas are so healthy that even the sugar in bananas is good for you.

One reason is that bananas are good for you is because they’re rich in fiber, 3.1 grams for a medium banana. The US Recommended Daily Allowance of fiber is 38 grams a day for men and 25 grams a day for women. Bananas are also an excellent source of potassium and magnesium: that medium banana contains 422 mg of potassium and 32 mg magnesium.

Most Americans don’t get enough of either fiber or potassium, yet both are important to your health. In fact, magnesium is critical for transporting potassium across cell membranes, so it can play an important role in maintaining a normal heart rate.

What is Fiber and Why Do I Need More of It?

If you’ve ever wondered why a sweet treat like a banana doesn’t go straight to your belly, fiber is why. In fact, fiber is one of the reasons why the sugar in the banana doesn’t immediately rush to derail your metabolism.

There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble.

Soluble fiber forms a gel-like material when it is dissolved in water. It slows down your digestion and helps reduce your blood cholesterol and lower your glucose levels. Soluble fiber is found in apples, barley, beans, carrots, citrus fruits, oats, peas, and psyllium.

Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve. It helps move material through your gastrointestinal tract and bulks up stools, so it’s very helpful to people suffering from constipation or who are irregular. Beans, nuts, wheat bran, whole-wheat flour, and vegetables like cauliflower and other Brassicas, green beans and sweet and white potatoes are all excellent sources of insoluble fiber.

Most whole foods, like bananas, contain both types of fiber. The soluble fiber in the banana—along with the magnesium and beneficial phytonutrients—slows how quickly your body metabolizes the sugar in it. This means that the sugar is less likely to spike or trigger an insulin overreaction that too quickly shuttles sugar from your blood to your fat cells to protect you from high blood sugar—leaving you hungrier than ever and craving more sugar. Instead, your body slowly shuttles that sugar to your muscles for immediate use or to your liver for short-term storage…where your body can easily make use of it.

This makes bananas healthy candy. So if you’re trying to break a sugar addiction, don’t try to defeat your cravings with willpower. The sugar of a banana will take the edge off those cravings so you don’t find yourself eating.

Bananas

Why Do I Need More Potassium?

According to the World Health Organization[ii], we need to eat less than 2,000 mg of sodium (that’s 5 grams of table salt) and at least 3,510 mg of potassium per day. When we eat too much sodium and not enough potassium, we’re at increased risk of higher blood pressure, and thus also heart disease and stroke. Worldwide, these are the leading causes of death and disability. In fact, according to the US Centers for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading killer of Americans, and stroke.

Most of us eat far too much sodium and far too little potassium. So grab a banana to be healthy.

How Else Are Bananas Good for You?

  • Their high levels of potassium and low levels of sodium have garnered bananas official recognition from the FDA as protecting you from heart attack and stroke by lowering your blood pressure[iii], confirmed in a clinical study with bananas.
  • Bananas are rich in healthy B-vitamins that help your body maintain a healthy metabolism and reduce health risks associated with type 2 diabetes, are important for your nervous system, and help your body produce white blood cells.
  • The potassium in bananas help your body maintain healthy fluid balance, which protects against swelling.
  • Bananas also help keep you healthy by potentially reducing your risk of kidney cancer, and macular degeneration (due to the high content of the carotenoid “lutein”).
  • If you suffer from PMS or want to improve your mood whether you have PMS or not, eat a banana.
  • The sugar and potassium in bananas is also good for you when you are learning or concentrating[iv]. So eat a banana if you want to be focused!
  • Want to power through a vigorous workout? Consider eating bananas first as their mixture of slow-moving sugar plus electrolytes can help keep your energy level steady.
  • The potassium and magnesium in bananas may help protect you from muscle cramps at night and during workouts.
  • Bananas are rich in pectin, a soluble dietary fiber and natural detoxifying agent, great for digestion.
  • Banana fiber contains prebiotics that encourages the growth of healthy bacteria in the bowel. These bacteria produce digestive enzymes that help your body absorb nutrients, and actual support healthy weight management.
  • All that fiber in bananas is good for helping ease constipation…
  • Bananas are also a healthy way to sooth your GI tract if you have the runs.
  • Bananas may naturally soothe acid reflux, heartburn and GERD.
  • If you have stomach ulcers, raw bananas may “coat” your stomach and relieve the distress caused by stomach acids.
  • Bananas are rich in antioxidants, especially when overripe which protect you against free radicals and chronic disease.

And from the files of folk medicine[v]

  • If you have an insect bite or hives, rub them with the inside of the banana peel. This may help reduce the itching and inflammation.
  • If you have a wart, you can try to remove it by taping the inside of a piece of banana peel over the wart.
  • If you have morning sickness and suffer from hypoglycemia, eating bananas may help.
  • If you’re quitting smoking, the high levels of B-vitamins, potassium and magnesium in bananas are good for you, helping you recover quickly from nicotine withdrawal.
  • Last but not least, if you’re suffering from a hangover, make a banana milkshake and sweeten it with honey. The fruit will calm your stomach, the honey will help normalize your blood sugar, and the milk will rehydrate you.

Are Bananas Bad for You?

With all this going for them, it sounds like bananas can’t possibly be bad for you. But to make all that sweet goodness of a banana go even further, eat it with some healthy fat and protein, like 2 tablespoons of your favorite nut butter or some cheese, and an egg, or a handful of your favorite nuts. This further slows your body’s absorption of the banana’s sugar, so you can use more of it, longer. And you get a wonderful combination of sugar, salt and fat that most of us naturally love.

