I've been hearing a lot about nutrient-rich foods – What does that mean?
Most Canadians eat an abundance of foods, but many of us don’t get the nutrients we need for good health. It’s a paradox – being overfed yet undernourished. It’s thought that failing to eat enough nutrient-rich foods may be part of this problem. Here’s the scoop on this simple nutrition concept.
Naturally Nutrient-Rich Defined
This term refers to the amount of nutrients in a food compared to the calories it contains (nutrients versus calories). Naturally nutrient-rich foods have high levels of nutrients, such as protein, vitamins and minerals, compared to their calorie content. “Naturally” means the food is nutrient-rich just as it is, without anything added (i.e. without fortification or enrichment).
If you only focus on calories, both a banana and 10 potato chips have about the same amount. But if you look at the nutrients that each offers, the banana provides vitamin B6, potassium, fibre, vitamin C and folate (to name a few) while the potato chips have very few nutrients. It’s a matter of nutrient density – the banana is more nutrient-rich.
Sometimes the choices are obvious but not always. For example, you might dismiss both the burger and fries as junk food. The reality is the burger is naturally nutrient-rich. A lean beef burger (not the super-size deluxe version), provides about 180 calories plus significant amounts of many key nutrients, such as protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B12. An order of fries with about the same number of calories lacks considerable nutrients. Choose foods that offer more bang for your bite.
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- Colorful vegetables and fruits
- Fibre-rich whole grain foods, enriched grain products
- Lean meats, poulty, fish, eggs, beans and nuts
- Lower fat dairy products