When you think of food groups, you probably think of the grain group and dairy group and meat group, as has been engrained in our head for so many years.
And while these all have their place, when it comes to talking about nutrient dense foods and how to maximize your intake, there are a few other groups you need to consider:
We’re getting pretty technical on the vegetable food group: go green. If there is one area of the vegetable group that you try to increase or focus on, make it be the leafy greens. Loaded with antioxidants, enzymes, an incredible array of vitamins and minerals, not to mention heaps of fibre, there is not much that leafy greens don’t cover when it comes to adding them to your diet for a nutritional boost. If you’re not a fan of the flavour they can be seamlessly added to things such as smoothies, spaghetti sauce or sir fries, with minimal impact on taste and a big impact on your health.
Nuts and Seeds
A source of healthy fats, plant-based protein and many other specialized nutrients loading up on nuts and seeds boosts your macro nutrient intake, improves the health of your digestive tract, optimizes skin health and increases your intake of essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids are important to obtain through the diet because the body cannot synthesize them on its own, and instead relies on dietary intake of Omega 3 and Omega 6. Found in abundance in things such as flaxseed, olive oil and chia seeds, also plan to add pumpkin seeds to your diet for zinc and their anti-parasitic properties, and Brazil nuts to increase your intake of Selenium.
Beans and Legumes
One of the best sources of plant-based proteins, as well as rich in fibre and iron, increasing your intake of beans and legumes boosts your daily nutritional profile in many ways. Firstly, beans and legumes are rich in fibre, meaning they fill you up and leave you satisfied for longer, decreasing your food intake and helping support weight loss or weight management goals. Next, the extraction of protein from plants is far less energetically demanding on the body than that of meat, and they are easier to digest than meat-based proteins as well.
Finally, don’t forget your gut! Incorporating a regular and quality intake of fermented foods into your diet is an important step in improving your overall health and wellness. Research has shown the gut is related to many aspects of our wellbeing, including mood, sleep, mental focus and digestion, and indeed has been called the second brain. Therefore, looking after the gut, by providing ample nutrients for promoting optimal microbiota balance, is an important part of looking after your body.
Whether you have weight loss goals or are simply trying to improve your overall health, changing up the way you think of your food groups may be the way to go. Eliminate your intake of processed food and sugar and focus on these food groups as the starting point of your health journey.
By: Laura Peill, RHN, BScH – Viand Nutrition