The only way bananas can be bad for you—outside of an allergy, of course— is if you have kidney disease. If your kidneys have been damaged (a common side-effect of diabetes) and can’t properly regulate your potassium levels, high levels of potassium can cause serious heart problems. If you have kidney disease and potassium is a concern, please consult with your renal dietitian to create a food plan that has safe levels of potassium. However, with proper planning, you may still be able to enjoy this natural candy bar.

References
[i]   United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 27. Retrieved 30-Mar-2015 from http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2208?fg=&man=&lfacet=&count=&max=35&sort=&qlookup=banana+raw&offset=&format=Full&new=&measureby=.
[ii]   World Health Organization (WHO). WHO issues new guidance on dietary salt and potassium. WHO Media Centre. 31-Jan-2013. Retrieved 30-Mar-2015 from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/notes/2013/salt_potassium_20130131/en/
[iii] American Heart Association (AHA). Potassium and High Blood Pressure. Retrieved 30 Mar 2015 from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/PreventionTreatmentofHighBloodPressure/Potassium-and-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_303243_Article.jsp.
[iv] Sobir I. Bananas improve concentration in children. Tropical Fruit Research, Bogor Institute of Agriculture. 2010.
Retrieved 30 Mar 2015 from http://health.kompas.com/read/2010/03/12/09365852/Pisang..Tingkatkan.Konsentrasi.Anak.
[v] Amazing Bananas. Retrieved 30-Mar-2015 from http://rense.com/general85/bananas.htm.


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8 Reasons to Add Shiitake Mushrooms To Your Diet

Sure shiitake mushrooms are savory and delicious, but now there are scientifically proven reasons to eat them every day. If you are one of the lucky people who ate shiitake mushrooms at breakfast this morning, you are well aware of the tasty reasons to eat them.

Shiitake mushrooms are one delicious variety of fungi that not only taste good, but that help heal your body. Let’s look further at the edible bounty of shiitake mushrooms and why science has proven that eating them every day is deliciously good for you.

8 SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN REASONS TO EAT SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS EVERY DAY
A half cup of shiitake mushrooms only has 41 calories and packs the following nutritional daily values:

  • Copper 72%
  • Pantothenic acid 52%
  • Selenium 33%
  • Vitamin B2 9%
  • Zinc 9%
  • Manganese 8%
  • Vitamin B6 7%
  • Vitamin B3 7%
  • Choline 6%
  • Fiber 6%
  • Vitamin D 5%
  • Folate 4%

1. SCIENCE HAS PROVEN THAT SHITAKE MUSHROOMS CAN KILL BACTERIA THAT CAUSE DISEASE.
Chitosan is a type of natural sugar that is found in a few foods, including the shells of crabs and the stems of shiitake mushrooms. The chitosan found in shiitake mushrooms has antimicrobial properties that kill bacteria.

Researchers in one study found that chitosan from shiitake stems showed excellent antimicrobial activities against eight different species of disease-causing bacteria. Scientists also discovered that shiitake chitosan was more effective at killing bacteria than the chitosan taken from crab shells.

2. SCIENCE HAS PROVEN THAT SHITAKE MUSHROOMS CAN KILL TUMORS
Keeping yourself cancer-free is certainly a great reason to eat shiitakes and the scientific research backs up this claim. The same study mentioned above also found that the chitosan in shiitake mushroom stems helped prevent tumors from spreading.

Chitosan can also be found in crab shells, but the researchers found that shiitake chitosan was better at stopping the spread of tumors than the chitosan taken from crab shells. Although we can’t say that shiitake mushrooms prevent cancer form occurring in the first place, reducing the spread of tumors is a great reason to add them to your meal plan every day.

shiitake mushrooms

3. SCIENCE HAS PROVEN THAT SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS CAN REDUCE INFLAMMATION AND IMPROVE IMMUNITY.
Yet another scientific study showed that eating whole dried shiitake mushrooms in a daily diet helped reduce the inflammation for 52 male and female study participants over 4 weeks. Scientists were able to show an improved immune function for the people who ate the mushrooms every day. An improved immune response is yet another incredible health benefit of eating shiitake mushrooms.

4. SCIENCE HAS PROVEN THAT SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS CAN HELP FIGHT OBESITY.
In a study of mice that were fed a diet of shiitake mushrooms, scientists showed that the mice that ate the mushrooms had much healthier body weights than those that did not. The shiitake-fed mice had reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels and also had fewer fatty liver deposits.

The researchers say that supplementing diet with shiitake mushrooms could be a way to help control obesity in humans as well. Whether you suffer from a weight problem or not, adding shiitake mushrooms to your diet is a way to add a healthy, high-nutrient, low calorie food that you will enjoy.

5. SCIENCE HAS PROVEN THAT SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS CAN PREVENT INSOMNIA.
Some scientists believe that Vitamin D deficiency is responsible for many of the chronic insomnia sufferers in the world. 100 grams of fresh shiitake mushrooms provide 100 IU of Vitamin D daily, which helps your body repair itself at night while you get restful sleep.

6. SCIENCE HAS PROVEN THAT SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS CAN PREVENT AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES.
Adding shiitake mushrooms to your diet can decrease the risk of autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia and arthritis. Shiitake naturally contain beta glucans, which are a type of natural sugar.

Beta glucans have many health benefits including protection from colds and flu.

Gaining resilience against autoimmune diseases and preventing the immune system from attacking the body is a scientifically proven reason to eat shiitake mushrooms every day.

7. SCIENCE HAS PROVEN THAT SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS CAN IMPROVE OVERALL NUTRITION IN YOUR DIET.
Science has shown that those who have mushrooms in their diet are more likely to have a higher quality diet with respect to total nutrient content than people who do not have mushrooms in their diet. Nine years of data were analyzed and measurements of healthy eating were checked for groups of people who either had mushrooms in their diets or did not. The mushroom-eating group surpassed the others for total vegetables, dark greens and grains.

