There are so many diets out there like Keto, Atkins, Paleo, Mediterranean, carnivore, IIFYM… the list goes on. So many people focus on the macronutrients of their diet (fats, proteins, carbs) that they often overlook the micronutrients (vitamins, minerals). And yet, without a proper balance of both macronutrients and micronutrients, you can’t achieve optimal health because micronutrients are essential for the proper functioning of your body’s metabolism.
What are nutrient dense foods? They are foods that have a high concentration of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients but are low in calories. In other words, they pack a lot of punch for their calorie load. And since they fill you up without packing on the pounds, they are great for weight loss.
Here are 9 nutrient dense foods that will help you maintain a healthy weight.
Beans – Beans are a great source of protein and fiber and are high in nutrients like iron, potassium, and magnesium. But beans also have a high concentration of phytates which bind to minerals and prevent their absorption, so beans should be eaten with other foods, especially those containing vitamin C. When beans are eaten with green leafy vegetables or tomatoes, the phytates are deactivated and the minerals become more bioavailable.
When beans are combined with rice and vegetables, they provide a complete protein that contains all the essential amino acids your body needs. This combination is popular in many cultures around the world and is known as the “vegetarian meatball” because it has all the nutrients of meat but without the saturated fat and cholesterol.
Oatmeal – Oatmeal is a whole grain and a great source of fiber. It is also very filling because it contains beta-glutelin, a type of protein that makes you feel full. Oatmeal is also a good source of magnesium, potassium, and zinc. These minerals are important because they help your body regulate blood sugar, which is important for weight loss.
Oats are also a good source of selenium, a mineral that helps protect your cells from damage. Combine oats with yogurt and fruit for a nutrient-packed breakfast that will keep you full all morning.
Sweet Potatoes – Sweet potatoes are a great source of fiber, vitamins A and C, and potassium. They are very filling and can be eaten in a variety of ways. Sweet potatoes can be roasted, mashed, or made into fries. They are a healthier alternative to regular potatoes because they have a lower glycemic index, meaning they won’t cause your blood sugar to spike as much. Combine sweet potatoes with lean protein and green vegetables for a well-rounded meal.
Broccoli – Broccoli is a nutrient-dense food that is high in fiber, vitamins C and K, and potassium. It is also a good source of calcium and folate. Broccoli can be eaten raw, steamed, or roasted. It is a very versatile vegetable and can be used in a variety of dishes like salads, soups, or stir-fries.
When combined with other foods, broccoli can help increase the absorption of those nutrients because it contains a compound called sulforaphane. This compound helps the body produce enzymes that detoxify certain carcinogens and other harmful compounds by opening up what are called “transcription channels” or “gates” that allow for increased genetic activity and the release of more enzymes. Enzymes help the body break down and use nutrients more effectively.
Sockeye Salmon – Sockeye Salmon is a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins D and B12. It is also a very filling food because it contains astaxanthin, a type of antioxidant that has been shown to reduce inflammation and promote satiety. Sockeye salmon has a higher fat content than other types of salmon but it is mainly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats which are good for you because they can help improve cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. For a complete satiating meal, Salmon is best combined with other nutrient-rich and high fibre foods like vegetables or whole grains.
Quinoa – Quinoa is a complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids our bodies need. It is also a good source of fiber and vitamins B and E and minerals like magnesium, iron, and potassium. Combining Quinoa with other nutrient-rich foods like vegetables, beans, or nuts will help increase the absorption of those nutrients because Quinoa contains a compound called saponins which can bind to minerals and prevent their absorption. But when eaten with vegetables like tomatoes or leafy greens, the saponins are deactivated and the minerals become more bioavailable.
Chicken – Chicken is a good source of protein and vitamins B3 and B6 and minerals like phosphorus and selenium. It is also very filling because it contains leucine, an amino acid that has been shown to promote satiety and is also a key player in the regulation of blood sugar level.
Combine chicken with a low-glycemic food like broccoli or spinach to help keep blood sugar levels stable and prevent energy crashes and cravings. This combination is highly nutritious because chicken is a good source of niacin which helps the body metabolize fat and spinach and broccoli are nutrient-dense vegetables with fiber and vitamins C and K. Make a healthy sandwich using organic chicken deli meat with spinach for a nutrient packed lunch.
Lentils – Lentils are a good source of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals like iron, potassium, and folate. They are very filling because they contain resistant starch which is a type of indigestible carbohydrate that has been shown to promote satiety and weight loss. They are also very filling because they contain both soluble and insoluble fibers which slow down digestion and help you feel full for longer.
Lentils can be used in a variety of dishes like soups, salads, or veggie burgers and are a great alternative to meat because they are packed with nutrients and are low in calories. When cooked, lentils absorb water and expand in the gut which helps you feel full for a longer period of time.
Apples – An apple a day keeps the doctor away because apples are packed with nutrients like fiber, vitamins C and K, and potassium. They are also very filling because they contain pectin, a type of soluble fiber that has been shown to promote satiety. Pectin slows down digestion and makes you feel full for longer. Pectin is also believed to increase the feeling of fullness by stimulating the release of hormones that regulate hunger and satiety.
For a complete meal, combine apples with a protein-rich food like peanut butter or cottage cheese. This combination will help keep you full and satisfied because apples provide long-lasting energy from their fiber and natural sugars and protein takes longer to digest so it will help you feel full for a longer period of time.
In summary, these nutrient-rich foods will help you lose weight, improve your health, and make you feel full and satisfied. They are all low in calories but high in nutrients, fiber, and protein which makes them perfect for a healthy weight management plan.