“Your future health can be predicted by the nutrient density of your diet.” – Joel Fuhrman
The thing about the Autoimmune Protocol – or any healthy approach to eating – is that is just as much about what you add to your diet as it is about what you remove. When you start out down this rabbit-hole, it’s very easy to focus on all the things you are no longer able to eat. In the process, you can lose sight of all the things you can, and should, be adding.
Focusing on adding nutrients is a paradigm shift for many of my clients – they tell me it has been useful for them in managing feelings of deprivation.
So, here’s my ‘starter’ list of 9 ways to add nutrient density… Let me know what you think?
1. Add at least one more vegetable to every meal
“The power of healing is within you. All you need to do is give your body what it needs and remove what is poisoning it. You can restore your own health by what you do – not by the pills you take, but by how you choose to live.”
― Terry Wahls, MD
Dr Terry Wahls* is well known for her recommendation of nine cups per day. It’s a pretty good goal – and, nine cups is an awful lot of veggies if you’re not an avid veggie fan. She advises you break your veggie eating down into the following:
3 cups of leafy greens: Includes kale, arugula, beet greens, chard, collard greens, lettuce, spinach. (Excellent sources of vitamins A, C, K, and B.)
3 cups of colours: Includes avocado, celery, beets, cherries, blueberries, olives, plums, carrots, mango, squash (Bright colours are an indication of high levels of antioxidants.)
3 cups of sulfur rich: Includes the entire cabbage family, mushrooms, and the onion family. (Sulfur supports the liver in detoxification and is important for synthesizing protein and producing collagen.)
Let’s face it – nine cups is a lot! If you’re a newbie at eating this many vegetable in a day – every day – why not set yourself a goal of adding just one more vegetable to every meal.
And, while you’re at it, how about making a game of adding a vegetable you’ve never tried before to your diet every week? Who knows – perhaps kohlrabi will become your new favourite? Maybe celeriac will trump potatoes for you?
*We interviewed Dr Wahls on our Healing Protocols podcast. It was a great episode. Check out all the deets here.
2. Make Seaweed Salt
Sea vegetables grow in the world’s largest, oldest, most complete mineral bath. As a result, they are among the richest sources of iodine, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, manganese, and other minerals essential to the human body.
And, while I know that eating more sea veggies are good for me, I am guilty of forgetting to eat them. So, I add them to bone broth, include them in my homemade fermented vegetables and make seasweed salt!
Making your own seaweed salt could not be easier. All you need is some good sea salt and some dried sea vegetables – like dulse, nori, wakame or kombu. For every 1/4 cup of salt, you’ll need 2 teaspoons of your seaweed-of-choice. Throw your two ingredients into your mortar and pestle and give it a good mixing before storing in an airtight container.
Bonus – seaweed counts towards your daily vegetable goals!
3. Experiment with liver pâté
Liver is widely recognised as one of nature’s superfoods.
The Weston A Price organisation has this to say about liver: –
Liver contains more nutrients, gram for gram, than any other food. It provides:
– An excellent source of high-quality protein
– Nature’s most concentrated source of vitamin A
– All the B vitamins in abundance, particularly vitamin B12
– One of our best sources of folic acid
– A highly usable form of iron
– Trace elements such as copper, zinc and chromium; liver is our best source of copper
– An unidentified anti-fatigue factor
– CoQ10, a nutrient that is especially important for cardio-vascular function
– A good source of purines, nitrogen-containing compounds that serve as precursors for DNA and RNA.
Unfortunately, despite its nutrient dense profile, not everybody finds liver the most palatable of foods. But I’m here to tell you that eating more liver is one of the very best ways you can add nutrients to your diet.
Arguably, one of the easiest ways to eat this not-so-universally loved ingredient is in liver pâté. I grew up on My Mum’s Chicken Liver Pâté (and it remains my favourite way to eat it) but, if you’re after a few more options, check out this post – The GREAT Liver Pâté Round Up.
Finding a pâté recipe that you actually enjoy eating is a great way to ensure you’re maxing your nutrient density. And – small hint – liver pâté tastes fantastic on apple slices!
4. Create a signature ‘green sauce’
I’m a massive fan of the green sauce – that lovely herb-filled number with a myriad of uses.
It seems I’m not alone in this. The Italian’s call it salsa verde. So do the Spanish. The French call it sauce verte. The German version is either Grüne Soße or Frankfurter Grie Soß.
Whatever you call this little number, it’s a great way to add nutrient density to your plate. It’s chock-full of anti-oxidant containing herbs. It lifts the most simple of grilled meats or fish, and it tastes great over simple roast veggies, too.