8. SCIENCE HAS PROVEN THAT SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS CAN PREVENT AND CORRECT HYPERTENSION.
Researchers evaluating alternatives to high-blood pressure medication say that ‘Synthetic anti-hypertensive drugs have been blamed for side effects of various sorts. Thus, the search for natural, safe, and food-based anti-hypertensive agents has gained momentum. Mushrooms, abundant in bio-active components, had been recognized for its use as therapeutics in alternative and complementary medicine as well as functional food.’

Mushrooms contain terpenoids, peptides, lentinan, pipecolic acid and potassium, which researchers have shown can actually prevent a high-cholesterol diet from causing high blood pressure. The compounds in shiitake mushrooms also have the potential to reverse hypertension for patients who prefer a non-drug therapy.

source: www.powerofpositivity.com     Feb. 20 /2016


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How to Cook Your Foods to Get the Most Nutrients Out of Them

By Franziska Spritzler / Authority Nutrition      February 17, 2016

Eating nutritious foods can improve your health and energy levels.

Surprisingly, the way you cook your food has a major effect on the amount of nutrients in it.

This article will explore how the different cooking methods affect the nutrient content of foods.

Nutrient Content is Often Altered During Cooking

Cooking food improves digestion and increases absorption of many nutrients.

For example, protein in cooked eggs is 180% more digestible than in raw eggs.

However, several key nutrients are reduced with some cooking methods.

Nutrients That May Decrease

The following nutrients are often reduced during cooking:

  • Water-soluble vitamins: vitamin C and the B vitamins — thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), folic acid (B7) and cobalamin (B8).
  • Fat-soluble vitamins: vitamins A, D, E and K.
  • Minerals: primarily potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium

Bottom Line: Although cooking improves digestion and the absorption of many nutrients, the levels of some vitamins and minerals may decrease.

Boiling, Simmering and Poaching

Boiling, simmering and poaching are similar methods of water-based cooking.

These techniques differ by water temperature:

  • Poaching: less than 180°F/82°C.
  • Simmering: 185-200°F/85-93°C.
  • Boiling: 212°F/100°C.

Vegetables are generally a great source of vitamin C, but a large amount of it is lost when cooked in water.

In fact, boiling reduces vitamin C more than any other cooking method. Broccoli, spinach and lettuce may lose up to 50% or more of their vitamin C when boiled.

Because vitamin C is water-soluble and sensitive to heat, it can leach out of vegetables when they’re immersed in hot water.

B vitamins are similarly heat sensitive. Up to 60% of thiamin, niacin and other B vitamins may be lost when meat is simmered and its juices run off.

However, when the liquid containing these juices is consumed, 100% of the minerals and 70-90% of B vitamins are retained.

On the other hand, boiling fish was shown to preserve omega-3 fatty acid content significantly more than frying or microwaving.

Bottom Line: While water-based cooking methods cause the greatest losses of water-soluble vitamins, they have very little effect on omega-3 fats.

Grilling and Broiling

Grilling and broiling are similar methods of cooking with dry heat.

When grilling, the heat source comes from below, but when broiling, it comes from above.

Grilling is one of the most popular cooking methods because of the great flavor it gives food.

However, up to 40% of B vitamins and minerals may be lost during grilling or broiling when the nutrient-rich juice drips from the meat.

There are also concerns about polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are potentially cancer-causing substances that form when meat is grilled and fat drips onto a hot surface.

Luckily, researchers have found that PAHs can be decreased by 41-89% if drippings are removed and smoke is minimized.

Bottom Line: Grilling and broiling provide great flavor but also reduce B vitamins. Grilling generates potentially cancer-causing substances.

Microwaving

Microwaving is an easy, convenient and safe method of cooking.

Short cooking times and reduced exposure to heat preserve the nutrients in microwaved food (9, 10).

Studies have found that microwaving is the best method for retaining the antioxidant activity in garlic and mushrooms.

About 20-30% of vitamin C in green vegetables is lost during microwaving, which is less than most cooking methods.

Bottom Line: Microwaving is a safe cooking method that preserves most nutrients due to short cooking times.

Roasting and Baking

Roasting and baking refer to cooking food in an oven with dry heat.

Although these terms are somewhat interchangeable, the term “roasting” is typically used for meat while “baking” is used for bread, muffins, cake and similar foods.

Most vitamin losses are minimal with this cooking method, including vitamin C.

However, due to long cooking times at high temperatures, B vitamins in roasted meat may decline by as much as 40%.

Bottom Line: Roasting or baking does not have a significant effect on most vitamins and minerals, with the exception of B vitamins.

stirfry

Sautéing and Stir-Frying

With sautéing and stir-frying, food is cooked in a saucepan over medium to high heat in a small amount of oil or butter.

These techniques are very similar, but with stir-frying the food is stirred often, the temperature is higher and the cooking time is shorter.

In general, this is a healthy way to prepare food.

Cooking for a short time without water prevents loss of B vitamins, and the addition of fat improves the absorption of plant compounds and antioxidants.

One study found that absorption of beta-carotene was 6.5 times greater in stir-friedcarrots than in raw.

In another study, blood lycopene levels increased 80% more when people consumedtomatoes sautéed in olive oil rather than without.

On the other hand, stir-frying has been shown to significantly reduce the amount of vitamin C in broccoli and red cabbage.

Bottom Line: Sautéing and stir-frying improve the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and some plant compounds, but they decrease the amount of vitamin C in vegetables.

Frying

Frying involves cooking food in a large amount of fat, usually oil, at a high temperature. The food is often coated with batter or bread crumbs.

