As I say time and time again, a simple rule that can help you to optimize your level of wellness is that when you eat better and live better, you can feel better. One of the best ways you can make sure you eat better and feel better is to cook nutritious and delicious food.
The more nutrients your food contains, the less empty calories you will consume. Empty calories are those that contain little to no nutrition. Typically pre-packaged and processed foods that contain lots of refined sugars and flours fit the description of empty calories.
Consuming these empty calories can result in all kinds of problems, including weight gain, blood sugar regulation problems, diabetes, inflammation, heart disease, and more.
The opposite of foods with empty calories are those that contain a large concentration of nutrients like vitamins and minerals for the number of calories that food contains. These foods are what we call nutrient-dense.
Nutrient density is the ratio of a food’s energy content to its nutritional components. Foods high on the nutrient density scale means they contain higher levels of nutrients compared to how many calories they contain.
Nutrient dense foods are loaded with minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients which keep you in optimum physical, emotional and mental health.
The more nutrient-dense foods we consume, and the less empty calories we eat, the more we will set ourselves up to feel better. Researchers Joel Fuhrman et al. observed the differences in perceived hunger between groups that ate either a nutrient-dense diet or an inflammatory, nutrient-deplete diet.
The results? A high micronutrient density diet mitigates the unpleasant aspects of hunger.
A review done by Ian Spreadbury looked at the carbohydrate-density of ancestral foods versus processed modern foods, and the effects on inflammation, periodontal disease, and modern non-communicable diseases like overweight and obesity.
The author discussed that the level of processing and refining of modern carbohydrates like grains, flour, and sugar creates foods that are acellular and carbohydrate-dense, but not nutrient-dense.
This is compared to ancestral sources of carbohydrates, like whole, unprocessed root vegetables. These types of carbohydrates are considered low-density but nutrient-rich, as they contain a larger amount of nutrients along with water and fiber, and still have their cellular forms intact.
It was proposed in Spreadbury’s paper that the elevated concentrations of acellular, nutrient-deplete carbohydrates from refined sugars and flours promotes inflammatory responses by the microbiota of the gastrointestinal tract, and promote the growth of more inflammatory bacterial strains.
Spreadbury mentions that not only can these foods contribute to inflammation but that even small amounts of sugar or flour have been able to produce significant levels of leptin resistance in ancestral people who were exposed to processed Western foods.
So we have here a picture just with these two studies of the significant differences in hunger, inflammation, and level of obesity comparing whole, unprocessed foods and processed, nutrient-depleted foods containing empty calories.
Nutrient-rich whole-foods help to manage satiety and feelings of hunger. Some great examples of nutrient-dense foods include fish, organ meats, eggs, unprocessed meat, leafy green vegetables, and vegetables in a variety of colours.
Processed carbohydrates, in particular, seem to stimulate inflammatory processes and can trigger leptin resistance (which in turn, will affect hunger levels). Some examples of processed carbohydrates include flour (from any grain, not just wheat) and sugar.
Processed vegetable seed oils like canola oil, sunflower oil, soya oil, safflower oil, etc, would also fall into the nutrient-deplete category, and have also been found to promote inflammation (I wrote about that here).
The moral of this story? Whole, unprocessed, nutrient-rich foods win. Every single time.
Ian Spreadbury elaborated in another article that “unprocessed foods are better for health” and that “a diet of ONLY unprocessed foods may even produce remission of some chronic non-communicable diseases”. That’s powerful stuff!
I believe it was Ann Wigmore that said that “The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”
Which one do you choose?
Want some Nutrient-Dense Recipes?
Check out the delicious Nutrient-Dense, Protein-Rich recipe collection: