Studying the complexity of the human body is simply mind-boggling. In a fraction of a moment, millions of chemical reactions transpire within the human system. Cellular respiration, muscular contractions, and nerve impulses are but a few of these factors; however, with such magnificence comes a price. This price is known as energy. Energy is required for all of these transactions to take place. To obtain this fuel, we turn to nutrition.
Nutrients are substances that the body can use to obtain energy, regulate bodily functions, and add to physical structure. These nutrients must be provided by whole foods or supplementation. A nutrient can also be defined as that which the human organism cannot produce enough of or cannot produce at all, and yet is reliant on for survival. There are six types of nutrients: carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water. The body requires large quantities of the former half, hence, they are termed macronutrients. Vitamins and minerals, on the other hand, are named micronutrients because they are needed in minuscule amounts.
When you qualify foods according to basic nutrients they contain, rather than the complex combinations of compounds in whole foods, the synergy that may exist between them and many other contributing factors of diet and lifestyle; you lose sight of the forest for the trees.
It’s easy to slap a label on a cereal box claiming that the product is “high in omega-3’s!” or label a quart of homogenized and pasteurized milk as “low fat!” This does not necessarily make that product good for you!
Low-fat, low-carb, and low-sugar labels help sell processed industrial foods and de-emphasizes differences in food quality and types of food. Michael Pollan points out that there are 80,000 known edible plant foods, 3,000 of which have been in common use and yet over 60% of the caloric intake in the worldwide diet consists of four subsidized, industrialized crops: corn, rice, soy and wheat.
Nutritionist Marion Nestle says that “The problem with nutrient-by-nutrient nutrition science ”is that it takes the nutrient out of the context of food, the food out of the context of diet and the diet out of the context of lifestyle.”
600 calories worth of fast food french fries are NOT the same as 600 calories of kale. In the same vein, 600 calories of brown rice aren’t the same as 600 calories of kale either. Sure, brown rice is a natural food, but it is are also far less nutrient dense than kale (and a host of other foods), according to Dr. Fuhrman’s Nutrient Density chart.
Leafy green vegetables (like kale, collard greens, spinach, bok choy, cabbage and romaine lettuce) top the chart as the most nutrient dense foods. These foods have nutrient density scores at or close to 1000. Other foods that are very nutrient dense (with scores over 100) include:
Oatmeal has a score of 53. To give a little perspective to this, you would have to eat 4 bowls of oatmeal to equal the nutrient density of just one bowl of strawberries and 20 bowls of oatmeal to equal one bowl of kale!
It’s a well-known fact that many Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables each day, but even among those that do—you may not be getting all the nutrients you might expect.