It’s a popular way of preparing food because the skin or coating maintains a seal, which ensures that the inside remains moist and cooks evenly.

The fat used for frying also makes the food taste very good.

However, not all foods are appropriate for frying.

Fatty fish are the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which have many health benefits. These fats are very delicate and prone to damage at high temperatures.

Frying tuna has been shown to degrade its omega-3 content by up to 70-85%, while baking caused only minimal losses.

In contrast, frying preserves vitamin C and B vitamins, and it may also increase the amount of fiber in potatoes by converting their starch into resistant starch.

When oil is heated to a high temperature for a long period of time, toxic substances called aldehydes are formed. Aldehydes have been linked to an increased risk of cancer and other diseases.

The type of oil, temperature and length of cooking time affect the amounts of aldehydes produced. Reheating oil also increases aldehyde formation.

If you’re going to fry food, don’t overcook it, and use one of the healthiest oils for frying.

Bottom Line: Frying makes food taste delicious, and it can provide some benefits when healthy oils are used. It’s best to avoid frying fatty fish and minimize frying time for other foods.

Steaming

Steaming is one of the best cooking methods for preserving nutrients, including water-soluble vitamins that are sensitive to heat and water.

Researchers have found that steaming broccoli,spinach and lettuce reduces their vitamin C content by only 9-15%.

The downside is that steamed vegetables may taste bland. However, this is easy to remedy by adding some seasoning and oil or butter after cooking.

Try this easy recipe for steamed broccoli with suggested additions to improve the flavor.

Bottom Line: Steaming is one of the best cooking methods for preserving nutrients, including water-soluble vitamins.

Tips to Maximize Nutrient Retention During Cooking

Here are 10 tips to reduce nutrient loss while cooking:

  1. Use as little water as possible for poaching or boiling.
  2. Consume the liquid left in the pan after cooking vegetables.
  3. Add back juices from meat that drip into the pan.
  4. Don’t peel vegetables until after cooking them. Better yet, don’t peel at all to maximize fiber and nutrient density.
  5. Cook vegetables in smaller amounts of water to reduce loss of vitamin C and B vitamins.
  6. Try to finish cooked vegetables within a day or two, as vitamin C content may continue to decline when the cooked food is exposed to air.
  7. Cut food after rather than before cooking, if possible. When food is cooked whole, less of it is exposed to heat and water.
  8. Cook vegetables for only a few minutes whenever possible.
  9. When cooking meat, poultry and fish, use the shortest cooking time needed for safe consumption.
  10. Don’t use baking soda when cooking vegetables. Although it helps maintain color, vitamin C will be lost in the alkaline environment produced by baking soda.

Bottom Line: There are many ways to preserve the nutrient content in foods without sacrificing taste or other qualities.

Take Home Message

It’s important to select the right cooking method to maximize the nutritional quality of your meal.

However, there is no perfect method of cooking that retains all nutrients.

In general, cooking for shorter periods at lower temperatures with minimal water will produce the best results.

Don’t let the nutrients in your food go down the drain.

Franziska Spritzler has a BSc in nutrition and dietetics. She is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with expertise in carbohydrate-restricted diets for diabetes and weight management.


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Do Vegetables Lose Their Nutritional Value When Heated?

Frying these foods will give you a major boost in important disease-fighting vitamins

While frying can reduce the nutritional value of most foods, there’s an exception to the rule:

It’s a group of foods that contain significant amounts of the organic pigments called carotenoids, which studies indicate can help reduce the risk of several chronic diseases in humans, like heart disease, eye disease, and certain cancers.

When you expose carotenoids to high temperatures, energy from the heat breaks them down. This makes it easier for the body to absorb into your bloodstream, where it goes to work against disease.

And if you fry those foods in oil, as opposed to steaming or baking them, you absorb even more because carotenoids are fat soluble.

Where to find carotenoids

Carotenoids are prevalent throughout nature, but the three that are most common in our foods are:

  • Pro-vitamin A carotenoids like alpha carotene and beta carotene, which gives carrots and sweet potatoes that iconic orange color and has been shown to reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration — a leading cause of vision loss in people over 50.
  • Lycopene, which provides most red-hued fruits, like tomatoes, pink grapefruit, and red peppers, their color. About 80% of the lycopene we ingest comes from tomato-based products, and over the last decade, studies have found that the lycopene in tomatoes could be linked to a reduced rate of prostate, lung, and stomach cancers.
  • Lutein, which is found in dark leafy greens like kale and Brussels sprouts and has also been shown to reduce the risk of eye diseases, like age-related macular degeneration.

A major nutritional boost

So just how much more of these disease-fighting carotenoids do you get by pan frying them in oil (not to be mistaken for deep frying, which is an entirely different method of cooking)?

We asked Guy Crosby, who has spent 30 years in the commercial food industry business and is now the editor for America’s Test Kitchen and teaches a food science course at the Harvard School of Public Health. You can learn more about him on his site “The Cooking Science Guy.”

As Crosby explains:

“In the fresh tomato most of these [carotenoid] pigments are all tied up with proteins,” Crosby told Business Insider. “If you cook the tomato you break down the bonds between the proteins and the pigments — the lycopene — and you absorb about four times more lycopene into your blood from cooked tomatoes than from fresh tomatoes.”

But wait, there’s more: Carotenoids fall under a class of vitamins called fat soluble vitamins, as opposed to water soluble vitamins like Vitamin C and some types of Vitamin B. This means that carotenoids will dissolve in fats, for example the fat in frying oil, just like the Vitamin B-6 in broccoli dissolves in water when you boil it.

