Nutrient dense eating is all the rage these days when it comes to healing your autoimmune disease. This means that the food you eat is full of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fiber and other beneficial nutritional chemicals. But how do you do it and what foods should you be focusing on? Here are my tips for eating a nutrient dense diet and the foods that are super nutrient dense.
How to eat a nutrient dense diet
- Tip 1: Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables
Americans fall really short on their fruit and vegetable intake. And that’s a huge problem because these foods contain so many inflammation fighting compounds to really help improve autoimmune disease activity. In addition, fruits and veggies are loaded with fiber. Fiber is really important for your gut and can help you stay full for longer. If fresh produce is not an option, go for frozen or canned. They are still nutrient dense and may be easier to source.
- Tip 2: Eat the Rainbow
Along with eating fruits and veggies, eating colorful foods ensures that you are getting a mix of phytonutrients (i.e. inflammation fighting chemicals). Each color contains a different mix of these chemicals, so by eating the rainbow, you are giving yourself a security blanket that you’ve got all of these in your diet. One way to help you with this is to arrange the produce section of your shopping list by color. That way you make sure you are getting a variety.
- Tip 3: Choose sustainable proteins
Did you know that some of the most nutrient dense foods are animal based? Shellfish and liver, to name a few, are rich in vitamins and minerals. However, it matters where you source these proteins from. Aim for wild caught or pasture raised proteins. Better yet, invest in some animal based proteins raised on regenerative agriculture farms. They can be expensive, but the quality is worth it. I would also reach out to local farms and try to buy directly from them. You often get a discount and you will be supporting your local businesses.
Top Nutrient Dense Foods
Now that you know how to eat a nutrient dense diet, here are my top four picks for nutrient dense foods
If I had to eat one fish for the rest of my life, it would be salmon. Salmon is well known for its high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids. These are essential fats that your body needs but cannot make on its own. Omega 3s are particularly important for their role in reducing inflammation. These fats inhibit an enzyme called cyclooxygenase (COX). COX produces a hormone in your body that triggers inflammation.
Salmon is also rich in B12, which is important for energy metabolism and DNA creation. It’s also a good source of Vitamin D, which is really hard to get through food.
Kale is a well known “superfood” that many people have a love/hate relationship with because it’s a little tough, tastes bitter, and it’s super versatile. However, kale is packed with lots of important vitamins, including Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin K. I especially love kale for the vitamin A content. This vitamin is critical for the immune system and another vitamin that most people tend to be low in.
Kale also is a good source of folate, which is needed for brain development, and the dark green pigments protect your eyes from damage.
One of the reasons why I love dandelion greens is for their bitterness. Eating bitter greens or herbs actually stimulates your digestive enzymes and mucus creating cells in your intestinal lining to help you better digest and absorb food. Eating dandelion greens at the beginning of a meal (like in a salad, or drinking tea) is an excellent idea if you have issues with digestion.
Nuts are my next favorite nutrient dense food. They are packed with a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. In fact, the polyphenols in nuts can fight oxidative stress and reduce damage to your cells and tissues
In addition, nuts are heart healthy and may contribute to lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Nuts are also a great source of unsaturated fats, which is why they are a staple in the Mediterranean diet eating plan. They also may lower inflammation and contain fiber to support gut health.
How to incorporate nutrient dense eating
With any changes you make to your eating plan, it’s important to do them gradually. Pick one thing to work on first, like adding more fruits and vegetables, and commit to doing that a few meals a week. I love setting SMART goals – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. For instance, you could say: “I’m going to make half of my plate vegetables for 3 dinners throughout the upcoming week”. Once you’ve mastered that goal, push it a little more to see how much you can accomplish. Within no time you will be a nutrient dense eating master. If you need more help navigating these changes, please contact me.