Have you ever looked at a bag of baby carrots, and wondered what makes them so different from those “100 calorie” snack bags advertised throughout the supermarket? Well, 100 calories of carrots is not “equal” to a 100-calorie pack of Oreos. Every day you see and hear ads for different foods plastered throughout the digital world insisting, “calories count”, so be sure to eat the 100-calorie snack packs, and drink Diet Coke. Yes calories count, but what matters so much more are the nutrients that come along with them- or lack thereof.
Plants take up nutrients from the soil. Then those plants- fruits, vegetables, and even herbs, serve as vessels for our bodies to take in these nutrients from the dirt. Everyone’s body needs an array of nutrients to conduct specific metabolic reactions in order to breath, speak, and live. If we aren’t able to reach the threshold of all the nutrients needed, we certainly won’t be in immediate critical danger. Our bodies are smart enough to have programmed certain mechanisms that will kick into gear in case we become low on certain nutrients. For example, if you’re low on calcium, your body may suction a small amount of calcium from your bones to continue the use of nerve signaling. If you’re low on biotin (B-vitamin), your body will use what it has for the important function of energy production and sacrifice providing it to bright eyes, shiny hair, and long nails. There are millions of reactions that happen inside of us everyday. Heck- we have about 37 trillion cells in our body that take part in these reactions! Food is just one special part that provides the tools necessary for us to make these reactions happen. What you eat matters.
In the modern world of instant meals and quick fixes, some may mistake multivitamins as a way to make up for not consuming a healthy, well rounded diet. Of course vitamins and minerals are essential for your body. If your care-provider prescribes certain substances that you need, by all means take them! However, it is also important to obtain nutrients through real foods. By “real foods” I mean food that has been offered by nature, not by a machine. Fruits and vegetables, for example, have countless other nutrients that are beneficial to the body, as well as compounds that help your body extract those nutrients. Whereas food that has been made in a factory, such as Captain Crunch, may contain iron and vitamin A, but it does not deliver the same capacity of phytonutrients to your body as spinach would.
What’s incredible about nature is that it has already set up an easy way to recognize the different nutrients a fruit or vegetable may offer. Different colors of fruits and vegetables correlate to different nutrients offered by that food. (If you’re at all curious about the nutrient capacity, The Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) is a nice list to glance at!) Many foods are actually denser in nutrients than they are in calories! However, a good diet is a balanced one. Just because collard greens score the maximum of 1000 points on the ANDI scale does not mean that is the only thing you should ever eat. (A collard-green only lifestyle is boring anyway!) Mixing up your diet with foods of various nutrient densities is crucial for balanced health.
So that bag of baby carrots offers your body an enormity of nourishment, with a smaller amount of calories. A 100-calorie snack pack of pretzels or cookies offers you a high amount of calories, with little to no nourishment. This does not make either food “bad” or “good,” they’re simply different. There is no “one-size fits all” lifestyle. What is important is to try new foods and venture out into nutrient diversity. You never know what a new food can do for you!
Images: Instagram- @Naturally_LT