“Since lycopene is soluble in oil, if you cook your tomato in olive oil, you’ll absorb two times more again above and beyond from what you absorb from cooking tomatoes without the oil,” Crosby said.

Now, if you’re watching your waistline, it’s important to limit the amount of fat you ingest daily. And frying anything is certainly going to up the fat content.

However, you don’t need very much oil to get this boost in nutrition — about three to five grams of fat is enough, which is equivalent to one teaspoon of olive oil.

Serving Vegetables Makes You More Thoughtful, Less Boring

Fact or Fiction: Raw veggies are healthier than cooked ones
Do vegetables lose their nutritional value when heated?

By Sushma Subramanian  March 31, 2009

Cooking is crucial to our diets. It helps us digest food without expending huge amounts of energy. It softens food, such as cellulose fiber and raw meat, that our small teeth, weak jaws and digestive systems aren’t equipped to handle. And while we might hear from raw foodists that cooking kills vitamins and minerals in food (while also denaturing enzymes that aid digestion), it turns out raw vegetables are not always healthier.

A study published in The British Journal of Nutrition last year found that a group of 198 subjects who followed a strict raw food diet had normal levels of vitamin A and relatively high levels of beta-carotene (an antioxidant found in dark green and yellow fruits and vegetables), but low levels of the antioxidant lycopene.

Lycopene is a red pigment found predominantly in tomatoes and other rosy fruits such as watermelon, pink guava, red bell pepper and papaya. Several studies conducted in recent years (at Harvard Medical School, among others) have linked high intake of lycopene with a lower risk of cancer and heart attacks. Rui Hai Liu, an associate professor of food science at Cornell University who has researched lycopene, says that it may be an even more potent antioxidant than vitamin C.

One 2002 study he did (published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry) found that cooking actually boosts the amount of lycopene in tomatoes. He tells ScientificAmerican.com that the level of one type of lycopene, cis-lycopene, in tomatoes rose 35 percent after he cooked them for 30 minutes at 190.4 degrees Fahrenheit (88 degrees Celsius). The reason, he says: the heat breaks down the plant’s thick cell walls and aids the body’s uptake of some nutrients that are bound to those cell walls.

Cooked carrots, spinach, mushrooms, asparagus, cabbage, peppers and many other vegetables also supply more antioxidants, such as carotenoids and ferulic acid, to the body than they do when raw, Liu says. At least, that is, if they’re boiled or steamed. A January 2008 report in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry said that boiling and steaming better preserves antioxidants, particularly carotenoids, in carrots, zucchini and broccoli, than frying, though boiling was deemed the best. The researchers studied the impact of the various cooking techniques on compounds such as carotenoids, ascorbic acid and polyphenols.

Deep fried foods are notorious sources of free radicals, caused by oil being continuously oxidized when it is heated at high temperatures. These radicals, which are highly reactive because they have at least one unpaired electron, can injure cells in the body. The antioxidants in the oil and the vegetables get used up during frying in stabilizing the cycle of oxidation.

Another study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2002 showed that cooking carrots increases their level of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene belongs to a group of antioxidant substances called carotenoids, which give fruits and vegetables their red, yellow, and orange colorings. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which plays an important role in vision, reproduction, bone growth and regulating the immune system.

The downside of cooking veggies, Liu says: it can destroy the vitamin C in them. He found that vitamin C levels declined by 10 percent in tomatoes cooked for two minutes—and 29 percent in tomatoes that were cooked for half an hour at 190.4 degrees F (88 degrees C). The reason is that Vitamin C, which is highly unstable, is easily degraded through oxidation, exposure to heat (it can increase the rate at which vitamin C reacts with oxygen in the air) and through cooking in water (it dissolves in water).

Liu notes, however, that the trade-off may be worth it since vitamin C is prevalent in far more fruits and vegetables than is lycopene. Among them: broccoli, oranges, cauliflower, kale and carrots. Besides, cooked vegetables retain some of their vitamin C content.

That said, research shows that some veggies, including broccoli, are healthier raw rather than cooked. According to a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in November 2007, heat damages the enzyme myrosinase, which breaks down glucosinates (compounds derived from glucose and an amino acid) in broccoli into a compound known as sulforaphane.

Research published in the journal Carcinogenesis in December 2008 found that sulforaphane might block the proliferation of and kill precancerous cells. A 2002 study in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences also found that sulforaphane may help fight the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, which causes ulcers and increases a person’s risk of stomach cancer.

On the other hand, indole, an organic compound, is formed when certain plants, particularly cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, are cooked. According to research in The Journal of Nutrition in 2001, indole helps kill precancerous cells before they turn malignant. And while boiling carrots was found to increase carotenoid levels, another study found that it leads to a total loss of polyphenols, a group of chemicals found in raw carrots. Specific polyphenols have been shown to have antioxidant properties and to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, according to a 2005 report in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Comparing the healthfulness of raw and cooked food is complicated, and there are still many mysteries surrounding how the different molecules in plants interact with the human body. The bottom line, says Liu, is to eat your veggies and fruits no matter how they’re prepared.

“We cook them so they taste better,” Liu says. “If they taste better, we’re more likely to eat them.” And that’s the whole idea.

Jessica Orwig    Feb. 1, 2016


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10 ways to get the most nutrients from your food.

Think raw is always best? Then you seriously need this.

Wondering if your nutrient intake stacks up? Check out these strategies to make sure you’re getting what you need.

Last year, I visited a good friend in Vermont. She and her family live in an old farmhouse on a bunch of land — enough for a massive garden, where she grows most of the plants they eat.

Picture rolling green hills, baskets of bright heirloom tomatoes, and little kids in galoshes. (Plus a layer of potting soil on most household surfaces).

