The Power Of Nutrient Dense Foods

by SwimSwam Contributors 2

March 29th, 2017 Lifestyle

By Anita Nall Richesson, Olympian & Nutritionist

When it comes to athletes and food, eating for increased energy, power, stamina and optimal recovery time is the goal. Nutrient dense foods, along with nutrient timing are the keys to making that happen. Nutrient dense foods are foods that are packed full of nutrients, rich in vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Folic Acid, Essential Fatty Acids and Magnesium. They also give you the most nutrients for the fewest calories making it easy to eat plenty of food and stay lean at the same time.

The best way to ensure you are eating nutrient dense foods is to choose whole over processed foods whenever possible. In other words, a potato is going to be significantly richer in vitamins than French fries and an orange is going to give you a better sustained energy release than orange juice. Pre-packaged and bagged food will be void of the variety of nutrients found in fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds.

Here are some of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet that you can start incorporating into your diet today.

Kale & Other Greens
Bone Broth
Cruciferous Vegetables (Cabbage & Brussels Sprouts)
Salmon (Wild Caught)

The following is a chart of foods and how they rank on the nutrient density scale.

On the flip side, if you are an athlete who struggles to keep weight on, you’ll want to fill up on nutrient dense foods that are also calorie dense. So, in other words, healthy foods that are packed full of calories. Some good examples of these food combinations are peanut butter and banana on a bagel and trail mix with dried fruit. Avocado with rice and beans is another great calorie dense combination that is also nutrient dense.

Athletes struggling to maintain weight are often told to just eat anything in an attempt to get their calories in, leaving the athlete feeling sluggish and heavy from all the nutrient void foods. In order to avoid feeling sluggish and heavy but still gain weight, try the above mentioned food combination as well as some of these foods; coconut, hummus, nuts and seeds like macadamia and walnuts, dried dates, whole eggs and sweet potatoes.

If you are looking for that extra kick in your performance, consider increasing your nutrient dense foods. Placing an emphasis on high food quality with increased vitamin and mineral intake will give you more energy and help your body recover quicker. It could be the best performance enhancer around.

Anita Nall Richesson Biography

Olympian, Nutritionist, Life Coach & Wellness Expert

Setting the swimming world ablaze at the young age of fifteen with 2

Courtesy of Anita Nall Richesson

world records in one day propelled Anita into the fast lane of success. After swimming for the cycle (gold, silver, and bronze) in the 1992 Olympic Summer Games in Barcelona, many health challenges hampered her attempts at returning to an Olympic level.

Challenged by a series of “mystery illnesses” that lasted a decade after the Olympics, Anita rediscovered health through food. Traditional medicine’s failed healing attempts drove her towards a personal quest for wellness and a passionate understanding of the healing power of food. Her profound experiences with illness, healing and professional athletics have given her a unique perspective she shares with clients.

After completing her undergraduate degree in Communications and Spanish from Arizona State University she pursued holistic nutrition education at Southwest Institute of Healing Arts in Tempe, Arizona. Anita is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Specialist, Life Coach and accomplished motivational speaker. Anita is also an elite member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame. She completed 3 NFL seasons as Nutrition Consultant for the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL Football Team and works with various elite professional athletes including UFC fighters, boxers & world-class swimmers around the country. She writes nutrition & wellness articles for various groups and recently began an empowerment program for teenage female athletes that centers around motivation, nutrition & increased self-esteem.

Read the following articles to learn more about Anita:


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Coach Broseph
3 years ago

Love the article! Anything to help get swimmers and endurance athletes away from the carb loading mindset that is full of holes like swiss cheese.

Garret Webber Gale was doing some good articles back when I used to get the Splash magazine USA Swimming was putting out. Maybe we need a Swim-Swam chef weekly post haha.

3 years ago

Thanks for the thoughts on maintaining weight. I’ve ramped up my yardage as I train for a long open water swim this summer. As a result, I’ve lost 3% of my body weight at a time when I need to be adding insulation.