Fun Ways to Boost the Nutritional Value of Your Meals

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

May 10, 2021

Everybody needs to get nutrient rich vegetables in their diets.  It doesn’t matter which diet you’re on or which dietary lifestyle you’re operating on. Whether it’s omnivorous, carnivorous, vegetarian or vegan, you still need to have your vegetables.

So why not eat the ones that have the most nutrient density to get that two or three cups of veggies a day that your body needs?

Some plant-based foods are more nutritionally dense than others. We give them a score, called the nutritional density score, based on the balance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber in them.

So let’s say you have a salad made of iceberg lettuce, which has a nutritional density score of 18.2. That’s not horrible. It’s not great either.

But what would happen if you ate a spinach salad instead? The density score would jump over four-fold – to 86.4.

Add a little watercress, chard and parsley, and it skyrockets!

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Why the big difference?

Well, your iceberg lettuce is going to have some good things in it. Calcium, potassium, vitamin C and folate. A little vitamin A and vitamin K.

But your spinach? It has a much richer nutrient profile and in greater quantities. It’s got your vitamin A, K and C. It’s got your folate, iron and potassium. It has lutein and beta carotene. It’s high in antioxidants.

And watercress. It has a perfect nutritional density score of 100. It’s a real powerhouse. And you can easily add it to so many of your meals. It can go into soups, smoothies, wraps, sauces, dips and more.

Other foods with high density scores include your dark leafy greens, red bell peppers, carrots and cabbages.

Certain Food Combinations Increase Nutritional Value

While I’m cooking, I try my best to combine the right type of foods for each meal. This is key because some ingredients can actually boost the nutritional value of other foods when eaten together.

Take the spinach salad I mentioned above. I would also add some of my other favorite veggies, seeds, nuts and a small bit of a favorite organic cheese. Then I would top it all off with avocado.

I love eating avocado alone, but when you add it to a salad it reveals a super power. Avocado is a nutrient booster! The healthy fats in it increase your body’s ability to absorb beta carotenes by a factor of fifteen. Your lutein absorption also leaps by about five times.

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When you eat avocado with other fruits and vegetables, it will increase your absorption of any fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients in those foods, too. So enjoy more avocado with all your meals.

Olive oil is another nutrient booster. For example, combine extra virgin olive oil and tomatoes to magnify the amount of lycopene and carotene your body absorbs. And honestly… who doesn’t love a good marinara? When you add in garlic and onion, you get even more of a boost, because the olive oil helps release bioactive compounds in these allium vegetables

And what should you do on those days when you decide to treat yourself to some grass-fed beef for dinner?

Well, there’s a reason beef and marinades work so well together. And it’s not just because marinating adds flavor and tenderness.

When meats are cooked, they release cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). These compounds are linked to many types of cancer; including cancers of the breast, prostate, colon, pancreas and stomach.

But if you marinate your beef first, it can cut down on these risky chemicals.

Your best bet: Use extra virgin olive oil as your base. Then add in equal measures of garlic and onion… and about half that measure of lemon juice. This will reduce HCA production by about 70%.

You won’t Find this in a Pill

Remember, whatever comes from the earth, goes into the plant, and then into us.  It’s a brilliant system.

So when you eat those nutritionally dense foods… when you combine foods that complement each other, you are actually increasing the curative power behind them. Just don’t forget to buy organic produce from all colors of the rainbow.

All of these foods are high in antioxidants, promote a healthy gut microbiome, offer greater immune and anti-inflammatory support, help control blood sugar, boost your circulatory system and assist you in your weight loss efforts.

I’ll bet you won’t find a pill that will do all of that!


Di Noia J. Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables: A Nutrient Density Approach. Prev Chronic Dis. 2014;11:130390.

Unlu NZ, et al. Carotenoid absorption from salad and salsa by humans is enhanced by the addition of avocado or avocado oil. J Nutr. 2005 Mar;135(3):431-6.

Dreher ML, et al. Hass avocado composition and potential health effects. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2013;53(7):738-750.

Fielding JM, et al. Increases in plasma lycopene concentration after consumption of tomatoes cooked with olive oil. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2005;14(2):131-6.

Rinaldi de Alvarenga JF, et al. Using Extra Virgin Olive Oil to Cook Vegetables Enhances Polyphenol and Carotenoid Extractability: A Study Applying the sofrito Technique. Molecules. 2019;24(8):1555.

Gibis M. Effect of oil marinades with garlic, onion, and lemon juice on the formation of heterocyclic aromatic amines in fried beef patties. J Agric Food Chem. 2007;55(25):10240-10247.