My friend’s family eats from their own farm to table pretty much every night. She knows nutrients.
So it was really funny when she looked up from a steam pot one night and brazenly announced, “I like my green beans overcooked.” Like, limp. Like, wilted. Like you’re not supposed to like them.
The nerviness! The waste! The nutrients evaporating from those beans!

That’s what a lot of my “clean-food” obsessed peers would say, at least.

Is raw (or lightly cooked) really always best for your health?

I checked with three of Precision Nutrition’s nutrition experts: Ryan Andrews, Sarah Maughan, and Brian St. Pierre, all coaches in our men’s and women’s nutrition programs (and all credentialed beyond belief).

Turns out, the story is a lot more interesting than “cooked vs. raw”.
As you prepare, bite, chew, and digest, you create a series of mechanical and chemical changes that affect:

  • a food’s nutritional content (i.e. the nutrients it contains) and
  • each nutrient’s “bioavailability” (i.e. the degree to which it can be absorbed by your body).

This means:

  • Some nutrients are indeed best available when the foods containing them are eaten raw.
  • But other nutrients are best available when the foods containing them are cooked, or broken down by cutting or crushing, and/or eaten alongside other foods.

Here are the 10 best ways to get the most nutrition from your food.

1. Eat locally grown food soon after it’s been picked.

Eating locally grown and “straight from the earth” maximizes the vitamins and minerals (and deliciousness) you get from your produce.

Plucking them from the soil (or vine, or bush, or tree) means separating them from their nutrient source. The longer they’re separated, the more nutritional value they lose.

Some experts estimate that by the time you pick up a “fresh” fruit or vegetable at the grocery store, it may have lost 15-60 percent of many vitamins … unless you can buy and eat it within 72 hours of harvest.

Forget organic vs. traditional — that’s another debate altogether — when it comes to nutrients, local is king. That’s why hitting a local farm, or farmers market, ensures that you’re getting the most nutrient-dense product.

My only problem: I live in New Jersey. And not the “Garden State” part, either. Shop Rite (or “Shop Wrong”, as a neighbor calls it) is much more convenient than our cute but very limited farmer’s market.

Plus, there’s winter. Not a ton of freshly harvested produce to be had in the American northeast from November to June.

Thankfully, there are a lot of other ways to get the most nutrition from the food you eat — without having to sell your home and move out to the country.

2. Soak, chop, crush, blend.

These basics of food prep can make vitamins, minerals, and other compounds more available in a few ways:

  • Cutting up fruits and vegetables generally frees up the nutrients by breaking down rigid plant cell walls.
  • Crushing and chopping onion and garlic releases alliinase, an enzyme in these foods that helps form a nutrient called allicin. Allicin, when eaten, helps form other compounds that may protect us against disease.
  • Soaking grains and beans reduces phytic acid, which might — in part — block your absorption of iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium.

If you’ve already been doing these things, great. Now you know why they work.
3. Store fruits and vegetables the right way.

When thinking about storage, balance two things:

  • Make it easy to eat your plants: Keep fruits and vegetables where you’re most likely to access them.
  • Slow down nutrient loss: Heat, light, and oxygen degrade nutrients.

That’s why you should store…

  • all vegetables — except those of the root variety — in the refrigerator until you need them.
  • all fruits except berries — this includes tomatoes and avocados — at room temperature away from direct light.
  • all cut fruits and vegetables with a squeeze of lemon juice on them and in an airtight container. (Cut produce rapidly oxidizes and vitamin C, an antioxidant, slows decay.)
  • all herbs — with their amazing phytonutrients — chopped up and frozen in an ice cube tray with water. (Maughan says she sees a lot of clients leave them unused — and eventually unusable — when they’re stored in the produce drawer.)

4. Eat most sources of water-soluble and heat-sensitive nutrients raw.
Heat breaks down vitamin B1, vitamin B5, folate, and vitamin C, so you get more of these when you eat certain foods raw.
Thus, foods like:

  • sunflower seeds, peas, beet greens, and Brussels sprouts (sources of vitamin B1),
  • broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and avocado (sources of vitamin B5),
  • spinach, turnip greens, broccoli (sources of folate), and
  • bell peppers, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts (sources of vitamin C)

are generally best eaten raw to maximize absorption of these water-soluble nutrients.
For example, raw spinach contains 3 times more vitamin C than cooked spinach.
You lose water-soluble B-vitamins and vitamin C when you boil them. So, if you’d like to cook these types of foods, cook them at low heat without exposing them to too much water.
This includes:

  • blanching;
  • steaming;
  • sautéeing;
  • roasting; and/or
  • microwaving.

5. Know which foods are best when cooked.
Baby carrots cooked with garlic, honey and thyme. Delicious!
There’s actually a wide range of nutrient loss from cooking — anywhere from 15 to 55 percent. In most cases, you lose the most nutrients by boiling in water.
But some foods actually deliver the most nutrients when cooked.
For example, cooking:

  • significantly increases bioavailability of lycopene, found in tomatoes. Research shows that lycopene increases by 25 percent when tomatoes are boiled for 30 minutes.
  • significantly increases the bioavailability of beta carotene, found in red/orange/yellow plants like tomatoes, carrots, sweet potato, and spinach. Cooking helps here by breaking down the plants’ cell walls.
  • denatures protein in eggs and meat, making them much more digestible.
  • makes iron and other minerals more available for absorption by decreasing oxalates, an acid that makes the minerals inaccessible by binding to them.
  • reduces certain harmful food components, such as cyanide (found in yuca) and possible anti-nutrients (found in grains and beans), making way for all the good stuff those foods have to offer.

