Bowl of spaghetti squash nutrient density

Nutritional value of spaghetti squash? 5 Diet Hacks

What do these phrases mean to you?

  • High ROI (or return on your investment)
  • More bang for your buck
  • Price/performance ratio
  • Value proposition
  • More bounce for the ounce

More than likely, you thought of financial portfolios or investment strategies.

And although that could be true, these same principles can be applied to how you approach your nutrition and health. The types of foods that you take in daily become the currency in your body’s economy.

For example, when you make choices to fuel your body with foods that have a high nutrient density you are optimizing your diet and therefore making an investment in your overall health.

In the financial world the investments that are not on everyone’s radar sometimes prove to be most beneficial.

For the nutrition world, here is a list of 5 “not-on-your-radar” foods that are chocked full of vitamins and health benefits. Swap out less nutrient-rich options for any of these quality choices and get more bang for your buck in your daily diet.

Nutrient rich foods invest in health

1) Cash In On the Nutritional Value of Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash with shrimp omega 3
Spaghettti squash has lower calories

If you are a noodle-lover – and most Americans are – you may have felt that your preference for pasta does not fall in sync with your weight-loss goals.

An alternative to that big bowl of pasta is a vegetable that, once cooked, resembles spaghetti in looks, taste, and versatility. However, its nutritional value varies greatly from the typical white spaghetti.

Take a look at these stats:

Food 1 cup Calories Carbs Fiber
Enriched Spaghetti: 220 cals 42 grams 2 grams
Spaghetti Squash: 42 cals 10 grams 2 grams

If you are looking for a higher ROI, consider how spaghetti squash outperforms regular pasta by a longshot:

  • Rich in vitamins A, B, and C – which all help protect cell function and prevent cell damage. What could that mean for you? One practical benefit is protecting against age-related cognitive decline.(1)
  • A great source of Omega 3’s which help guard against heart disease, chronic inflammation, and some types of cancer.(2)

How-to: Here are some great ways to add Spaghetti Squash to your diet.

  • Serve eggs (cooked the way you prefer) with diced up avocado on a bed of spaghetti squash (can be cooked the night before), topped with salsa.
  • Make a vegetable hash brown by taking cooked shredded squash, a little oil to make small cakes, your favorite seasoning, and then fry in a pan. They come out crispy and delicious and serve up great next to eggs and turkey bacon.
  • Place sauteed mushrooms, cut up chives, and small grape tomatoes on a bed of cooked spaghetti squash, then pour a small amount of olive oil, salt, and pepper on it to taste.

2) Cacao Nibs – A Chocolate Lover’s Greatest Asset

Forms of cacao nibs on table high antioxidant
Enjoy raw cacao with positive effects on mood

So often we associate healthy choices with giving up on our favorite treats. However, cacao nibs are actually the source of one of our most popular indulgences – chocolate. Admittedly, the raw, organic cacao doesn’t taste quite like its milk chocolate version, but the numerous health benefits should cause you to consider acquiring a taste for them.

Epicatechin is the magical compound in the cacao bean that is responsible for some pretty amazing health benefits. Dark chocolate with the least amount of processing (and therefore higher percentage of pure cocoa) has the most epicatechin and therefore gives you a bit more “bounce for the ounce.”

Check out these research-backed gains you can receive from eating cacao nibs:

  • Positive effects on mood (3)
  • Preserving cognitive function and lowering risk of Alzheimer’s Disease (3)
  • High antioxidant content protecting against free radical damage which is a major contributor to many diseases (4)
  • Has a large amount of iron – so protects against anemia
  • Fiber in raw cacao fills you up faster and may be an effective, healthy treat when you are dieting
Raw cacao nibs on top of green protein smoothie
Fiber in raw cacao fills you up faster

Be sure to note that typical milk chocolate candy bars do not contain the same amount of health producing compounds as the raw cacao nibs or dark chocolate bars with high percentages of cocoa. In addition, they are usually processed with a lot of sugar and additives, which can outweigh the value you receive from the cacao.

How-to: Here are some ways to enjoy raw cacao nibs:

  • Add to your protein smoothie
  • Sprinkle a handful in your trail mix
  • Drop a small amount in your morning oatmeal
  • Include in your granola bar recipe
  • Sprinkle onto a small bowl of fruit

3) Wakame Seaweed – a High-Value Proposition for Your Health

Bowl of wakame seaweed disease-fighting compounds
Wakame seaweed boasts high levels of folate

If you view your health as an investment to protect, then you know that it calls for purposeful nutrition. Foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting compounds are worth seeking out.

Wakame seaweed is a perfect example. It boasts high levels of folate, B2 and manganese. In addition, it has some unique proteins that are not found in terrestrial food sources, and is a great way to supply you with Omega 3’s.

The nutritional boost you gain from one serving of this seaweed comes at the cost of only 45 calories, 3 grams of protein, 1 gram of sugar and 9 grams of carbs.

Studies indicate that it can provide several important health benefits:(5)

  • Antiviral
  • Anticancer
  • Anticoagulant
  • Improves gut health
  • Positively impacts risk factors for diabetes
  • Aids in weight loss
  • Balances hormones (6)
Bowl of wakame seaweed improve gut health
“Positively impacts risk factors for diabetes
with wakame seaweed”

If you have never cooked or used Wakame seaweed, you will be happy to know that it is fairly easy to incorporate into your daily menu. It is often sold in its dried version and needs to be rehydrated – which is as simple as soaking in water for 30 minutes. Even a child can prepare wakame salad as it does not need to be cooked to enjoy.

