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The older I get the more passionate I become about what foods I CHOOSE to eat to fuel my body. Why am I driven to be intentional about what foods I eat to energize my body? Let me fill you in. Knowledge is simply power. The more you learn how specific foods are fueling your mind and body, the more you will want to incorporate whole, organic, plant-based foods into your diet.

What are nutrient dense foods?

They are foods that are high in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fiber, healthy fats and other nutrients relative to their calorie content. Overall, nutrient dense foods do not have as much sugar, sodium and saturated fats as other foods.

Here are some examples of nutrient dense foods that I enjoy.

· Nuts, especially walnuts and almonds

· Organic blueberries and strawberries (fresh or frozen)

· Sweet potatoes

· Beans and peas

· Oats

· Spinach

· Avocadoes

· Kale

What are the benefits of eating nutrient dense foods? 1. Increases energy levels. Each food has a conversion rate from food to energy and the measure of energy content in foods is the calorie. Calories are broken down into macronutrients and measured per gram of food. Carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram; fat has 9 calories per gram and protein has 4 calories per gram.

2. Supports a strong immune system. Especially now, who isn’t trying to support a healthy immune system? Why not start now rather than being reactive once you start to feel sick?

3. Reduces symptoms of inflammation and chronic pain. People may have sensitivities to certain foods. Some of these foods may include soy, caffeine, lectins, dairy, wheat, sugar, alcohol and GMO’s.

4. Helps maintain a healthy weight. Not all calories are created equal. In one donut, the calories may be around 200. For 200 calories, one could consume about 6.5 cups of broccoli. Eating one donut might take about 5 minutes. Eating 6 cups of broccoli will take a lot longer, maybe up to 30 minutes. Broccoli is more nutrient dense, and those calories will be used to fuel your body and aid in weight loss or muscle gain. The donut calories are primarily sugars that will be used quickly by your body and will not keep you feeling full for long. Most likely, you will be searching for something more to eat within a short time. 5. Improves brain function. Have you heard of superfoods? Kale, spinach, almonds, salmon etc. These foods help to keep your brain functioning at its highest possible level. Your brain needs carbohydrates which contain glucose to function. Water helps with this too. Your brain actually shrinks when dehydrated and diminishes your cognitive functioning and can impair decision making abilities.

6. Promotes more restful sleep. Getting adequate fiber and having a healthy gut are linked. Your gut plays a vital role in manufacturing about 95% of the body’s supply of serotonin. The pineal gland in the body uses serotonin to make melatonin, the sleep hormone. When you eat too late at night right before bed, your body has to process the food you just consumed. It is important to leave some time after your last meal and before sleep to have a restful night.

7. A natural mood booster. Your brain will be the happiest when it’s getting the right amounts of vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids. What you eat directly affects your mood.

8. Boosts glowing skin, strong nails and healthy hair. Your skin, nails and hair can tell you a lot about what’s happening internally. Acne, dull brittle nails and thinning hair can be signs that you are not getting the adequate amount of nutrients, vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function at its highest level.

9. Supports healthier gums and dental health. Your mouth is home to a wide variety of bacteria, good and bad. Sugar in particular plays havoc with balancing the good and bad bacteria in the mouth. This is why it’s important to limit sugar intake.

I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all diet. I do believe in eating nutrient dense, whole and organic foods to feel your very best and live the best quality of life you possibly can.

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