Nutrient density

Food is sometimes compared to fuel for a car. The more fuel we consume the fatter we become and weight loss is a matter of reducing the fuel we eat. Fuel in this regard is always equated with energy.

That’s only half of the truth. Our body is special and needs two different kinds of fuel. One is the energy fuel, the other is the nutrient fuel.

But of course, in real life they come out of one gas pump named diet.

We have daily requirements of energy and nutrients. We basically have to fill one energy tank and one nutrient tank on one day.

It’s very important to fill the nutrient tank to maintain certain body functions, to keep the barriers like the skin intact, to produce substances for inner defense and even to rebuild the hole car (your body) while driving. Your body forces you to eat enough nutrients.

It’s quite a challenge to overfill the nutrient tank. Our body has a lot of systems to discard extra nutrients. Not for every nutrient, for example it’s not healthy to overeat on VitA. But nevertheless we are pretty safe from a nutrient overconsumption. That tank has quite some holes and barely stretches.

Not so with the energy tank. The only way to excrete energy is by using energy for activity. Every energy that enters the body (passes the intestinal wall) is going to be used directly or is going to be stored in fat cells. So that tank has an endless stretching capability.

You must make sure that your diet contains energy and nutrients. That’s why I always talk about a balanced diet. A balanced diet contains an equal amount of energy and nutrients.

Not so an unhealthy unbalanced diet. It contains way more energy than nutrients. Nevertheless the nutrient tank must be filled by the end of the day. You end up eating too much energy.

That’s why we must introduce nutrient density as a basic principle for dietary guidance. It’s important how much nutrients a diet contains. We can’t only focus on sugar, salt, saturated fats or calories. And I believe it’s quite stupid to only focus on certain foods or to try to create a food labeling system that informs costumers about the nutrient density of one particular food. A bottle of oil has so much more energy than nutrients, a broccoli is the complete opposite and a cucumber contains so much water it’s probably neither nor. But all three together is great.

And I believe a food labeling system is like when you try to set up colored signs for illiterates to make their life as easy as possible instead of actually teaching them how to read and write. 

Yes, learning how to eat balanced is a skill like learning how to read and write. I hope you know how small that reading and writing skill is. You use it to do other things instead. It was hard to learn but after mastering, it feels like it doesn’t exist. And it opens countless doors. You are able to receive and to produce information. Same with the balanced diet. Once you master it, you are able to identify a balanced menu at a restaurant and to compose it in a balanced meal to your own taste. 

I believe that skill, that knowledge is the key to solve the overweight pandemic. I call it wisdom of food providing.

I have one advice for you. The next time you go to the supermarket please read the labels. Only buy the food which ingredients you also can buy in a supermarket. If the food you choose contains something like soy protein isolate, wheat gluten, methyl cellulose, maltodextrin and many many other things you have no idea what it’s suppose to be, consider it a high processed or even ultra high processed food. 

High processed foods bring your diet out of balance. The goal of these products is to make the most out of nothing. So they contain a lot of water but also need a lot of substances to create texture and taste. Those filler substances are made of wheat, corn or soy and they are mostly sugars, basically energy. High processed food contains nutrients but very diluted, diluted with energy and water. 

I don’t think we should ban those products. But we have to choose wisely. We have to know how much is enough and what else to eat with it. That is knowledge, a skill we need. 

Try to read that: 栄養素密度. Try to learn how to read that. It’s Japanese. You probably feel overwhelmed. Try to read that: nutrient density. That’s no problem, right?

Don’t let this feeling of overwhelm and fear hold you back from mastering the skill of a healthy, balanced diet. It’s a nutrient density you want to establish in your diet to be slim, energetic, healthy, strong and to live as long as possible.


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