Columns

The Benefits of Nutrient-Dense Foods

By: Holly L. Thacker, MD • Posted on April 05, 2022

The Benefits of Nutrient-Dense Foods

How to Control Midlife Weight Gain

As we get older and head into midlife and beyond, our metabolism slows. Weight gain is the midlife woman's most common concern. Exercise with muscle building activities is key to keeping a healthy weight however selective, smart, nutritional strategies are a must!

Nutrient-dense foods are those that provide the biggest bang for the nutritional buck:

Healthy, nutrient-dense foods can easily be wrecked with excess fat, calories and sodium so please be choosy.

Stress Reducing Foods

Foods that reduce inflammation and promote a healthy metabolism help to reduce overall body stress.

    • B-complex vitamins - eggs, chicken, nutritional yeast, fortified cereals
    • Magnesium - pumpkin seeds, avocado, spinach, bananas, broccoli, dark chocolate
    • Omega-3 fats - chia seeds, walnuts, almonds, flax seed, avocado, tuna, salmon, olive oil
    • Gut healthy foods - Greek yogurt, kefir, kimichi, sauerkraut, kombucha tea
    • Herbs - cilantro and other herbs may help you feel less stressed
    • Gut healthy foods - are rich in probiotics and help keep a healthy microbiome
    • Foods that contain B complex - magnesium and Omega-3 essential fatty acids are important in cortisol metabolism and other neurotransmitter levels

    Sleep management and regular exercise are also important in managing cortisol levels and thus managing the dreaded midlife abdominal weight gain.

    Foods Lacking Nutrition Density

    Common culprits of foods that lack nutrition density that can wreck havoc with your health are:

    1. excessive alcohol
    2. sugar
    3. highly processed foods
    4. too much caffeine (some caffeine may be an energy boost)

    9 Nutrient-Dense Superstar Foods

    1. Kale

    It is not because Kale is trendy it is because for low calories it packs in Vitamin K, A, and C along with a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, potassium, copper and magnesium.

    Other leafy green superstar foods include mustard greens, Swiss chard, collard greens and watercress.

    2. Salmon

    Two servings of omega-3 rich fatty acids should be consumed weekly in food form. Salmon is one of the most nutrient-dense protein choices around. It is also an excellent source of potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, selenium and vitamin D.

    For those who do not like fish, try chia seeds and flax seeds which can be sprinkled on your Greek yogurt (and perhaps you can top that with our next superstar food -blueberries!)

    3. Blueberries

    Blueberries are high in fiber and an excellent source of vitamins C and K and manganese. Blueberries have a high antioxidant content which makes them a superfood. Chief among these antioxidants is anthocyanin, which protects the human body from cancer-inducing free radicals and offers anti-inflammatory and anti-viral benefits.

    4. Bok choy

    Bok choy (or Chinese Cabbage) is a fun stir-fry food that is very low in calories, but high in vitamins C and A, calcium, folate and Omega-3. You can shred bok choy and serve it with other vegetables or stir fry it with olive oil, garlic and ginger. Bok choy has an anti-oxidant called indole-3-carbinol.

    5. Legumes

    Legumes include beans, lentils and peas. Legumes are relatively low in calories compared to how much protein, fiber, B vitamins and minerals (such as iron, zinc, folate and magnesium) that they pack.

    6. Garlic

    Garlic not only helps spice up so many dishes but is high in vitamins C, B1 and B6, as well as calcium, potassium, copper, manganese and selenium. There are several anti-oxidants in garlic.

    7. Eggs

    Yes, whole eggs contain cholesterol but they are an excellent food protein and also contain choline. If you aren’t a fatty fish eater, then please note you can boost your fatty acid intake with Omega-3 enriched eggs. Omega-3 enriched eggs have as much as 3-5 times the amount of this essential fat than conventional eggs.

    8. Oysters

    Oysters are rich in zinc and one of the most nutritious of all the shellfish. They are very low in calories and an excellent source of protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12 and copper.

    9. Low fat dairy

    Milk (including lactose free varieties) contain whey protein, calcium and is usually fortified with vitamin D. Many adults give up drinking milk which can lead to inadequate calcium intake.

    Be Strong, Be Healthy, Be in Charge!

    -Holly L. Thacker MD

    Holly L. Thacker, MD, FACP is nationally known for her leadership in women’s health. She is the founder of the Cleveland Clinic Specialized Women’s Health Fellowship and is currently the Professor and Director of the Center for Specialized Women’s Health at Cleveland Clinic and Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Thacker is also the Executive Director of Speaking of Women’s Health and the author of The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Menopause. Her special interests and areas of research including menopause and related medical problems including osteoporosis, hormone therapy, breast cancer risk assessment, menstrual disorders, female sexual dysfunction and interdisciplinary women’s health.



    Related Articles