“Healthy life expectancy is determined on the foods you choose to eat. You have to get sufficient nutrient bang for each calorie buck!” Dr. Joel Furhman
Nutrient dense foods are low in calories and high in nutritional value. These include your fruits, veggies, whole grains, and legumes.
Energy dense foods are higher in calories and provide little to no nutritional value. These include animal products, pure fat foods (e.g., oil, butter, lard) and processed foods (e.g., cakes, ice cream, fried food, soda, or refined grains).
Consider the calorie density per pound of food:
- 100 calories/pound – vegetables
- 300 calories/pound – fruits
- 500 calories/pound – whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, buckwheat, etc.)
- 600 calories/pound – legumes (beans, peas, lentils)
- 600 calories/pound – pasta
- 700 calories/pound – avocado
- 1,000 calories/pound – animal products (beef, poultry, fish, eggs, pork, seafood, etc.)
- 1,200 calories/pound – bread
- 1,700 calories/pound – cheese
- 2,300 calories/pound – junk food (chips, cookies, pretzels, etc.)
- 2,400 calories/pound – chocolate
- 2,800 calories/pound – nuts, seeds, nut butters
- 3,200 calories/pound – butter
- 4,000 calories/pound – oils
It is important to consume as much nutrient dense food as possible for optimum body composition. Often, calorie-dense foods contain empty calories, meaning they provide little to no nutritional value. However, the exception is high calorie-dense plant-based foods such as nuts, seeds, avocados, etc. Extra calories are converted into fat to be stored, which is how weight gain occurs. Nutrient dense foods provide satiety with fewer calories.
Cook at home with fresh ingredients, rather than frequently eating out or purchasing heat and serve meals. These restaurant and processed meal options are high in salt, sugar and fat. Fresh whole-food plant-based ingredients will be lower in calories and provide more nutritional value. When you cook for yourself, you can control what you eat to avoid the consumption of unhealthy ingredients (e.g., unwanted fats, sugars, salt, or extra calories).
Consuming foods that are low in calories and high in nutrients is an optimal strategy to achieve a healthy body composition. It prevents unwanted weight gain and reduces your risk for so many chronic diseases- a win-win!