The body needs sufficient fuel – ample amounts of necessary nutrients – to be able to function effectively. At the same time, people also have to be conscious of the number of calories they consume. Furthermore, not everyone has time to prepare elaborate meals. So how do people ensure they get the nutrients they need when they can only consume so much food per day?
The solution lies in consuming nutrient-dense foods – foods relatively low in calories but rich in the amount and variety of nutrients. Having just a little bit of these foods not only leaves the body satisfied but also gives it what it needs to be healthy and strong.
Spinach is an excellent source of potassium, vitamin A, vitamin K, manganese, folate and iron. One cup of raw spinach provides half the daily recommended value, or DV, of vitamin A, which is essential for healthy vision, immune system functioning and reproduction.
2. Brussels sprouts
One cup of cooked Brussels sprouts contains 195 percent DV of vitamin K, which helps the body absorb calcium, and 125 percent DV of vitamin C, which boosts immune system function and helps reduce the formation of wrinkles. It also offers more than 10 percent DV of vitamin A, vitamin B-6, folate, potassium and manganese.
One cup of cooked cauliflower contains 73 percent DV of vitamin C, 19 percent DV of vitamin K, 14 percent DV of folate, 12 percent DV of vitamin B12, 11 percent DV of choline and 11 percent DV of dietary fiber, which helps prevent constipation, stabilize blood sugar and lower cholesterol. Cauliflower also contains small amounts of thiamin, protein, riboflavin, niacin and magnesium.
One cup of cooked broccoli provides more than 100 percent DV of vitamins C and K. It is also an excellent source of vitamin A, folate, chromium, riboflavin, potassium, fiber and copper, which helps the body make red blood cells and keeps the immune system healthy.
5. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are an abundant source of beta-carotene, which helps reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, decreases heart disease, protects against asthma and slows the aging process. A medium sweet potato also has more than 100 percent DV of vitamin A, 28 percent DV of manganese, 16 percent DV of vitamin B6, 37 percent DV of vitamin C and 15 percent DV of potassium. It also contains small amounts of calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, zinc and vitamin E.
Kale is packed with essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. A 100-gram portion of kale contains 200 percent DV of vitamin C, 300 percent DV of vitamin A and 1,000 percent DV of vitamin K1. In addition, it has large amounts of vitamin B6, potassium, protein, magnesium, copper, manganese, fiber, calcium and iron. Because it is low in oxalate (a naturally occurring molecule that binds to calcium) the body is better able to absorb kale’s calcium and iron.
Out of all fish, salmon contains the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which are linked to improved well-being and reduce the risk of many serious diseases, including heart disease, dementia and depression. A 100-gram piece of salmon contains not only 2.8 grams of omega-3s but also large amounts of magnesium, potassium, selenium and B vitamins.
Seaweed is high in minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium and manganese. It is also rich in bioactive compounds such as phycocyanins and carotenoids, which have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Seaweed is particularly rich in iodine, a mineral the body uses to make thyroid hormones. Eating a high-iodine seaweed such as kelp just a few times a month can give the body all the iodine it needs.
Vitamins C, B1 and B6, calcium, potassium, copper, manganese and selenium are abundant in garlic. It also contains large amounts of a sulfur compound called allicin, which may help lower blood pressure and “bad” LDL cholesterol while increasing “good” HDL cholesterol, potentially reducing the risk of heart disease. People who eat a lot of garlic are also thought to be at lower risk of common cancers, especially colon and stomach cancer. Raw garlic also has antibacterial and antifungal properties.
One cup of fresh raspberries provides 43 percent DV of vitamin C, 32 percent DV of fiber and 41 percent DV of manganese, which aids in calcium absorption, fat and carbohydrate metabolism, and blood sugar regulation. Raspberries also contain smaller amounts of folate, vitamin E, vitamin K, biotin, potassium, copper and magnesium.
One cup of strawberries contains 100 percent DV of vitamin C, which is essential for healthy skin. In addition, strawberries contain potassium, fiber, magnesium, iodine, folate and copper.
12. Dark chocolate (cocoa)
Dark chocolate with high cocoa content is loaded with fiber, iron, magnesium, copper and manganese. It is also rich in antioxidants. Studies have shown that people who consume dark chocolate at least five times a week have a 57 percent lower risk of heart disease. Other health benefits of dark chocolate include improved blood flow, lower blood pressure, reduced LDL and improved brain function. Eating just a small square of quality dark chocolate per day is one of the best ways to give the body additional antioxidants. For best results, get dark chocolate with 85 percent cocoa or higher.
Equipping the body with the nutrients it needs for optimal functioning doesn’t have to be hard. Adding small amounts of nutrient-dense foods to your diet can do the trick.