Anytime I've given the opportunity to discuss the importance of nutrient density, I jump at the chance to use one of my favorite analogies in defense of eating real food.
When it comes to the vitamin and mineral stores in our bodies, I like to think in terms of "nutrient bank accounts," meaning that for each nutrient, our body has a specific account set up for it. For instance, we have a "bank account" for Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and calcium.
Now, as we all are likely aware, when it comes to any type of bank account, we always want to be making deposits so that we are filling up the bank account as best that we can. Making withdrawals from the bank account isn't something that we like or want to do on a regular basis.
When it comes to making deposits into our nutrient bank accounts, by far (with very little competition by the way) real food wins every single time. Real food contains the most bioavailable form of nutrients in the perfect combinations too. Think of an egg - it has the perfect combination of all the nutrients in it contained in the right proportions from the yolk and the white. When we base our plate mainly around real food, we are consistently making deposits in our nutrient bank accounts. And when our nutrient bank accounts have high levels of nutrients, our body is at its healthiest. We ward off illness to a greater degree. We feel and sleep better. Our digestion improves, our skin looks amazing, and our mood is better too!
But, when we choose foods that are nutrient depleters, we are making withdrawals from our nutrient bank accounts. Now every now and then, this is fine, as real food will outweigh the nutrient poor foods, but when our diet is based around these foods more than 50% of the time, we aren't helping our nutrient bank accounts to grow. Foods that have been processed or packaged (grains, 100-calorie packs, bars, prepackaged shakes, fast food, etc) are some of the most offensive nutrient depleters. When we eat these foods, we must pull stored nutrients from our bank accounts to break down and digest these foods. Unfortunately, these foods don't add anything back to the bank accounts - they just make a huge withdrawal. When this is a consistent factor in our everyday life, our bank accounts never get a chance to get above 0 - sometimes, they even operate in the negative, which is not good on any level for our body.
However, it's not just poor food choices that can make withdrawals from our nutrient bank accounts. Chronic stress from work, too much exercise, too little exercise, family life, lack of sleep, environmental toxins, and other sources can lead to withdrawals from our nutrient bank accounts as well. Coupled with a nutrient-poor diet, these stressers can be catastrophic on the body.
What can we do about it? Unfortunately, the answer is NOT supplements - these artificial supplements aren't absorbed by the body in the same way that real food is. There is no comparison. Instead, we must aim to get 80-90% of our nutrients from food, making sure to get a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, animals foods, and healthy fats, along with tons of Vitamin D from any sunlight that we can get. When we base our template and lifestyle around these factors, our nutrient bank accounts increase, and we become our best and healthiest selves!