Nutrient Density vs. Calorie Density

by Anna D

You’ve probably seen a list of “healthy foods” to eat before. Maybe it was given to you by your doctor, your nutritionist or your personal trainer. This list probably included somewhere along the lines of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, high fiber foods, lean meats, etc. A list is a good thing to have if you have absolutely no clue where to start. But, with information being widely available to us nowadays, I’m sure that we’re not short on information about which foods are healthy. So, I decided to talk about the difference between nutrient density and calorie density and why most experts recommend nutrient dense foods.

Nutrient density refers to the amount of nutrients that are present in foods. The higher the nutrients such as vitamins and antioxidants in a certain type of food the more nutrient dense it is. It just so happened that most fruits and vegetables are high in nutrients and low in calories. So, this is the reason why these are good for our health especially if we are trying to lose fat. For instance, you can eat a lot of broccoli, asparagus, spinach etc., and feel full without worrying about gaining weight. In addition, you will also get tons of vitamins and antioxidants that will help your body function better. This makes sense if you’re on a reduced calorie diet because if your choices are limited then you’re better off with foods that will satisfy you and your body’s needs.


On the other hand, calorie dense foods are foods that are..well – high in calories without much benefit to your body. They are also usually high in fats that do not do your heart any good either. Foods like marshmallows, donuts, cupcakes, and all the other things we consider “junk” food are typically referred to as empty calorie foods because they are void of any nutrients and yet they stack up the calories. For example, if you eat 2 donuts, you will most likely eat the amount of calories that are equivalent to about 2-3 meals. As evident, this is definitely not good if you’re on a limited calorie budget.


Good Food vs. Bad Food

I never like to label any foods as bad. This is why I put the terms “bad” and “healthy” in quotation marks. In my opinion, living a healthy lifelstyle means that we learn how to live a balanced life. In my terms, this would mean that I can have my chocolate cake every now and then but, most of the time, I am eating nutrient dense foods. In that regard, can you lose weight even if you only eat 5 donuts a day? The answer is yes. You will probably have a lot of cravings and not really look fit but you can lose weight if that’s all your after. Eating nutrient dense foods if yis a better strategy because of all its benefits to our body and our satiety especially if you want to lose weight and live a healthy lifestyle. This does not mean that you can’t enjoy calorie densed foods that you love. You’re just going to have to learn to enjoy them less often.

I believe in striking a balance between eating healthy and enjoying my foods. Just because you’re on a mission to live a healthy lifestyle, it doesn’t mean that junk foods are eternally banned from your list. So, now I leave you with a question: How do you strike a balance in your diet and exercise?

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