Nutrient dense foods are real whole foods that provide us with the highest quality of nutrition. They have been left in their natural whole (i.e. not processed) and do not have any additives or preservatives. These are foods that contain the highest nutrient levels created by the manner in which they were grown or raised.
Most of us are aware that packaged and processed foods are bad for our health and that we should avoid such foods. However, when it comes to simpler foods (i.e. milk, bread, vegetables, fruits, cooking oil, etc.) we are often left confused on which food choices are healthiest. The most helpful thing to remember is that the highest quality food comes from foods produced in a traditional manner.
Traditional fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and legumes are produce grown in nutrient rich soil, which provides the growing plant with plenty of health giving qualities. They are not sprayed with chemicals such as herbicides and/or pesticides (these have been shown to cause cancer) and are picked at the peak of ripeness. Unfortunately, much of the produce found in supermarkets, including organic produce, are often picked before this point of ripeness. The reason for this is simple: ripe foods go bad quicker than non-ripe foods. To ensure the produce is able to make it from the farm to shipping (food is often shipped throughout America and the world) to the store shelves to your home, the food must be picked early. This reduces the amount of nutrients and leaves us with an inferior food. Selecting produce that is picked at the highest point of ripeness will ensure high nutrient levels and will also taste much better. Fresh, ripe, local and seasonal high quality produce gives us the most nutrients and can be found at your local farmers markets.
Traditional meat and animal products are foods that have been raised in natural ways. Today, the vast majority of our meat and dairy products come from animals raised in very poor environments. Most of these animals are raised in factory farms where they are fed an unnatural diet of corn and soy. Corn and soy are very high in omega 6 fats, which causes all sorts for health issues for these animals. Remember, the animal is what it eats and so are we. Eating meat from animals raised on corn and soy creates an a meat high in omega 6. Eating this meat increases our omega 6 consumption causing inflammation and disease in us as well.
In addition, factory farmed animals are usually keep indoors decreasing their amount of vitamin D. Vitamin D is vital for good health. Factory farmed animals have also been shown to be sicker which is why they usually contain antibiotics. Consuming meat from these animals increases our exposure to antibiotics, which will kill of important probiotic bacteria in our digestive tracts. Increased antibiotic use has been linked to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and many other chronic diseases. These are just a few of the long list of reason why factory meat is of much poorer nutrition and may even be harmful to our health.
Traditionally raised animals, also known as pasture raised and/or grassfed animals, are far superior. These animals are raised in traditional fashion on pasture in the open air. The open air allows the animals to absorb vitamin D from the sun, which is found in high concentrations in their meat, fat and organs. The highest sources of vitamin D for us are found in animal products from pastured and/or grassfed animals.
Pasture raised and/ or grassfed animals eat natural diets that nature intended. Cows eat a natural diet of fresh grass (cows were not meant to eat corn and soy). Chickens eat leftover table scraps, grass, bugs, etc., the way nature intended. Pigs eat leftovers, tree roots and other natural foods. These natural diets produce meat, milk and eggs that are higher in omega 3 fat (what we need more of) and leaner in omega 6 fats (what we already get too much of). They contain much higher level of nutrients and increase our own health and wellbeing.
Lastly, lets take a look at the oils and fats used in our diets. Traditional oil and fats included coconut, olive oil, butter, lard and tallow. These fats have been used for thousands of years and provide us with many healthy benefits. Recently, however, new fats and oils have been introduced. At the beginning of the 19th century hydrogenated and vegetable oils started being processed and sold in markets. Examples of these include Crisco, margarine, corn oil, soybean oil, canola oil, sunflower oil and safflower oil. Although the name vegetable oil sounds nutritious these oils are anything but. Vegetable oils by nature are by nature very unstable. They spoil easily when exposed to air and light and turn rancid (we cannot detect this change in taste). Although these oils are used widely for fried foods, they are actually highly unstable when heated. When heated these oils breakdown and create toxins (called free radicals) that have been linked to inflammation, cancer and heart disease. This is the reason friend foods are so bad for us. Packaged foods producers love to use these fats because they are cheaper than using high quality fats. In addition, vegetable oils are also highly processed stripping them of any nutritional value they may have had. Please avoid these fats whenever possible as they have been shown to be harmful to our health and do not provide us with any nutritional value.
Traditional fats and oils, on the other hand, are very nutritious for us. Fats that are solid at room temperature like butter, lard, tallow and coconut oil are stable at high temperature and don’t breakdown. This makes them perfect for cooking and frying with. These fats and oils are loaded vitamins and minerals. Look for pasture raised and/or grassfed when purchasing fats like butter, lard and tallow. When purchasing coconut or olive oil look for oils that are unrefined, organic, raw (not heated), and unfiltered. These will provide the highest quality in nutrients as some of these oils have been processed depleting them of their nutritional value.
For more on nutrition and advice please contact Dr. Keri Linane
Post by Dr. Keri Linane, Oakland Chiropractor
Revive Chiropractic Studio