What is nutrient density?
Nutrient density is defined as the ratio of nutrients to calories. Let’s break this down.
What are macronutrients?
Some of you may know the term “macros”. Macro is short for macronutrient. There are four:
- water (yes, water is a macronutrient)
How are macronutrients measured?
Macro means big, so macronutrients are large nutrients! These nutrients (other than water) are measured in GRAMS and they provide energy which we refer to as CALORIES.
However, in the definition of nutrient density, macros matter less, and micronutrients become more important.
What are micronutrients?
Micronutrients are simply small vitamins and minerals and, in some cases, we can also include things like fiber or phytonutrients. We can think of them as the "small stuff" that all work together to keep us healthy!
How are micronutrients measured?
These nutrients are quantified in milligrams (mg, which is equal to one thousandth of a gram) and micrograms (mcg, which equals one thousandth of a milligram!). For example, Potassium is counted in mg, and Vitamin D is calculated in mcg. We require much fewer of these types of molecules compared to the macronutrients!
Formula for Nutrient Density
Do you understand the distinction between macro- and micronutrients? Let's recap the meaning of nutrient density: it is the ratio of micronutrients to macronutrients. In simpler terms, nutrient density is just the level of micronutrients within food.
Which foods have high nutrient density?
Check the picture to see the top foods for nutrient density:
- Liver (beef and chicken)
- Leafy greens, like kale, collards, spinach, watercress
- Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts
- Exotic berries like acai, goji
- Red, yellow, green and orange bell peppers
- Carrots and parsnips
- Parsley, coriander, basil and other herbs
- Berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
- Wild salmon
- Bone broth
- Grass-fed beef
- Green beans
- Egg yolks
- Wild mushrooms
- Seeds: pumpkin, sunflower, chia and flax
- Raw cheese and kefir
- Sweet potatoes
- Black beans
- Wild rice
Why increase nutrient density?
Eating a balanced diet to ensure your health is essential. Vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals are all key components of our bodily processes. Ensuring we get enough of these every day can help keep our bodies functioning optimally, reduce the risks of chronic illnesses, and boost performance in physical, mental, and emotional activities.
The moral of the story: eat your vegetables and fruits!