When it comes to our health, nothing is more important than a strong nutritional foundation. There are five nutritional foundations for optimal health but without a properly prepared nutrient-dense whole food diet, we struggle with our health.
We see the effects of these struggles not just in the size of our jeans, but in the rising cost of healthcare and the staggering rate of chronic illness. Nutrition is more important than ever and it starts by building a nutrient-dense kitchen.
There are three major topics to address when building a nutrient-dense kitchen: sourcing, preparation, and kitchen tools. Let's walk through these together.
Sourcing Quality, Local, Sustainable Food
We live in a convenience first culture, and it's killing us. Convenience has consequences. Cheap and easy food is cheap and easy to produce and manufacture and thus, it's void of nutrients and hard on the environment and our health.
Most people seem to understand that processed food is really not good for us. Anything that comes in a box or bag is generally not nutrient-dense. Whole foods are the most nutrient-dense options. But, it doesn't help that our labeling system here in the US is really complicated. Some labeling is regulated while others are not and marketing messages can be confusing so even good quality whole foods can be difficult to source.
What to Look For
Let's keep things as simple as possible. The best way to go is to stick to fresh whole food and look for organic produce and pastured animal products.
The organic seal means the food was produced without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides. These chemicals can still be used, but they have to be derived from natural sources. So make sure and wash your organic produce as well!
Animal products that are organic, grass-fed and finished, or pastured are the labels you're looking for. These animals have spent their entire life in the pasture and their meat, eggs, and dairy products are the cleanest options on the market.
If you're able to source from local farms and CSA's then you'll get the most nutrient-dense options in keeping with the seasons. Produce is the most nutrient-dense when it is ripe and in-season.
Proper Preparation for Optimal Nutrient Density
Now that you've figured out how to source the best quality foods available to you, it's important to learn how to properly prepare it to get the most bang for your buck nutritionally.
Most home cooks are familiar with cooking techniques like baking, roasting, sauteing, and steaming. These techniques should form the foundations of cooking at home. But some plant foods require additional treatments prior to cooking to unlock their nutritional value.
Specifically grains, pulses, nuts, and seeds contain phytate, which binds to the nutrients in these foods and prevents us from absorbing them. These foods require soaking or sprouting to break the chemical bonds between the phytate and the vitamins and minerals in the food.
We can also benefit from fermenting some vegetables, which adds to their nutritional impact.
Healthier Cookware and Food Storage Options
Your cookware and food storage containers are way more important than you may think. These tools can contaminate your food with chemicals and heavy metals if you're not careful.
Skip the non-stick tephlon and instead, opt for stainless steel, cast iron, or ceramic pots and pans. These will not leach heavy metals or chemicals into your food.
Choose stainless steel or wooden utensils like spatulas, serving spoons, tongs, etc.
Choose glass or metal for storing food over the plastic to avoid xenoestrogens and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
There you have it, a quick walk-through of the basics of building a nutrient-dense kitchen.
USDA. (2016, September). Food safety and inspection service: Labeling guidelines on documentation needed to substantiate animal raising claims for label submissions. Retrieved from U.S. Department of Agriculture: https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/6fe3cd56-6809-4239-b7a2-bccb82a30588/RaisingClaims.pdf?MOD=AJPERES
Steele, E. M., Popkin, B. M., Swinburn, B., & Monteiro, C. A. (2017, February 14). The share of ultra-processed foods and the overall nutritional quality of diets in the US: evidence from a nationally representative cross-sectional study. doi:hJps://doi.org/10.1186/s12963-017-0119-3
Ballantyne (2017). Paleo Principles. Auberry, California: Victory Belt Publishing