Set Higher Standards by Ravi

Ramblings from a 30-something ultra-marathoning yogi with a day job.

Stay Healthy With Nutrient Dense Foods

with 18 comments

Broccoli, a really nutrient food! eat up!Staying healthy is more than just watching your total calories, fat and protein intake. Macro-nutrients are important (carbs, fat and proteins), but Micro-nutrients are equally if not more crucial to a proper metabolism, healthy body and keeping your energy levels high.

Micro-nutrients refer to all the vitamins, minerals, enzymes that exist is in food. When you make food choices with an attention to micro-nutrients and nutrient density (i.e. the amount of micronutrients per calorie), you realize just how poor a diet most people have. The bulk of a standard diet, is calorically dense but not nutrient dense. In this post I’ll discuss micro-nutrients, their impact on health and some easy ways to make sure you are getting enough of them in your diet.

Don’t Rely On RDAs for Optimal Health
The emphasis for a modern diet is on getting the right amounts of macro-nutrients, with an minimal amount of micro-nutrients based on US RDA guidelines as set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The problem is, RDA’s (Required Daily Allowances) were not established to help you achieve optimal health. They were created as a minimum bar for survival.

How many people do you know with rickets or scurvy? Probably not one. Did you know that these diseases were rampant in the pre-WWII America? In part, this is what lead to the development of the RDA guidelines and the Food Pyramid. Flour and common cereals were fortified with basic nutrients. Now “deficiency diseases” like rickets or scurvy are common only in third world countries.

RDA guidelines were set based on the minimum levels recommended to avoid any serious diseases. Getting 100% of the few vitamins and minerals that are actually part of the RDA guidelines in no way ensures that you will have the energy and vitality to live an outstanding life. However, it may ensure that you won’t come down with scurvy or rickets. Is this good enough a goal for your life? I would assume that most of you are not willing to settle for an average life. Don’t settle for average health either.

Micro-nutrients In Food
All foods have some amount of micro-nutrients. THese nutrients are assimilated best when they are digested in a proper ratio of micro and macro nutrients. While nature produces foods with optimal nutrient profiles, by grinding, milling and processing foods, we strip away many nutrients, kill living enzymes and lower the overall nutrient density of the foods.

Unfortunately, taking a multi-vitamin does not solve the problem. Whole foods contain phytochemicals and enzymes that are not (and in some cases cannot be) included in any multi-vitamin. Furthermore, micro-nutrients work in concert with other compounds in the food to achieve a given result in the body. Biological processes are incredibly complex, and despite the advances of modern science, we have yet to understand all the relationships of nutrients amongst one another and the human body. Eating a variety of whole fresh foods and whole food derived supplements will help to assure that you are getting what you need.

The Scourge of Hidden Hunger
Hunger takes on many forms. As Professor Swaminathan, a world-renown ecologist, states:
1. There is endemic hunger from overall food deficits and poverty.
2. There is hidden hunger caused by deficiency of micronutrients in diet.
3. Therre is transient hunger caused by natural or man-made calamities.

What is this “hidden hunger”? It is the body’s cry for nutrition. Why does a society with an increasing prevalence of obesity also have an corresponding decrease in energy and vitality? Why are people addicted to “borrowed” energy sources (particularly from sugar and caffeine) when the American per-capita calorie consumption has increased by 20% from 1982 and 2000.

Shouldn’t the extra energy make us more energetic, alive and healthy? Instead, we are living in a society with higher incidences of diet-related mortality than every before in recorded history.

It doesn’t make sense. Or does it?

If you believe that the body intuitively knows what it needs to survive, than our expanding collective waistlines should come as no surprise. We eat a large plate of pasta for lunch….and just a few hours later, are starving at dinner-time! We are craving food because all the calories we consume not satisfying our bodies cry for micro-nutrients, including the water, enzymes, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals that are present in fresh, organic, whole foods. As a results, we overeat until we either 1) satiate our need for these nutrients of 2) physically fill up our stomach until more food just won’t fit in.