I have a wee post on How to Make Green Sauce, if you’re feeling experimental (although, at last count, I had a further SIX green sauce permutations in my recipe archives! I really love green sauce!)
5. Have a homemade salad dressing recipe (from memory) up your sleeve
I’m pretty fast and loose with my salad dressings. But, I do follow this basic principle:
A classic vinaigrette-style dressing has a ratio of 1 part vinegar or other acid (like lemon or lime juice) to 3 parts oil (like olive or avocado). This ratio will give you a well-balanced taste.
To make 1 cup of the simplest AIP-friendly dressing, just pop 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil and 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar into a small jar. Add a generous pinch of salt. Pop on the lid (and double check that it is properly airtight!) before shaking vigorously. Check the taste and you’re away. It’s that simple!
Of course, you can add optional extras to lift your homemade dressing even further. Fresh pepper, if successfully reintroduced, is a no brainer.
Other options are:
- minced garlic
- minced shallot
- chopped fresh herbs
- dried herbs
- a small spoon of honey or sugar
- mustard (if seed spices have been successfully reintroduced.)
Once you start making your own salad dressings, you’ll never go back to store bought.
And, don’t even get me started on homemade mayonnaise!
If you’re after a seriously comprehensive list of AIP-friendly dressings to get your creative juices going, check out this post from Provinical Paleo.
6. Cook once to eat twice (or thrice!)
You already know that this is my mantra! I’m one of those lucky people who enjoys pottering around in my kitchen. But, even I don’t want to spend endless hours cooking meals from scratch every day…
My answer is to cook once to eat twice (or even, thrice)!
I often double my slow cook recipes. I can squeeze two generous pieces of brisket or five very large lamb shanks into my le Creuset dutch oven. That means I have the protein element of 3, or even 4 meals, for the two of us sorted. And, it makes life so much easier!
When I’m roasting my vegetables, I make a h u g e tray – enough to last me a few days. I’ll eat these re-heated with some leftover protein, happy fat and fermented veggies for breakfast or cold as part of a salad. They are good as an extra serve of veggies on a pureed soup in the winter, too
7. Make friends with your local farmer(s)
Here in Sydney, we are lucky to have access to a wonderful array of farmers’ markets. Long before I started my personal AIP health caper, heading to my preferred market was one of the highlights of my week. It still is.
I now get twitchy if I miss a Saturday morning at the markets. It’s where I catch up with the farmers and providores and learn about what’s happening in my local region. I love it.
Lauren and Greg (and Lola!) from Linga Longa Farm have become friends. So has George (and his family) at Farmer George Lamb. And, don’t let me forget Beth at Burrawong Gaian Poultry or Sally from Holbrook Paddock Eggs , too. Kurrawong Organics sells the best local and organic vegetables – and I know it’s all seasonal and free of nasties.
My weekly market expedition gives me opportunities to try new cuts of meat and previously un-tried types of vegetables. We share ideas – Lauren is making wonderful bone broth as a result of our weekly chats (and selling it!). Making friends with my local farmers allows me to feel connected to my community in a way that I would never experience at my local supermarket and, I have the added benefit of trusting that the product I am buying is good for me, too.
8. Make nutrient density your (new) hobby
There are oodles of options to consider when considering a new ‘nutrient dense’ hobby. And, the best thing about this option is that it will probably end up saving you money, too.
One thing about this way of life is that it takes time. This has been a good thing for me – it has meant slowing things down. Often, nutrient dense foods take time – nature doesn’t rush. So, making nutrient density your hoby has other, unexpected health benefits, too.
If you are (still) following a strict AIP elimination diet, consider these options:
- shop at your local farmers’ maket
- start a herb garden
- grow your own vegetables
- Ferment your vegetables
- Make your own kombucha. My buddy Eileen from Phoenix Helix has a whole series dedicated to the mighty ‘buch!
- Make your own additive-free coconut yogurt
- prepare your own seasoned salts (see above for my seaweed salt number)
9. Use your freezer wisely
Of course your freezer can be used for storing your animal protein after the market shop for the week – but, with a little planning, it has lots of other uses, too.
- Things like cauliflower rice, pureed roasted pumpkin and nightshade-free Tomato Passata Replacement can be prepared in bulk and frozen into portion sizes ready to defrost in no time at all.
- Freeze your in-season leafy greens: Pick up a BIG haul of in-season organic leafy greens (like chard, kale or spinach). Using your blender, blend up your greens with a little water to help it along. Once it’s blended, pour it into a muffin tray and let it sit in the freezer until fully frozen. Once they’re frozen, pop them out of the muffin tray and store them in a container. Great for smoothies and soups.
- Use leftover herbs and spices to make flavour bombs. These babies are one of my preferred ways to add nutrients to my meals.