October 2016 Issue

Make Your Diet More Nutrient-Dense

Maximize your diet with a nutrient-rich eating approach.

There is only so much food you can eat in any given day. So in the interest of maximizing the nutritional value of your diet, it makes sense to fill your grocery cart with nutrient-dense foods so you can spend your calorie budget wisely. Science shows that when we eat more nutrition-dense foods, which provide the greatest amount of nutrients for their calorie loads, at the expense of foods rich in empty calories we receive greater protection against chronic diseases. Take heed of these strategies to optimize every bite.

canned sardines

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Sardines are richer in omega-3s than most mild fish.

Organic Dairy

Consider a splurge on organic dairy products a worthwile investment towards a more nutrient-dense diet. A 2016 study in the British Journal of Nutrition concluded that organic milk has up to 56 percent more omega-3 fats than its conventional counterpart. The investigation also found higher levels of iron and vitamin E. Differences in cows’ food, including more grazing on pasture, likely explains the nutritional boost.

Salads with Healthy Fats

A salad replete with many colorful veggies is a nutrition powerhouse. But to get the most out of your salads don’t reach for the fat-free dressing. Research from Purdue University shows that pairing vegetables with a bit of fat can noticeably improve absorption of the disease-thwarting carotenoids found in vegetables like tomatoes and carrots. Monounsaturated fat, like that found in olive oil, avocados, and nuts, was found to be particularly effective at making a salad work harder for you.


These are essentially the baby version of items like kale, arugula and radish, and a 2012 study by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that several varieties of microgreens contained nutrient levels such as vitamins C and E up to six times greater than that found in the mature plant. Microgreens are harvested shortly after germination, when they’re still packed with nutrients they need to grow.

Frozen Produce

When local fresh fruits and vegetables are unavailable, consider choosing subzero versions. Items like strawberries and broccoli are harvested at peak ripeness and then quickly frozen afterwards, which means a higher percentage of nutrients compared with fresh varieties that lose nutritional potency during lengthy transportation and storage. A 2014 University of California, Davis, study found that vitamin C content of frozen corn, green beans and blueberries was higher than fresh store versions.

Stronger Fish

Stronger smelling swimmers, like sardines, mackerel, and herring, are mega-healthy, as well as sustainable. Compared to popular seafood, like tilapia and shrimp, these fatty fish contain more omega-3s. A 2016 Journal of Nutrition study, which found higher intakes of these fats can improve blood pressure, adds to the boatload of health perks associated with omega-3s. As a bonus, fatty fish such as sardines deliver extra amounts of bone-building vitamin D.

Cooked Veggies

It’s often thought that heating vegetables degrades their nutritional value, but science shows that’s not always the case. A 2016 report in Food Chemistry discovered steaming kale actually increases its antioxidant activity. The same may hold true for other dark, leafy greens, like Swiss chard and collards. But it is still best to avoid boiling vegetables, as this can leach out water-soluble nutrients like vitamin C.