A Simple Solution: Eat Nutrient Dense Foods
Nutrients are assimilated best when they are digested in a proper ratio of micro and macro-nutrients. While nature produces foods with the optimal nutrient profiles, by grinding, milling and processing foods, we strip away many nutrients, kill living enzymes and lower the overall nutrient density of the foods. The result is food that is high in energy, but low in nutritional value.

Animal products (milk, dairy, eggs, meat) are further contributors to the problem. A large part of the standard American diet, comes from animals, but these sources are relatively poor when it comes to nutrient density, although they are very high in caloric-density. This is counter-intuitive to most people, but is the honest truth. On a per-calorie basis, broccoli is many times more nutritious than beef (along a number of micro nutrient dimensions).

In fact, it turns out that fresh green vegetables are the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, on a per-calorie basis. Fruits are in second place. Below is a table by Dr. Furhman that I found quite interesting:

Nutrients present in 100-calorie portions
Broccoli Sirloin Steak Romaine Lettuce Kale
Protein 11.2 gm 5.4 gm 7.5 gm 11 gm
Calcium 322 mg 2.4 mg 374 mg 470 mg
Iron 3.5 mg .7 mg 7.7 mg 5.8 mg
Magnesium 74.5 mg 5 mg 60.5 mg 97 mg
Fiber 4.7 g 0 4 g 3.4 g
Phytochemicals Very High 0 Very High Very High
Antioxidants Very High 0 Very High Very High
Folate 257 mcg 3 mcg 969 mcg 60 mcg
B2 .71 mg .04 mg .45 mg .32 mg
Niacin 2.8 mg 1.1 mg 2.2 mg 2.1 mg
Zinc 1.04 mg 1.2 mg 1.2 mg gm .55 mg
Vitamin C 350 mg 0 100 mg 329 mg
Vitamin A 7750 IU 24 IU 10,450 IU 23,407 IU
Vitamin E 26 IU 0 32 IU 34 IU
Cholesterol 0 5.5 mg 0 0
Weight 307 gm 24 gm 550 gm 266 gm
(10.6 oz) (.84 oz) (19 oz) (9.2 oz)

This table is from Dr. Fuhrman’s diseaseproof.com

The veggies win by a landslide. The catch is, you must eat almost 10 ounces of broccoli for 100 calories, compared with less than an ounce of meat. This is where most people (vegans and vegetarians included) fall short. A small serving of veggies just doesn’t cut it. You must make vegetables a signficiant part of your diet. As a result, you will find you body feeling lighter, more energetic and in many cases, food cravings will begin to dissappear.

Making A Change
You might be saying, what’s next? How can I start making this change? There are a few things you can commit to, that require little will-power or sacrifice. Implement the tips below, and you are bound to feel better. With proven results, you’ll then be able to embark on a more dramatic diet make-over (if you so choose that is!). Some tips:

1. Keep fruits out on your counter. You’ll be more likely to eat them is you have to look at them every day!
2. Eat a salad with every meal. Make it a rule. It doesn’t matter what you are eating, just get a side salad. Skip the dressing if you can and just squeeze a little lemon juice and salt/pepper on top.
3. Focus on adding nutrient dense foods, instead of subtracting unhealthy food from your diet. It is easier to add than subtract. Over time, you will get use to eating the leafy greens, and find it easier to cut back on your serving of mac & cheese.
4. Drink a green drink every day, twice a day. I drink one first thing in the morning, and then in the evening before bedtime.

Please keep in mind, this article is in no way a plea to go vegan or vegetarian, it is simply a statement of fact; that fresh fruit and vegetables are of critical importance to any diet. Particularly leafy green vegetables. Stop worrying about calories and “carbs” and start worrying about the lack of real nutrients in your diet. Make a conscious effort to implement the tips outlined in this post for 30 days and see how your body responds. Feel free to add a comment and let me know how it is going!

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Written by Ravi Raman

November 25, 2006 at 2:09 am

Posted in Uncategorized

18 Responses

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  1. Nice arcticle to read.

