The One Nutrient Categories Healthy Foods Depend On.

Open up a conversation on whether a food is healthy or not and you are sure to have a debate on your hands. Recently, in a well known form on Facebook, steak or red meat was referred to as nutrient poor and the servers almost shut down and as we all know Facebook never goes down.

Ok a little embellishment, but you get the idea.

Immediately, the call was for my head. “What are you talking about? Steak is loaded with protein, how can that be nutrient poor?” Soon thereafter all the studies emerged about how diets with steak included are demonstrative of weight loss and positive health statistics.

Without a doubt, the group went haywire accusing me of cherry-picking the science. It was not a fun conversation, especially with people coming to judgment long before they ever asked questions about what I meant and then it occurred to me. Something that I learned long ago, very few people understand the nutrient density of foods, or what it means to eat “Nutrient Rich.”

  1. They simply don’t have the experience, and are locked in the world of listening to every study that substantiates the diet they are on and the foods they like to eat (ironically cherry picking the science they wanted to pay attention to).
  2. They are typically towing a diet line and aren’t even open to understanding salient facts that are not in line with what their particular dietary community has bought into.
  3. They don’t understand that when we are talking “nutrients” we are not talking, about protein, fat, and carbohydrates, we are talking about the micronutrients or phytochemicals that only come from plant foods.

That’s the one nutrient category, which if they are present in your foods, you are assured you are eating healthy food. You see if the food you are eating is rich in phytochemicals, it is going to be “healthy” across every other food attribute.

For example, see this view of the 3 classes of foods. In this case flavonoids are highlighted. Watch how they drop as you move into second and third class foods. But also notice how rich the foods are in almost every other category of nutrients, including protein, though not as much as protein might be from steak.

If the phytochemical content of your foods is present, then the following will also be true:

  1. Health-promoting protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
  2. You won’t need any added oil, salt or sugar in that food unless you add it.
  3. Your food will be fiber-rich
  4. Your food will be vitamin and mineral rich
  5. Your food won’t contain dietary cholesterol, or saturated fat (since your body makes cholesterol and stores excess food as fat. You don’t need to consume. There is no need from dietary sources.
  6. Your food will be anti-cancer
  7. Your food will be generally lower in calories (not all, as nuts and seeds and intact grains are not necessary low calorie)

We could keep going. This is not mean you need to be vegan, but if to 90% or more of the foods you eat are whole foods, nutrient rich (aka a plant-based diet), in or close to their natural state (raw, cooked etc) you will get lots of phytochemicals; the cornerstone of what makes a healthy food “healthy.”

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