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Foods With High Nutrient Density

by
author image Jill Corleone, RDN, LD
Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and lecturing on diet and health for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and in the book "Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation," edited by John R. Bach, M.D. Corleone holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition.
Foods With High Nutrient Density
You can't go wrong including more fruits and vegetables in your diet. Photo Credit Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

It's no secret that what you eat affects your health. If you're looking to maximize the nutritional quality of every bite you take, include foods with a high nutrient density, which means foods that provide a number of essential nutrients in a small amount of calories. Most health care professionals agree that nutrient-dense foods should be the focus of your diet. In short, this means boosting your intake of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean sources of protein and low-fat dairy foods.

Super Nutritious Fruits and Veggies

Foods With High Nutrient Density
Vegetables and fruits at farmer's market Photo Credit Baloncici/iStock/Getty Images

Fruits and veggies are the ultimate nutrient-dense food. They are low in calories and fat and high in fiber, potassium, vitamins A and C and folate. Fruits and vegetables are also rich in phytochemicals, which are nutrients that offer a number of benefits to the body, including increased immunity, eye and skin health, and protection against cancer and heart disease. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that you load half of your plate with fruits and vegetables.

Generally Whole Grains

Foods With High Nutrient Density
Wheat field getting harvested Photo Credit Steve Mcsweeny/iStock/Getty Images

Whole grains, like fruits and vegetables, are naturally rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and phytochemicals. The USDA's MyPlate.gov website recommends that you make at least half your grain servings whole grains. Including more whole grains in your diet not only improves the nutritional quality of your diet, but it also might reduce your risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes and cancer. The fiber in whole grains also helps prevent constipation and helps protect you against diverticular disease.

Keep It Lean, Protein

Foods With High Nutrient Density
Assorted seafood on ice Photo Credit HABAKUKKOLO/iStock/Getty Images

The human body needs protein for growth, development and cell repair. Foods rich in protein also provide iron, B vitamins, vitamin E, zinc and magnesium. Nutrient-dense protein foods include lean meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, peas, nuts and seeds. Most Americans meet their protein needs by eating beef, poultry and eggs, according to the USDA. To vary your nutrient intake from foods rich in protein, it is important to eat protein from different sources. Try mixing it up with seafood, beans, peas, nuts and seeds. Seafood, nuts and seeds contain nutrients that protect your heart and reduce your risk of heart disease.

Low-Fat or Fat-Free Dairy

Foods With High Nutrient Density
Young girl using straw to drink glass of milk Photo Credit Antonio_Diaz/iStock/Getty Images

You might already know that you need calcium for strong bones, but it is also needed for nerve transmission, muscle contractions and the constriction and dilation of your blood vessels. Low-fat and fat-free dairy products are a good source of calcium and also provide vitamin D, protein and potassium without all of the saturated fat and calories, making them high-nutrient-dense choices. Including low-fat and fat-free milk in your diet not only improves bone health but may also lower blood pressure and reduce your risk of type-2 diabetes.

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