Are Nutrient Dense Foods Really Low Calorie?

Well, it depends on what foods you are referring to when you think that nutrient dense foods are low calorie.

The most nutrient dense foods, or what we call the most “nutrient rich” foods are leafy green vegetables. These first class foods rank highest in terms of nutrient density, and comprise the top 10 foods on the ANDI scale – The Aggregate Nutrient Density Index – and they are genuinely low calorie foods.

Recently, while reading an article on Lance Armstrong’s Live Strong blog, it occurred to me that there is a widespread belief that all nutrient dense foods are low calorie foods and they are not. This is a trap that many of us (particularly those of us who are promoting this revolutionary new way of eating) fall into, as we appeal to those considering the change to a nutrient rich diet.

All nutrient dense foods are not low calorie, although they are lower in calories by far when comparing them to nutrient barren foods such as ice cream, bread, sugar and chocolate. Nutrient dense foods, like raw or roasted nuts not withstanding, in terms of calories, by the pound they are up there with bread and sugar, because up to 50% of the weight is oil and oil contains more than twice the number of calories per gram compared to carbohydrates and protein. Albeit, this oil is a healthy fat and nuts, unlike milk chocolate and sugar, are not to be avoided. They are to be eaten intelligently.

According to the Live Strong blog:

Nutrient-rich, low-calorie foods can enhance your wellness and support healthy, long-term weight management. According to the Mayo Clinic, a diet based upon foods rich in nutrients, fiber and/or water, yet relatively sparse in calories, can allow you to eat more food volume while ingesting fewer overall calories. For best results, aim for a variety of nutrient-rich, low-calorie foods and modest portions of denser foods, such as nuts, seeds and plant-based oils.

(Note: plant based oils are extracted fat, and are no longer nutrient rich as they are dense in only 1 nutrient “fat” and that is not healthy)

Just look to your left.

Vegetables are 100 calories per pound, but watch what happens when you start moving onto fruit and grains and beans. You are talking 300-500 calories per pound, so you need to be careful as to how much of these foods you eat, remember they are “nutrient dense”, rich in all the nutrients your body needs, but you can easily overeat nutrient rich foods.

NUTS; a pound of nuts can get into the thousands of calories. 9 almonds are approximately 180-200 calories. How quickly can you eat 9 almonds? Quicker than you can assess how many calorie just ate, that’s how fast!

So what’s the moral of the story?

When we first published Nutrient the tag line was Eat Better, Not Less! The idea was simple, the better you eat, the less you need to eat. This is still true today.

When you are eating nutrient dense foods, if you try to eat them in the same quantities that you used to eat nutrient poor foods (which would drive you to over consume anyway) you will be healthier now doubt, but over time (as your body becomes more and more nutrient rich) you can get fat, because you need less and less food. With the exception of leafy green, green and colored vegetables, nutrient dense foods need to be eaten with a sound lifestyle strategy in mind and relative to activity.

I’ll be talking more about losing weight the Nutrient Rich way in future posts, but for now suffice it to say that not all nutrient dense foods are low calorie.


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