Do “Nutrient-rich” Foods Impact Health?

Often, people will repeat “common knowledge” without questioning its accuracy. That’s even true for experts in a field. We’re told a fact and move on without asking for proof. We all know that nutrient-rich foods play a significant role in health. We talk about it all the time. But, when we take a step back, is there proof?

Nutrient-rich foods are defined as being dense in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals and low in saturated fat, sodium and added sugar. Fruits, veggies, nuts and olive oil are nutrient-rich. Foods are considered nutrient-dense when they are rich in beneficial components relative to their calories. New research has looked into whether they are as beneficial as we all believe.

Nutrient-rich foods have been getting press recently as Gwyneth Paltrow revealed she lives off low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods like bone broth. Many people called the diet dangerous and a starvation diet. We generally think a diet is between a person and their doctor. But, when you claim to be a wellness guru, it is important to lead by example, and her diet doesn’t seem sustainable or healthy for most people. She then showed off her fridge as though it might show how normal she was, but it was packed with products from her own company, five types of milk and various tinctures. There were leftovers as well, but having leftovers from earlier meals was as relatable as the fridge ever was to us.

Still, you don’t have to be a wellness guru with a wellness guru’s fridge to live a healthy lifestyle. According to a Special Issue of the journal Foods, nutrient-rich foods can improve health. In the journal’s articles, researchers focused on the physical composition, properties and bioactive compounds found in nutrient-rich foods. The evidence backed up the “common knowledge” that these foods can help people improve their health through diet.

Researchers looked at things like the bioaccessibility of nutrients within food — meaning how well the body absorbs them. Some vitamins and minerals aren’t very bioaccessible, that’s why doctors might suggest some supplements. However, some foods make the compounds more easily absorbed. Other research in the journal examined how probiotics like yogurt deliver more nutrients to the body.

The journal contained seven manuscripts, five articles and two reviews, all with evidence supporting the claims that nutrient-rich food is the best way to aid health through diet.

We always stress the importance of cutting back on highly processed food. While doing so, you should increase your intake of nutrient-rich choices. Oily fish like salmon and sardines contain omega-3 fatty acids and protein. They also contain a ton of vitamins and minerals. Leafy greens, such as kale, are filled with fiber, antioxidants, bioactive compounds, vitamins and minerals. While leafy greens are very low in calories, they can lower your cancer risks and aid health. Garlic and onions can aid heart health as they contain allicin and other helpful bioactive compounds that help fight diseases.

Eggs, cocoa and berries are delightful to everyone and incredibly nutrient-rich. The important thing is to use cocoa in recipes without added sugar. The same is true for berries if you plan to cook with them instead of just enjoying them as they come! On the other end of the spectrum, we have liver. It’s a beneficial food that not everyone likes. But it’s high in B vitamins, iron, protein and so much more. Finally, some foods like potatoes are nutrient-rich but not right for everyone’s diet. If you have blood sugar concerns, the high amount of carbs might make potatoes something to eat sparingly. They are filled with nutrients, but the fiber in the skin probably won’t be enough to counteract their high GI.

This new research gives credence to what nutritionists have been saying for years. A diet rich in healthy foods can aid your health. So, when possible, add more of them to your day!

Banner image: Casey Lee via Unsplash

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