5 Nutrient Dense Foods for a Leaner, Healthier Body

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You might have come across several diet plans or nutrition programs that make the claim that calories don’t count. This simple claim defies the law of thermodynamics. It’s impossible to prove that calories don’t count.

This type of assertion is often followed up with a diet pitch, usually featuring some type of eating plan that allows you to eat whatever you want as long as you only eat certain foods. By following this magic plan, you’ll lose fat.

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This theme is common, and often widespread in health and wellness circles. While eating healthy foods is certainly important, it’s equally important to understand that eating for health and eating for fat loss are different goals. Regardless of how healthy a food is, like broccoli or wild caught salmon, if you overeat these “healthy” foods, you’re going to gain weight.

The zero carb cult advocate the belief that you can eat as much protein and fat as you want, and you’ll still be able to lose weight.” Well you might lose some water weight because carbs hold a lot of water, but you probably won’t be losing much fat. This is particularly true if your fat intake is too high. Fat is the most calorie dense macronutrient. coming in at 9 calories per gram.

The point here is simple. There is no proven method that allows you to eat all you want and lose fat by avoiding certain food groups. This diet doesn’t exist, although many wish that it did and still advocate magical eating plans.

On the opposite end of the spectrum you find the flexible dieters and IIFYM crowd. I would include myself in this camp with one caveat; I value the quality of my calories in addition to the quantity.

Related: 8 Foods & Supplements That Improve Digestion

Many of these flexible dieters believe that as long as you hit your daily cutting diet calorie goal, you can eat anything you want. Donuts, pizza and ice cream, all day.

While I’m an advocate of free meals for sustainability purposes, you’ve got to understand that anyone who has an incredible physique DOES NOT base their diet on junk food. If you’re concerned at all about your health in pursuit of a killer physique, then the quality of your calories need to reflect that as well.

The point is that quality and quantity of calories matter. This comes with an obvious follow-up question: which should be your primary focus? Sourcing quality calories or counting the quantity of calories?

I say learn how to source quality foods first. Learning how to track and monitor your calorie intake along with macronutrients is the icing on the cake.

With that said, here are 5 high quality nutrient dense foods you can include in your diet. They will help you build a healthier, leaner body.

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If you’re concerned at all about your health, then the quality of your calories need to reflect that as well.

5 Nutrient Dense Foods You Should be Eating

1. Avocados

Avocados are being used in moisturizers and shampoos more and more these days. But this fruit goes more than skin deep.

The avocado, also know as the “anti-obesity” food, is jammed packed with antioxidants, vitamin B6 and carnetoids. Although it is high in monounsaturated fats, studies show that having avocado as part of your regular diet will help you stay lean.

Related: 10 Low Calorie Filling Foods

This is assuming that your diet is made up of whole food, high nutrient food sources. Basically, avocados themselves won’t help you stay lean or lose fat, but avocado consumption is associated with improved overall diet quality, nutrient intake, and reduced risk of metabolic syndrome.

The evidence is strong that avocados can improve your health and help you stay lean. In a study of 17, 567 people, researchers found that those who ate avocados had a smaller waist circumference, a 50% less chance of metabolic syndrome and had a significantly higher intake of important nutrients like magnesium, potassium and fiber.

2. Cocoa

Yes, chocolate is a great thing and it can improve your health and body composition. Here’s why.

Cocoa (which is where chocolate is derived) will not only improve your cardiovascular health, it also improves insulin signaling which is associated with having a leaner physique. Now before you get cocoa happy and go out and buy a family size bag of Rolo’s, slow your roll. You want to get chocolate that is at least 70% cocoa. That’s the minimum.

If you can go darker, that’s even better. Choose chocolate without any added sugar or milk; dairy inhibits the absorption of antioxidants.

If you’re really looking to step your game up, go with raw cacao powder. Raw cacao powder contains more than 300 different chemical compounds and 4x the antioxidant power of average dark chocolate and more than 20 times than that of blueberries.

Cocoa

3. Oatmeal

With the low carb craze taking on a cult-like following, oatmeal has gotten the short end of the stick. But does it deserve to be quarantined from your diet?

No.

Oatmeal delivers essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients. It’s a high-fiber morning meal that has been shown to assist in lowering blood cholesterol levels, improve digestion and boost metabolism. It’s time for oatmeal to make a comeback.

The average fiber intake of adults in the United States is less than half recommended levels and is lower still among those who are currently following popular low-carbohydrate diets. Including oatmeal into your diet is a surefire way to boost fiber intake which helps you stay full longer and stabilize blood sugar levels; both key factors in having a lean physique.

4. Cherries

Sorry, I’m not talking about the cherries that are on top of your sundae or in your Old Fashioned cocktail. I’m talking about natural cherries; the stone fruit that is a close relative to the plum and peach.

These fruits are a low calorie (90 cals per cup), high nutrient food that can fast track you to a healthier, leaner body. Not only do cherries pack tons of fiber, vitamin C and A, it has been shown that cherries can help reduce muscles soreness, helping you recover more quickly so you can walk into your next workout ready to crush it.

A study used cherry juice for 8 days taken as a pre-workout. The goal was to see its impact on reducing muscle soreness. Not only was muscle soreness reduced compared to the placebo group, but strength loss was 80% less as well. Faster recovery, less soreness equals more intense training which results in a leaner physique.

5. Kimchi

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OK, this one might be weird for you. But, before you lift your nose and turn away from kimchi, consider its benefits first.

Kimchi is a fermented cabbage food that can dramatically improve your gut health because it’s rich in probiotics.

More than 100 million Americans have some type of digestive disorder – irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, gas, and other things too gross to mention. The health of your gut determines what nutrients are absorbed and what toxins, allergens, and microbes are kept out.

Unfortunately, the modern lifestyle doesn’t support a healthy gut; tons of toxic food, high stress and tons of antibiotics. The result is a comprised gut leading to all kinds of issues.

How do you heal your gut? First remove the bad stuff (toxic food, harmful drugs, reduce stress). Then add in the good stuff (enzymes and probiotics). A simple and practical way to do this is to add kimchi into your diet.

Research also shows that in addition to improved gut health, fermented kimchi can also assist in fat loss. The researchers found that in two 4 week diet periods, overweight individuals who consumed fermented kimchi all had lower body fat and smaller hip-to-waist ratios at the end of the study.

References

1) “Avocado Consumption is Associated with Better Diet Quality and Nutrient Intake, and Lower Metabolic Syndrome Risk in US Adults: Results from the Na… – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 July 2015.
2) “Can Dietary Oats Promote Health? – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 July 2015.
3) “Cocoa Flavonoids Improve Insulin Signalling and Modulate Glucose Production Via AKT and AMPK in HepG2 Cells. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 July 2015.
4) “Dietary Fiber and Body Weight. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 July 2015.
5) “Efficacy of a Tart Cherry Juice Blend in Preventing the Symptoms of Muscle Damage. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 July 2015.
6) “Health Benefits of Kimchi (Korean Fermented Vegetables) As a Probiotic Food. – PubMed – NCBI.”National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 July 2015.
7) “New Study Indicates Avocado Consumption May Be Associated with Better Diet Quality Science News.” EurekAlert!. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 July 2015.

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Name: Brian McFadden

Bio: Brian teaches motivated but overwhelmed active individuals the importance of adopting an integrative approach to their health and fitness, so they can finally make the gains they want in the gym, but also live a healthy life outside of it.