The Nutrition Professor “Spills the Beans” about…
…making your calories count!
When you choose to incorporate legumes in your meals and snacks, you are using your calories wisely! In order for us to enjoy good health and control our weight, we need to consume nutrients that are vital for our cells to function optimally, without exceeding our “calorie budget’. That makes eating nutrient dense foods “the name of the game”! Nutrient dense foods provide an impressive amount of important micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients), along with a moderate amount of the macronutrients which give us calories (carbohydrate, protein and lipids). Some great examples of nutrient dense, whole foods that should form the base of our diet include colorful veggies and fruits, legumes and intact whole grains.
Legumes deserve special mention, because this family of beans and peas truly earns it’s superfood status. They provide an astonishing array of very important vitamins (thiamin, folic acid, niacin and Vitamin B6) and minerals (iron, potassium, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, calcium and zinc). They are also packed with hundred of phytonutrients, which are plant compounds that protect our cells from damage. These vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients support optimal blood pressure, blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels, strong red blood cells, a responsive immune system and more! Beans are also a heart-healthy and bone-protective source of protein, are naturally low in sodium and low in fat, cholesterol free, high in fiber, economical and super easy to prepare and enjoy!
Eat Smart Tip: If you have been struggling with your weight, the quality of the calories you are taking in might be much more important than you ever realized. You may be eating mostly calorie dense foods instead of nutrient dense foods. When you choose to eat foods that are high in calories and low in micronutrients, the calories add up ridiculously quickly, but because they are “empty”, your cells do not get all of the raw materials they need. Cravings can intensify, overeating will be the norm, and gradual weight gain will become a reality, all while your cells are malnourished!
Timaree Hagenburger, is a registered dietitian and certified health fitness specialist with a master’s degree in public health. She is a nutrition professor at Cosumnes River College, does corporate wellness work, as well as professional speaking engagements, is a featured monthly columnist for the Lodi News Sentinel, manages her resource-rich website (www.thenutritionprofessor.com) and teaches hands-on cooking/nutrition classes.