Most of us have reduced the value of the food we eat to a simple number: How many calories it has. True, the number of calories is a valuable bit of information about a food, but there’s so much more to it than that. If you’re just talking calories, you’re missing the very important bigger picture.
What’s a Calorie?
A calorie is a unit of measurement that tells us how much energy a gram of protein, carbohydrate, fat, or alcohol gives us. Clinically it’s a useful measurement but over the past few decades, calories have been assigned too much importance. Food is far more dynamic than just the simple energy it gives us.
The Problem With Counting Calories
You may have heard the phrase “Calories in and calories out.” The idea behind it is that if you take in fewer calories than you burn, you’ll lose weight. There are all sorts of apps, graphs, computer programs and food journals out there to track calories. And many people get frustrated when their tracking method shows a calorie deficit and they’re still not getting weight loss results. Plus, they feel deprived and hungry.
The solution is to stop focusing on a calorie range and start focusing on how each meal supports and sustains your health. It can be life changing! It not only will help slim your waistline, but it will improve overall health, vitality and emotional well-being. You’ll lose weight and feel satisfied with plenty of energy and without cravings. It’s empowering!
Nutrient Density vs. Calories
Here’s How It Works: Calories only measure the amount of energy a food gives you. But our bodies require so much more than just energy for health and vitality. We need a vast array of both macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats) as well as micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, plant pigments, essential fatty acids and antioxidants). Our bodies are programmed to seek out these nutrients to grow, repair, protect and support many functions. When we eat food low in nutrient density, our bodies aren’t satisfied, and they us signals to continue to seek out food and nutrients. If you consume a diet low in nutrient density, your hunger pangs may not completely stop, and you could overeat. So the goal is to have a diet that meets energy requirements as well as nutrient needs.
What Are Nutrient Dense Foods?
Nutrient dense foods are naturally rich sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, plant pigments, polyphenols, fiber, essential fatty acids and essential amino acids. Fortified processed foods don’t count! Instead, nutrient dense superstars include a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, organic grass-fed meats and wild caught fish. Variety is very important to getting a full balanced spectrum of nutrients.
How to Go Nutrient-Dense
The next time you’re evaluating your food, don’t ask yourself, “How many calories are in this?” Ask yourself a much more important and empowering question: “How is this going to nourish and benefit my body?”
I would like to invite you to join me here on Fitness Republic in 2015. Each month, I’ll be highlighting a new healthy eating habit for you to add to your lifestyle. I’m looking forward to helping you answer the question, “How is this food going to nourish and benefit my body?”