Everyone is aware of nutrition—and the importance of the World's Healthiest Foods to provide us with nourishment. But we don't always stop and think about what nourishment actually means.
Many people have the misconception that nourishment simply means "getting the proper quantity of nutrients." They don't necessarily think that the source of the nutrients matters; from this perspective, they think that it wouldn't matter whether they got them in a powdered breakfast drink; or a highly-processed, breakfast cereal that had been fortified with vitamins and minerals; or a vitamin supplement. As long as they got the quantity that you needed, the thought is that their body would be provided with nourishment.
Yet, nutritional research shows nourishment to require something quite different.
Nourishment starts with the nature of our digestive system. And there is an important rhyme and reason to the way our digestive tract works!
While dozens and dozens of nutrients are needed for optimal health, and we can easily swallow dozens and dozens of nutrients from a single multivitamin tablet, when we take this nutrient supplement approach, we are bypassing the very functions that our digestive tract was designed to perform. For each of the many nutrients that our body needs, there are select places in our digestive system designed for absorption of that particular nutrient. In addition, nutrients are typically absorbed not in isolated form but in modified forms that rely heavily on digestive tract metabolism. In recent years, scientists have learned more and more about the remarkable importance of nutrient metabolism in the lower half of our digestive system (large intestine) where bacteria play a major role. Therefore, the only way we can take full advantage of our digestive system design is to start off with whole, nutrient-rich foods.
At some point or other, most of us have been told to do a better job chewing our food. But we might not have thought about the critical role of chewing in nourishment. Chewing is like the opening act in a drama we call nourishment. Everything that follows must come together according to this initial event. Relaxed, enjoyment of the World's Healthiest Foods at a sit-down meal with plenty of time for chewing and savoring the unique textures and flavors of these foods is a critical part of nourishment. When we skip this step, we're not just robbing ourselves of some luxury in life. We're robbing ourselves of nourishment. People ask us why we take the time to cook from scratch with the World's Healthiest Foods rather than relying on processed ingredients. Our answer is simple: we don't want to rob ourselves of nourishment!
We realize that there are an endless number of eating approaches, each with its own particular roadmap. And far too often we hear from readers who have tried every possible way of eating, without lasting success. Our World's Healthiest Foods Meal Plan is not designed to be a "diet." It's a natural way of eating that focuses on the World Healthiest Foods. We did not develop this meal plan based on some little-known discovery about nourishment, or some unusual theory about metabolism. We developed it based on widespread and well-known research about foods and food groups, the way foods grow, the way digestion works, and the way all of these factors interact to change our risk of health problems.
In our Introduction to The World's Healthiest Foods Meal Plan, we pointed out the importance of nutrient-richness in our approach to healthy eating. Since this concept is so very central to our approach, it's worth reiterating here. Nutrient-richness refers to the amount of particular nutrients (such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, or omega-3 fatty acids) that are provided by the World's Healthiest Foods in relationship to their caloric value. When a food is overflowing with nutrients, yet contributes very little to our daily caloric intake, we describe it as nutrient-rich. By basing The World's Healthiest Foods Meal Plan on foods that will provide you with the most nutrients for the fewest calories, we can make sure that you will be getting the greatest nutritional bang for your caloric buck. It's their superlative nutrient-richness that puts vegetables front and center in our meal plan. We cannot find a food group that rivals vegetables in terms of nutrient-richness, and that is why you will find our meal plan averaging 8 cups of easy-to-prepare and great-tasting vegetables per day.
Just as optimal nourishment can only come from a way of eating that respects the nature of food itself as well as the nature of our digestive system, it also requires a way of selecting, storing, preparing, and cooking food that respects its nutrient-richness. Nutrient-richness is so important for preserving optimal health! As a way of helping to preserve nutrient-richness, all of the recipes in our meal plan make use of minimal heat and minimal cooking times. And, of course, you will also find ample use of fresh, uncooked foods in The World's Healthiest Foods Meal Plan. In addition, our specific cooking methods (involving choices like steaming versus boiling) have always been chosen with nutrient-richness in mind.
Nourishment requires far more than ingestion of nutrients in a quantity that is adequate. Nourishment requires us to step into the amazing world of the World's Healthiest Foods, with their delightful colors, shapes, and sizes as well as the rich aromas and flavors that they provide for us when cooked in a healthy way. The World's Healthiest Foods that we eat each day may be the single most important influence on our health! Our World's Healthiest Foods Meal Plan places its trust the nutrient-richness of the World's Healthiest Foods and the way that nutrient-richness can work to provide us with optimal nourishment in a potentially life-changing way.