Nutrient Density might be another term that you hear thrown around the health space, and like everything else it may seem to simply be a buzzword. As a holistic nutrition coach, I’m here to tell you it’s a really nice way to reframe the way you look at food.
Every time you eat, you have the chance to nourish yourself. Nourishment is one of the keys to optimal health, and for those of us trying to conceive (yes me too!), it’s a beautiful way to prepare our bodies for whatever journey awaits. Both parties, the person who contributes the sperm, and the person who contributes the egg, should be thinking about nourishing themselves, every time they eat.
But where to start? Here are three steps that you can take to start adding in more nutrition.
Cook with a Broth
Broth is celebrated for a reason, it’s an inexpensive yet extremely nourishing way to add nutrients into your cooking. Whether you are making a bone broth, or a vegetable broth, you will be instantly adding nutrients and flavor. Bones are a storehouse for nutrients in the body, and when you use high quality animal bones, you are getting the nutrients from the care they’ve received.
A vegetable broth can also be extremely nourishing and versatile. There are plenty of water soluble nutrients that after a short simmer (think one hour) will seep into the broth, creating a nutrient rich broth. Consider adding root vegetables, leafy vegetables, and nutrient dense foods such as mushrooms and seaweed. You could also add miso to this if you’d like a little extra flavor and nutrients.
Broth is not only for soups, but also anywhere you would use water, swap for broth. Cooking rice or quinoa, adding a splash to vegetables while they are sautéing, or just drinking it plain with some sea salt are all excellent ways to enjoy it.
Cook and Garnish with Color
Colors are the sign of nutrient density in plants, and they really do cover the rainbow. Think reds, blues, yellows, oranges, greens and white! Beets, blueberries, carrots, cauliflower…. The list goes on and on. These colors are full of antioxidants.
With each meal (including breakfast), think about where the color is coming from. I teach my clients to think about adding in a dark leafy green, which could be kales, collards, chard or beet tops. Then we think about adding in another colorful vegetable to round out the meal.
Garnishes can also be extremely important! Here is where fresh herbs can come in, garnishing with cilantro, parsley, or chives can add some delicious flavor as well as more nutrient density to your meal. Maybe grating carrots or beets would pair nicely as well.
Remember to add a bit of healthy fat to your colors, as many antioxidants are fat soluble and will be absorbed better with a healthy fat, such as olive oil, coconut oil, or avocados.
Add Fermented Foods
Ferments, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt, are great ways to add a beneficial microbial dose to your daily diet. More research is coming out every day about the myriad jobs our beneficial microbes do for us. They manufacture vitamins, short chain fatty acids, help regulate our immune system, help to manufacture serotonin, and help lower inflammation. We need to nourish them, which we can do by eating plenty of vegetables and fiber packed foods. We can also help by introducing strains into the body by eating lots of fermented foods.
Ferments have a tangy taste that many clients tell me they don’t like. Oftentimes, our palates have been co-opted by processed foods and we tend to lean towards sweeter tasting foods. Most clients come to me not liking bitter or sour. However, as we start to expand our diets, and eat a variety of foods, we start to appreciate the different flavors and how they work together in dishes.
Add some sauerkraut to some salty barbecue, or kimchi to a soy sauce marinated tofu dish, and you’ll find that the sour flavor enhances and brightens the meal. As well as knowing that adding in fermented foods can change the state of your microbiome fairly quickly!
Enjoy the Nourishment
Adding nutrient density to your diet is a lifelong process. Most clients find adding in nutrient density is an enjoyable way to look at food. Whole foods are naturally delicious, and when you add in nutrients, you oftentimes are adding flavor as well. Have fun, look to different cuisines for inspiration, and happy nourishing.