There are two classes of foods. There’s nutrient-dense, which is what I am always encouraging you to focus your meal plans around, and there are empty-calorie “foods” (and believe me I use the term “food” cautiously!)
Right about now you’re probably wondering, “So, what’s the difference?” There is a huge difference. Nutrient-dense foods have a high nutrient-to-calorie ratio. That simply means that they are rich in nutrients when compared to their calorie count.
For example, broccoli is nutrient dense: 1 medium stalk has only 45 calories, 5 grams of protein (yes, vegetables have protein!), 8 grams of complex carbohydrates, .5 grams of fat, 55 mg. of sodium and 5 grams of fiber. And, that’s not all. One serving (one cup) also contains 19 nutrients including vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, folic acid, manganese, tryptophan, potassium, vitamins B1, B3, B5, B6, vitamin B2, phosphorus, magnesium, Omega 3, iron, calcium, zinc and vitamin E. Now, that’s impressive!
The opposite of nutrient-dense foods are “empty-calorie” or “energy-dense” foods. These are low in nutrition when compared to their calorie count. Energy-dense, empty-calorie foods are just that. They are high in fat, sugar and calories and low in vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients.
For instance, 3 oz. of Entenmann’s crumb cake has 440 calories, 63 grams of simple carbohydrates, 19 grams of fat, 390 mg. of sodium and 1 gram of fiber. And that’s it as far as vitamins and minerals go.
Nutrient-dense foods give you the most nutrients for the fewest calories so you get the biggest bang for your nutritional buck! Isn’t that the perfect formula – lots of nutrients that don’t cost you much in terms of calories? It’s the easiest way to be healthy AND lose or maintain healthy weight!
Here’s a comparison that may make it even more clear to you. Let’s take 1 medium baked potato (about 5 oz.) and 5 ounces of Original Wise potato chips. The baked potato has 220 calories as well as vitamins C and B6, fiber and potassium. The chips, on the other hand provide a whopping 600 calories, more than half of which come from unhealthy fats.
White flour, sugary processed, packaged foods (candy, chips, donuts, cookies, cakes) are high carb foods. But, they’re not only high in sugar, fat and calories and void of nutrition, they also convert very quickly to sugar in your body. They cause insulin spikes and blood sugar imbalances.
Complex carbohydrate grains like brown or multi-grain rice, whole grain pastas, breads and cereals, grain-like seeds quinoa, millet, and amaranth, beans, vegetables and fruits are also high carb foods. However, they are also rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and protein. While ALL carbs are processed in the body as sugar, complex whole grains convert much more slowly thereby avoiding the spikes and imbalances.
You need healthy sources of carbohydrates. They provide the fuel for your brain and energy for your body. You don’t have to avoid all carbohydrate foods. That isn’t even a healthy thing to do. The trick is to choose the right ones, prepare and combine them properly and in the right amounts.