How-to: Here are some easy ways to enjoy this salty, slightly sweet seaweed:

  • Add to a vegetable stir-fry
  • Place in soups, stews, and chilis
  • Use when making homemade sushi
  • Make a Wakame salad with olive oil, vinegar, sesame seeds and cranberries

4) Sweet Potatoes – A Higher Rate of Return than White Potatoes

The bright orange goodness inside the sweet potato pays big dividends to your health, especially when compared to the white potato:

  • It has a lower glycemic index, making it a better option for stabilizing blood sugar levels.
  • It is also a gluten free choice that is jam-packed with vitamins A, B6, and C.
  • High in potassium, it helps to regulate blood pressure.
  • Studies have even found it to have some anticancer effects.(7)

Most of us have experienced a sweet potato casserole at Thanksgiving, but there are other ways to enjoy this vegetable without the added sugar. They can be easily baked, boiled or roasted.

Gluten free plate of sweet potatoe fries
Anticancer effects found within sweet potatoes

How-to: Any recipe that calls for potatoes can usually use sweet potatoes as a healthier substitute.

  • Dice and roast sweet potatoes in a cooking pan with other healthy vegetables such as broccoli, peppers, onions, and squash. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle seasonings.
  • Cut up and bake as you would other french fries. Sprinkle with cilantro for a fresh taste.
  • Use in soups and stews.
  • Replace half the white potatoes in your potato salad recipe with sweet potatoes.

5) Profit From the Maca Root

Maca root and powder superfood improved energy
Maca powder can help with horomone balance

Out of the 5 nutrient dense foods listed here, maca root is most likely the one you have never heard of. However, it has been used for thousands of years in a medicinal capacity in the Andes Mountains.

Usually used in powder form this vegetable root is a true “superfood.” Historically it has had multiple uses:

  • Enhanced fertility
  • Improved energy
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Anemia
  • As an aphrodisiac
  • Help with migraines
  • Mental clarity
  • Stress relief
  • As a laxative

Certainly, it seems to have a positive effect on several aspects of hormones and keeping a balance in the areas of fertility, sexual function, energy and stamina.(8)

Like the others in this list, Maca Root is high in antioxidants and so provides immune protection against several diseases.

How-to: Generally it is good to start with 1 tablespoon of Maca Root powder a day. However, because it has the ability to improve energy, many people work up to 2 – 3 tablespoons daily, and often take before exercising. Add it to these foods:

  • Smoothies
  • Oatmeal
  • Cereals
  • Greek yogurt

Something to Think About

Mature woman eating a nutrient rich salad impact body weight
Salad fuels and nourishes the body

If you were given a finite sum of money would you choose to use proven strategies to protect and invest it or would you carelessly allow it to blow out the window? The answer seems obvious, and yet we don’t always take the same care with our bodies.

Every day we have the power to choose how we will fuel and nourish our body. Those choices directly impact our energy levels, long-term health, body weight, and mood.

Choosing the most nutrient-rich foods just seems like a no-brainer. Start with one change and invest in your good health.

We would love to hear how you plan to make better choices. Share below a recent success or a new goal.

Steve Sisskind, M.D.

Hi, I'm Dr. Steve Sisskind, Chief Medical Officer & Founder at RealDose Nutrition.

As a young physician, I struggled because my patients came to me with serious health issues, but I didn't have the right tools to help them. Medical school taught me how to put "band aids" on their symptoms with drugs and surgery, but not how to address the root causes of their problems.

Years later I discovered a better approach... based on the fundamental idea that the power of nutrition can transform your health and vitality. But there's a lot of confusion... What foods should I eat? Which supplements should I take? What does the science say?

I have dedicated my life to answering these questions... And I share this knowledge with you every day here at RealDose Nutrition.

I invite you to connect with me by joining my free private community. I've helped thousands of people and I know I can help you too!

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References:1) Shailja, Chambial and Shailendra, Dwivedi and Kamla,Shukla Kant and Placheril, John J and Praveen, Sharma (2013) Vitamin C in Disease Prevention and Cure: An Overview. Retrieved from

2) Fabian, Carol J and Kimler, Bruce F and Hursting, Stephen D (2015) Omega-3 fatty acids for breast cancer prevention and survivorship. Retrieved from

3) Nehlig, Astrid (2013) The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance. Retrieved from

4) Higginbotham, E and Taub, PR (2015) Cardiovascular Benefits of Dark Chocolate? Retrieved from

5) Brown, ES and Allsopp, PJ and Magee, PJ and Gill, CI and Nitecki, S and Strain, CR and McSorley, EM (2014) Seaweed and human health. Retrieved from

6) Penland, JG and Johnson, PE (1993) Dietary calcium and manganese effects on menstrual cycle symptoms. Retrieved from

7) Li, PG and Mu, TH and Deng, L (2013) Anticancer effects of sweet potato protein on human colorectal cancer cells. Retrieved from

8) Meissner, H.O. and Mrozikiewicz, P and Bobkiewicz-Koslowska, T and Mscisz, A and Kedzia, B and Lowicka, A and Reich-Bilinska, H and Kapczynski, W and Barchia, I (2006) Hormone-Balancing Effect of Pre-Gelatinized Organic Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon): (I) Biochemical and Pharmacodynamic Study on Maca using Clinical Laboratory Model on Ovariectomized Rats. Retrieved from

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