Many people, myself included, have searched for a “nutrient dense food list”. My reason for looking and possibly yours is that last year the American Heart Association recommended that our diets should consist primarily of these “nutrient dense foods”. Now they use the term “nutrient rich”. They probably thought they were confusing people.
A nutrient dense food list would include practically any food that is not processed, does not contain added sugars or fats and is relatively low calorie when compared to the nutrients (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc. ) that it contains. All fresh fruits and vegetables would be included on this list.
Many foods that are dried, such as beans, oats, rice and pasta would also be included in a nutrient dense food list. Some have more calories than others, some are enriched with more vitamins and minerals than others. The real problem is the sauces, sugars and other ingredients that we add to these foods that increase the caloric content, without increasing the nutritive value.
In order for a dairy product to be included in a nutrient dense food list, it must be fat free or very low fat. No more than 30% of the calories should come from fats. For example; fat-free cottage cheese would make the list, but cheddar cheese would not.
One small serving of cheddar cheese (about the size of a cheese cube) contains 69 calories and 51 of those calories comes from fat. Reduced fat cheese products are not much better, the calories are reduced, but the percentage of fat is still nearly 50%.
Fat free mozzarella is a good choice, but what you normally see in the grocery store is “part-skim”, which has 72 calories per serving, 41 calories from fat and provides only 22% of the body's daily need for calcium. On the other hand, two servings of low fat swiss contains 54 calories, only 14 from fat, and 28% of the calcium needed, plus 8.6 grams of protein.
You can see how making the right choices, not only means that you will be healthier, but also means that you can eat more. An important consideration for anyone trying to lose weight. When buying any kind of processed or packaged food (most dairy products), it is necessary to read the nutrient facts carefully, disregard the manufacturers claim. The product may have less fat than their regular product, but it still may not be a good choice for your diet.
Breads can be another source of confusion. Both the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society recommend that we choose “whole grains”, thus we see numerous food manufacturers proudly displaying the “whole grain bread” label. If you read the ingredients, you will find that they all contain “enriched wheat flour”, as their primary ingredient. The 79 cent, store brand white sandwich bread contains exactly the same ingredients, compare the labels.
The best advice is to skip the bread whenever possible. Whole grains are oatmeal, barley, rice and other whole grain foods. These can be included on your nutrient dense food list, but choose the low-fat, low-sodium varieties if you are buying a processed, pre-packaged version. The first ingredient on the package label should be a recognizable grain, such as oats, barley, rice, not “oat flour, barley flour or rice flour”.
The best choices for meats are fish and skinless chicken breasts. The worst choices are hot dogs and bologna. We need some fat in our diets, but 30% of our total caloric intake is enough. In addition, all fats are not the same. Omega 3 fats, found primarily in fatty fish like salmon and to a lesser extent in tuna and other fish, are necessary for the proper function of the brain and heart.
There are a number of different kinds of fats; trans fat, saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat, etc. Trying to figure out this whole labeling thing can be very confusing. The source of the fat is important, animal fat is bad, vegetable fat is not so bad, but 30% from any source is enough.
If you eat around 2000 calories a day, 30% is 600 calories. There are about 100 fat calories in every tablespoon of mayonnaise, cooking oil, margarine, etc. And, you still need to add in the fat calories from fish, chicken, cheese and other sources.
If you need to lose some weight and you are shooting for 1500 calories per day, then 450 total calories from fat is enough. Opinions vary on whether or not less fat is better, but, not to be repetitive, experts agree that 30% is enough.
A complete nutrient dense food list would be book length, at least. A good place to start is to look at the foods that you eat everyday and start replacing the high calorie, high fat, highly processed foods with fresh fruits and vegetables. For more information about nutrient dense foods and heart disease prevention, please visit Heart Healthy Diet Tips.com .
Patsy Hamilton was a health care professional for over twenty years before becoming a freelance writer. Currently she is writing a series of articles about heart health. Read more at http://heart-health-diet-tips.com