Foundations – Nutrient Dense Diet

Nutritional Therapy 

Some of you may be wondering just what Nutritional Therapy is. 

Nutritional Therapy centers on the idea that real health can be achieved through a holistic and bio-individual approach to nutritional and lifestyle. Diet, digestion, blood sugar regulation, essential fatty acids, minerals, and hydration are the six foundations of nutritional therapy.  

*Bio-individuality is the idea that each unique being is going to have different nutritional requirements based on age, gender, activity level, stress level and lifestyle factors and habits including culture and tradition. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, the goal is to find what works for you!

Examples of Bio-Individuality

  • Those with immune or autoimmune challenges may need to tailor their diet beyond the typical “nutrient-dense, whole food” paradigm to best support their system. 
  • Someone with blood sugar imbalance may need to limit their carbohydrate intake in a way that is not necessary for an individual with balanced blood sugar.
  • Athletes and individuals with physically strenuous jobs will need to fuel and support their bodies differently than people who are less physically active. 

I will constantly refer to this concept, so if it’s a new one to you, stay with me, it will make sense as you continue to read my blog.

The First Foundation   

Diet. Not a diet, in that you are restricting food, but rather, what is in your overall diet. The word diet has many negative connotations, but I hope we can change that for our future. In Nutrition, the diet is everything you consume, and a healthy diet may improve or maintain optimal health.  

If your diet consists of eating whole foods, then you are already ahead of the game, however, if your diet mainly consists of junk food and overly processed foods, then your journey may look a little different. 

Nutrient dense foods are real and unprocessed food that is high in nutrients and relatively low in calories. Nutrient dense foods contain vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats. A well-rounded, largely unprocessed diet is superior to taking supplements and eating a processed diet because real foods have complex chemical structures that are very difficult to replicate. For example, antioxidants and phytochemicals found in many plant foods support the immune system, the body’s detoxification processes, and cellular repair.

When we realize that unrefined carbohydrates can taste great, that good fats are essential to our mood, energy, and hormone balance, and that appropriate amounts of protein from clean sources build muscle and supports the nervous system, healthy eating becomes part of our self-care. We need to eat well to support a healthy metabolism. It is not just about calories in and calories out; it is about the type of calories we consume and having the right balance in both our macronutrients and micronutrients.  

The biggest thing to remember in all of this is that we are all individuals, and what works for me, may not work for you.  

What’s all this business on macro and micronutrients?  Let me break it down and take the time to read this because it’s very important.

Macronutrients act as building blocks of the body and as fuel for energy production. There are three classes of macronutrients, carbohydrates, fat, and protein.

  • Carbohydrates – Carbohydrates are made of carbon and water hence the carbo and hydrate. Carbohydrates are found mostly in vegetables, fruit, tubers, legumes, grains, and sweeteners. There are two classes, simple and complex. The simple carbohydrates are sugars, while the complex carbohydrates are mostly made up of starch and fiber, (fruits and veggies).
  • Fat – Fats are crucial to the body and help us absorb vitamins such as A, D, E and K. Fats help with flavor and enjoyment of food, and also helps regulate the speed by which we digest the food. There are three types of fat, Saturated, Monosaturated, and Polysaturated. (I will cover fats soon, and what I tell you may blow your mind!)
  • Protein – Protein is an essential building block of enzymes, antibodies, hemoglobin, and peptide hormones.

Micronutrients are co-factors for proper physiological function and structural building blocks. Co-factor, (helper) is a substance whose presence is essential for the activity of an enzyme. Enzymes speed up or accelerate almost all chemical reactions in the body and are necessary for life as we know it. There are two classes of micronutrients, vitamins, and minerals.

  • Vitamins – Most vitamins cannot be manufactured by our body so we must get them by eating the plants and animals that make them. Vitamins produce best results when paired with trace minerals, enzymes and other vitamins found in real food.
  • Minerals – Minerals absolutely cannot be produced by the body, so we must consume via food and beverages. Minerals act like a spark plug, acting as co-factors (helpers) for enzyme reactions, regulating proper pH of the blood, facilitating the transfer of nutrients across cellular membranes, maintain proper nerve conduction, contracting muscles and providing structural support.

If you have ever felt defeated about your diet, whether it be wondering why certain foods trigger a bad outcome, or why everyone around you is having great success on keto, paleo, [insert whatever plan they are following], and you aren’t?  Well hang in there, you will a better understanding of all that very soon.

Until then, follow these simple rules for eating nutrient dense, whole foods.

  • Variety – eat foods from all food groups, both plants, and animals.
  • Local – buy food close to where you live, within 100 miles. This supports local farmers, reduces emissions and potential contamination.
  • Seasonal – consuming in season vegetables and fruits means they are sourced closer to home. If it’s not tomato season near you, it’s likely those tomatoes are traveling a distance to be eaten. When you eat foods that are in season, it ensures that you will be getting a diversity of nutrients.
  • Quality – source the best quality, buy organic if possible.  
  • Buy grass-fed, grass-finished beef, it has a higher ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 than the pasture-raised beef. Grass-finished beef comes from cattle that ate nothing but grass and forage for their entire lives. Grass-fed, on the other hand, may be used to label meat from cattle that were started on a grass diet but have either received supplemental grain feed or are finished on a fully grain-based diet.
  • Buy wild fish instead of farm-raised. Wild salmon, for instance, eat organisms in their natural environment, whereas farm-raised salmon are given processed, high fat, high protein feed to produce larger fish.
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