Pro tip: If you do end up boiling veggies, keep the liquid for something like soup stock. This way you can eat those nutrients later and they’re not really “lost”.
As always, keep the big picture in mind: Boiled potatoes are still far better than French fries.

6. Pair food strategically to maximize nutrient absorption.

Many world cuisines put particular foods together. (Think of greens with lemon and olive oil in Italian cooking, or the complex spice blends in Caribbean, African, or South Asian cooking.)

Perhaps over 20,000-odd years of trial and error, cooks figured out instinctively that a “balanced” diet with a wide variety of foods is the best kind.

Putting the right foods together doesn’t just taste awesome, it also helps you absorb all nutrients in the foods you do eat.

salad

Here are a few examples.

  • Pair fat with fat.
  • Eat foods that contain the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K with dietary fats, which help dissolve the vitamins and ready them for absorption.

Therefore, foods like:

  • sweet potatoes, carrots, and squash (vitamin A),
  • eggs and mushrooms (vitamin D),
  • spinach, Swiss chard, and asparagus (vitamin E), and
  • kale, spinach, and broccoli (vitamin K)

all go better with 1-2 thumb-sized portions of healthy fats like:

  • mixed nuts;
  • avocado;
  • olive oil;
  • coconut oil; and/or
  • butter.

Cool note: Foods like salmon (which contains vitamin D), egg yolk and liver (vitamin A) and sunflower seeds (vitamin E) take care of themselves, since they’ve got their own healthy fat.
Pair iron with vitamin C.

Iron from non-meat sources is known as nonheme iron. Nonheme iron is not as well absorbed as heme iron, which is found in animal foods (such as red meat or dark poultry).
To absorb the nonheme iron from our plant friends up to 6 times better, pair them with foods rich in vitamin C.

This works in two ways:

  • Vitamin C can help the plant food “let go of” the mineral.
  • Vitamin C can block other dietary compounds that can inhibit absorption.

Therefore foods like:

  • spinach,
  • kale,
  • soybeans, and
  • lentils

all go better with:

  • a squeeze of lemon juice,
  • orange slices,
  • strawberries, or
  • chili peppers.

Think: Spinach salad with orange slices, strawberries, and a lemon juice vinaigrette. Or braised kale with chilis and a squeeze of lemon.

Pair iron and zinc with sulfur.

Finally, foods rich in iron and zinc are usually best eaten with foods rich in sulfur. Sulfur binds to these minerals and helps you absorb them better.

Therefore foods like:

  • liver, beef, and turkey (rich in iron)
  • oysters, beef, and turkey (rich in zinc)

all go better with garlic, onion, and egg yolks. (Visit your local deli to get Bubbie’s delicious chicken liver and egg yolk pâté.)

7. Keep it simple.

Don’t start creating spreadsheets to track all of this. Keep it simple and sane.
It’s still better to eat broccoli any way you can get it than to not eat it because it’s not “perfect”. As Brian “Voice of Reason” St. Pierre likes to say:

“60 percent of something is still better than 0 percent of nothing.”

It’s also important to factor in things like the quantity. For example, it’s a lot easier to eat five cups of cooked spinach (and all the nutrients therein) than five cups of raw spinach.

Sometimes the cooked and raw versions of a food are equally nutritious, just in different ways. For example, raw spinach might have more iron, but it also has more of the chemicals that block your absorption of iron.

Here’s a great rule of thumb in case you carry a little of the “to cook” or “not to cook” angst.

  • Water soluble vitamins (vitamins B and C) lose the most nutrients when cooked.
  • Fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, K) lose the fewest nutrients when cooked.
  • Just eat some darn vegetables already.

8. Don’t discount frozen foods.

Does frozen broccoli have the same nutritional value as the stuff you just picked from the earth and ate raw? Maybe not. But how often do you eat raw, straight from the earth?

Research shows that processing can decrease a food’s vitamin C content by 10-90 percent. But the reality is that frozen or canned fruits and veggies come in handy when you’re busy. And a little vitamin C is better than none.

“I’ve seen too many clients opt for pizza because they think the frozen broccoli is the nutritional equivalent of cardboard,” Andrews says. Don’t be those people.
Remember, too that fiber isn’t affected much by freezing or canning. So eat your veggies … however you can get them.

9. If possible, try an animal source.

Many animal-based sources of vitamins and minerals are more bioavailable than plant-based sources (which may bind up vitamins and minerals chemically, or require a lot of steps to be converted to what our bodies prefer).

For instance, as we’ve noted, the iron you get from meat is more available for absorption than the iron you get from plants:

  • Heme iron, found in animal protein, is encased in hemoglobin molecules, which protect the nutrient from getting degraded by other nutrients and minerals in your GI tract. That means you’re absorbing the iron intact via gut cells that are specifically designed to take up the nutrient.
  • Nonheme iron, from vegetable sources like spinach, starts to change the minute it comes into contact with other stuff in your intestines, meaning you can only absorb a small fraction of it.

The same is true of many other vitamins and minerals, such as calcium or vitamin A.

We think that’s a great reason to enjoy a nice ribeye or sashimi platter from time to time.
If you’re an exclusively plant-based eater, remember you might have to work a little harder to pry some of those vitamins and minerals from your produce buddies.

10. Monitor your tolerance.

Nutrients don’t do you much good if you’ve got an undetected food intolerance that keeps you from absorbing them.

Unfortunately, not everyone tolerates raw foods very well even if they’re technically “better for you” sometimes.

If you have GI symptoms such as gas, bloating, or problems with your stool, consider an elimination diet to figure out what you’re not tolerating, and see a doc (nutrient deficiencies are more common than you might think).

Once you eliminate the foods that affect you the most, you can better optimize your nutrient intake.

What to do next

Remember: We don’t believe in wondering and worrying, or making too much of a fuss about your food choices. Keep things sane and simple.

