Understand Nutrient Density for a Healthier Diet


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:

  1. carbohydrates
  2. fats
  3. proteins
  4. 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:

  1. Seaweeds
  2. Liver (beef and chicken)
  3. Leafy greens, like kale, collards, spinach, watercress
  4. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts
  5. Exotic berries like acai, goji
  6. Red, yellow, green and orange bell peppers
  7. Carrots and parsnips
  8. Garlic
  9. Parsley, coriander, basil and other herbs
  10. Berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
  11. Asparagus
  12. Beets
  13. Wild salmon
  14. Bone broth
  15. Grass-fed beef
  16. Green beans
  17. Egg yolks
  18. Pumpkin
  19. Lentils
  20. Artichokes
  21. Tomatoes
  22. Wild mushrooms
  23. Seeds: pumpkin, sunflower, chia and flax
  24. Raw cheese and kefir
  25. Sweet potatoes
  26. Black beans
  27. Wild rice
  28. Yogurt
  29. Cacao
  30. Avocado

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!