Continuing from last week, we now know the importance of giving our body the right fuels and nourishment, but what does this really look like? And how can we all increase the level of nourishment we’re providing ourselves with?
These are foods that provide a huge amount of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, fibre or proteins — essential nutrients (i.e. the ratio of nutrients to calories is high, or more nutrient bang for your calorie buck).
Some of our favourite nutrient-dense foods are leafy greens (the darker green the better) such as spinach, kale or silverbeet, all varieties of berries, kiwifruit, capsicums, brassicae such as broccoli or Brussels sprouts, eggs, flax, chia or hemp seeds, shellfish and salmon (although salmon is higher calorie, it’s one of the sole sources of high quality omega-3 fatty acids, as well as a range of other vitamins and minerals, so the nutrient trade-off is well worth it!) (1).
The key similarities with these foods is they’re mostly fruit and vegetables, they’re unprocessed single-ingredient foods, they have bright and vibrant colours (the high level of antioxidants and vitamins give rise to this) and they’re bursting with flavour.
A good ratio is 1/2 non-starchy veg, 1/4 lean protein, 1/4 carbs and top up with a dash of healthy fats.
• Start with non-starchy veggies (leafy greens, broccoli, courgettes, beans, capsicums) and fill at least half the plate — this might be salads, steamed greens, a stir-fry or tray of roast veggies
• Add a lean, high quality protein source, about 125–150g uncooked (white fish, salmon or shellfish, chicken, red meat, eggs, tofu or legumes)
• Add a small portion of minimally processed carbs, typically about ½ cup cooked (quinoa, brown rice, kumara, legumes)
• Finish with a small portion of healthy fats or dairy, this will vary between food sources (30g cheese such as feta or mozzarella, 1–2 Tbsp avocado, 1 Tbsp nuts or seeds)
Don’t forget about that h2o!
Water is the gold-standard when it comes to hydration, and our baseline intake for each day is approximately 8 glasses. If we’re being active or sweating a little during the day we need to be even more aware of our intake.
Keeping up this level of hydration is important for healthy digestion, body temperature regulation, to flush out toxins and remove them as body waste, increases metal clarity and alertness and reduces the effects of fatigue or headaches and much more (2).
A nourishing environment
Keeping our fridges and cupboards stocked with nutrient-dense, healthy options makes it much easier to make healthy food choices. When something’s readily available and accessible, you’re far more likely to eat it.
• Make sure there’s always plenty of fresh produce on your shopping list (you could try balancing your shopping basket as you would balance your dinner plate).
• Store portions of protein or frozen berries or veggies in the freezer, and store cans of legumes or tuna, or cartons of almond milk in the pantry for longer life, healthy options.
• Keep a range of herbs and spices, or have a fresh herb garden to add flavour to dishes, rather than relying on calorie-laden or sugary dressings.
• Buy good quality oils — like avocado oil for cooking or extra-virgin olive oil for dressing salads. These can be pricier, however a little goes a long way, and having healthy, beneficial fats are worth the investment!
Actions as nourishment
Rest and relaxation, including good quality sleep, can be viewed as nourishment for our bodies. It’s a time for replenishment, such as in sleep where the nutrients we’ve filled our bodies with have time to repair and restore damaged body cells or replace energy stores. Or a time for mindfulness and meditation, mental recovery and downtime from the daily stresses and social or work pressures. Prolonged periods of stress and tiredness can wreak havoc on our hormones, and in turn our overall health and well being. Constant adrenaline and cortisol production, the hormones keeping us in our fight or flight mode, affect and stimulate fat storage and blood glucose levels. Continued high levels of these hormones play a part in hindering our ability to lose or maintain weight, as well as having the ability to affect our brain function and overall metabolism (3).
- Adam Drewnowski, Concept of a nutritious food: toward a nutrient density score, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 82, Issue 4, October 2005, Pages 721–732, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/82.4.721
- Jéquier, E., Constant, F. Water as an essential nutrient: the physiological basis of hydration. Eur J Clin Nutr 64, 115–123 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2009.111
- Dina Aronson, MS, RD. 2009. Cortisol — Its Role in Stress, Inflammation, and Indications for Diet Therapy. Today’s Dietitian. Vol. 11 No. 11 P. 38
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Meet the Nutritionist
Our in-house nutritionist Emma ‘Edamame’ was born and bred in mid Canterbury and has the health and wellbeing of Kiwis in mind at all times. As an NZ registered nutritionist (NZ Nutrition Society) with a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Food Science from the University of Auckland, she makes sure we’re all getting our fresh dose of local veggies and our meals are full of nutritious substance – thanks for having our back Em (and our waistlines!). When it comes to New Zealand produce, Emma is a whizz, with fresh berries being her absolute fave. Intrigued to know what food this nutritionist couldn’t live without? Fresh fish and seafood, delivering on both flavour and nourishment. As well as ice cream, especially real fruit ice creams, in the summer time! Life’s all about a tasty balance, right?