If you’d like to improve your nutrient intake a bit, here are some simple steps you can take, in order of importance:

1. Just eat.
Choose a wide variety of whole foods. The fresher and more colorful, the better. Do that and you’re 99 percent there.

2. Eat a combo of raw and cooked dishes.
Focus on the foods you enjoy, the way you like them prepared. That way you’ll actually eat them.

3. Want to level up?
If you’re already eating at least 5 fist-sized servings of veggies each day, and want to improve your nutrient intake without supplements, consider:

  • eating more locally grown produce,
  • consuming that produce soon after harvested,
  • eating most vegetables raw or lightly cooked,
  • eating other vegetables cooked,
  • storing your fruits and veggies appropriately, and
  • pairing complementary foods to maximize absorption.

4. Look to traditional or ancestral cuisines for cues.

These diets have often figured out how to make the most of micronutrients. For instance:

  • The famed Mediterranean diet includes both crushed garlic and cooked tomatoes, as well as the antimicrobial powers of the phytonutrients in fresh herbs. They also enjoy nutrient-rich organ meats.
  • South Asian and Caribbean cuisine does the same and throws in some anti-inflammatory turmeric and ginger plus painkilling hot peppers for good measure.
  • Arctic cultures such as Scandinavians and Inuit make sure to eat fish liver to give them enough vitamin D during the long, sunless winters. (The famous Icelandic sheep’s head dish, or svið, offers phosphorus and vitamin A to brave eaters who consume the eyes.)

As you learn more about nutrition, look at world cuisines and notice what foods they traditionally put together in dishes and meals. There may be a reason beyond just taste!

5. Think you have a food intolerance and/or nutrient deficiency?
Get to the bottom of those through dietary analysis or nutrient testing and work with a healthcare professional to get them corrected.

By Lee Helland

References
Ishiwu Charles N., Iwouno, Jude O., Obiegbuna James E., Ezike Tochukwu C. Effect of Thermal Processing on Lycopene, Beta-Carotene and Vitamin C Content of Tomato [Var.UC82B]. Journal of Food and Nutrition Sciences. Vol. 2, No. 3, 2014, pp. 87-92.
Nutrient bioavailability – getting the most out of food. European Food Information Council. 2010.
Fielding JM, Rowley KG, Cooper P, O’ Dea K. Increases in plasma lycopene concentration after consumption of tomatoes cooked with olive oil. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2005;14(2):131-6.


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Which Foods Have the Most Nutritional Bang for the Buck?

Andrea Bertoli    July 31, 2015

Nutrient density is a measure that shows which foods have the highest nutritional value in relation to caloric weight. The measurement can help you decide which foods have the most bang for your buck.

Popularized by Dr. Fuhrman, a renowned doctor, author, and researcher, the aggregate nutrient density index is a method to help us find foods with the highest density of nutrition. The calculation for nutrient density looks like this:

H = N/C (Health = Nutrients / Calories)

ANDI scores are calculated by evaluating a range of factors for each food, such as vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidant capacity and calculated against the amount of calories. This breaks down into individual numerical rating for foods, with the highest score being 1,000, and the lowest being 1. Find your favorite foods on the list below and see how they rate.

nutritional_density

Some of the foods on the list might not surprise you at all: of course leafy greens like kale and collards are at the top of the list with a perfect score. These supergreen wonder-veggies are full of calcium, vitamin C and fiber, along with a host of other nutrients that make them well-worth the calories. But some others on the list might be shocking: bananas, walnuts and apples are often thought of as super healthful, yet rate super low on the list at 30, 30 and 53 points respectively.

Does this mean we should only eat leafy greens and skip the rest of the foods on the list? No. Diversity is important in our diets, and we should be looking at a range of nutrients when we choose foods.

If you want to try building a diet around nutrient density, hightlight the foods that score high on the list, and eat the low-scoring foods in moderation. Include more leafy greens and other high-ranking foods like carrots, mushrooms, berries, peppers and asparagus into your diet.

As you include a wider variety of high-ranking fruits and vegetables, you will naturally eat fewer lower-ranking foods like white bread, animal foods, and processed, refined foods for an overall more wholesome diet. Here’s why Dr. Fuhrman thinks nutrient density is so important for our current health situation:

The Standard American Diet (SAD) is made up mostly of disease-causing foods, with 30% of calories from animal products and over 55 % from processed foods. In addition, 43% of Americans polled reported that they drank at least one sugar-sweetened drink each day, 40% said that they eat ‘pretty much everything’ that they want, and 33% of overweight and obese individuals reported that they were at a healthy weight. Lifestyle-related diseases are the most common causes of death, but according to a 2011 poll by Consumer Reports Health, 90% Americans believe that they eat a healthy diet. [emphasis mine]

Confusion about health and nutrition is commonplace, and with good reason. Many doctors know little about nutrition, and food companies are constantly misleading consumers with health buzzwords of dubious legitimacy. Having a scale with which we can measure the true nutrient value of foods can help us choose better-for-us foods, and increase the overall nutritional value of our meals.

Interestingly, nutrient dense foods also stack up when it comes to monetary value, too. Dr. Greger explains that, “while junk food may be 4 times cheaper than vegetables, there’s 20 times less nutrition. For meat, we’d be spending 3 times more to get 16 times less.” While it might make financial sense in the short term to choose cheaper foods, their lower overall nutritional value means we’d need to eat much more to meet our nutritional needs. Choosing foods that are higher on the list makes better budgetary sense in the long term, since you will be getting more of the good stuff (fiber, antioxidants, minerals) and less of the bad stuff (cholesterol, fats), which can help create a lifetime of health.