Food is not just calories. In fact, the body is much more interested in the essential nutrient content of foods than in their caloric value. Essential nutrients are substances that the body can’t manufacture on its own, and therefore has to get from food. Vitamins and minerals are prime examples, the body closely monitors their intake to make sure we’re getting enough of them.
Vitamins and minerals are essential
Vitamins and minerals are also called micro-nutrients because the body only needs very little of them to function properly. Unfortunately, many of our modern foods lost the majority of their micro-nutrients through refining processes and deficiencies are not uncommon. These can lead to loss of performance, increased hunger, tiredness, and many kinds of illnesses. That’s why we need to know what and how to eat to cover our daily needs.
How to get enough vitamins and minerals?
We have to focus on eating real wholesome foods, they are the best sources of highly bioavailable vitamins and minerals. But even that might not be enough. We don’t eat the original wild plants and animals we used to. Today’s real foods often come from factory farms and large plantations, containing a lot less micro-nutrients than their wild counterparts. That’s why we have to give preference to nutrient dense foods. The following table will give you a better idea how to do it.
Simply said, choose foods from the first column and avoid those from the third and you will get the most out of your meals. Staples such as legumes and grains are somewhere in the middle. The main issue is that they contain anti-nutrients, which impair absorption of the minerals they carry. If you include those on a daily basis, you should use preparation methods like soaking, sprouting, fermenting or leavening to limit their negative effects. Fats and oils are quite the opposite. While they are not especially rich in essential nutrients, they actually help us absorb them, especially fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. That’s why they are in the middle too.
There are many different types of micro-nutrients we need, several minerals, fat soluble and water soluble vitamins, and they all have different properties and different foods sources. I will go into more detail about each category in the following articles. I will also include recipes that will give you a practical example for how to implement nutrient dense foods into your diet.