    I started one year ago Dr Kousmin breakfeast diet (budwig cream, with ground wheat to germinate (just grounded) and full of life nutrients. The effect was immediate.

    nightf69Phil

    November 13, 2011 at 1:37 pm

  2. This is misleading. They are going by nutrients per 100 calories. Density means weight per volume. If you took equal weights of kale and egg yolk or beef liver, the egg yolk or beef liver or any seed would have far more nutrients than the same weight of kale or any green leafy plant. Obviously these foods have virtually no calories so the weight of the leafy greens far outweighs the weight of the other foods.

    Barry

    October 7, 2011 at 5:24 pm

  3. Anything which is a drink and having a green color, can be called a green drink. Green is just a word describing the color of something.

    Mathoho Mpho

    May 21, 2011 at 8:24 am

  4. Veggies are great, but you have to eat them with good fats (NOT omega-6 dense vegetable oils – try olive) to take advantage of all the fat-soluble nutrients. DO NOT skip the salad dressing!

    Sydney

    August 6, 2010 at 9:49 pm

  5. [...] thing that people really need to understand is the nutrient density of the foods that they eat. Most people tend to think about the total number of calories or fat/protein/carbs in [...]

  6. [...] your body’s needs, requiring less consumption for satiety.  After a few weeks of eating a nutritious diet of fresh, whole foods, portion control becomes more natural as you deprogram the commercial food [...]

  7. Hi Ravi, I’m having a great time reading through some of your blogs. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Eileen

    December 9, 2008 at 6:27 am

  8. hi you mean green tea will make a change in my body

    chifhy

    October 9, 2008 at 12:40 pm

  9. hello Rav!
    I agree on these concepts. The basic truth to live longer, have a lighter, more clean and beautiful body….and mind of course. You are very inspiring!
    I was researching articles about photoreading and I happened to click on a link to your blog. I started reading many sections you have written (by the way, I have never read someone’s blog because of how boring and not useful they are), and I am curious about the rest…

    I am sure I will leave another comment on your blog, let me read the rest!! ;)

    Chiara

    Chiaretta

    August 23, 2008 at 10:35 pm

  10. Hey Darrick, thanks for the kudos! I think science shows that fruits and veggies are the key to health and the true solution for addressing problems of “hidden hunger” that afflict hundreds of millions of people. Amazing to see green veggies having more protein on a per-calorie basis than red meat! Pass the kale please :)

    Ravi Raman

    August 23, 2008 at 6:46 pm

  11. Hi Rav,
    this was excellent to read.
    The chart was a great tool for me.
    thank you!
    DC
    congrats on completing yoga training too!! excellent perserverence

    darrick

    August 22, 2008 at 7:52 am

  12. Hi Ravi. Green drinks are definitely the way to go, IMO. However, a lot of folks trying to drink nutrient-dense foods such as green drinks have a hard time drinking them because of their taste. It’s been a challenge for me to get my family and kids drinking these kind of drinks.

    I thought you may like to know about one I found called “The Feast” which you may want to try out. It actually tastes good to meat eaters too, and is a pleasant introduction towards a healthier way of life.

    Wayne

    May 5, 2008 at 5:28 am

  13. feels good to be vegan
    =)
    nice work

    Toshi

    January 17, 2007 at 4:14 pm

  14. That’s a great incentive for vegans!Why waste your time eating calorie-dense foods and take life with it, when your good old veggies suffice?

    Neelima

    November 29, 2006 at 1:24 pm

  15. Hey bud

    Cheers for the hat-tip!

    Ross

    Ross

    November 27, 2006 at 11:41 pm

  16. Hi Paul…I meant to add a hyperlink there to explain, no wonder it wasn’t clear :).

    A “green drink” is simply a drink powder made from whole vegetable and herb sources. They are often rich in wheatgrass and spirulina and are very alkalizing to the body. They are great for stabalizing and enhancing your energy levels and helping you to cleanse…especially after eating a poor diet for a few meals (or weeks/months of meals!).

    Check out this site for more info: http://www.energiseforlife.com/green_drinks.php

    it is run by my friend Ross (from the UK), and they have great info on green drinks and many other healthfood products.

    ravisraman

    November 26, 2006 at 3:28 am

  17. What’s a “green drink”? Does that refer to Green Tea? Or something like an odwalla-style vegetable based drink?

    Paul

    November 26, 2006 at 2:16 am


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