For so long, we have just followed a few basic parameters when it comes to food – fat, calories, carbohydrates. But what about vitamins, minerals, antioxidant, and other phytochemicals? After all, food should do more than just fill you up, it should provide your body the right nourishment to repair the damage, provide energy and promote strength.

A nutrient-dense diet provides you the right concentration of essential nutrients without bogging you down with calories. In this article know all about nutrient density and how you can pick the right diet.

What is Nutrient Density?

A pioneer of nutrient-dense diets, Dr. Joel Fuhrman advocates a nutritarian diet to keep chronic diseases at bay. According to Fuhrman, we should load our diets with foods that contain the most micronutrients rather than counting calories.

For this very reason, he has developed a rank-based guide called ANDI or Aggregate Nutrient Density Index that rates food based on its vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidant capacities.

A well-rounded and a nutrient dense unprocessed diet is far superior to taking supplements and relying on fad diets.

The Top Nutrient Dense Food

Dr. Fuhrman created his own formula for health and has developed his own version of a nutritarian food pyramid. According to his health equation:

                Health = Nutrients/Calories

Based on this equation, the following is the ideal food pyramid to take into consideration when picking a nutrient dense diet:

The Food Pyramid


As seen, low-calorie, nutrient dense foods should form most part of your diet and is located in the bottom of the pyramid. On the other hand, nutrient-poor foods are at the top which should be consumed very little.


Foundation of Your Diet

As opposed to the original food pyramid which was largely based on macro-nutrients of carbohydrates, fat, and protein, this food pyramid places the most emphasis on vegetables than grains. Rather than placing protective foods such as nuts and seeds, beans and legumes as side-dishes, it focuses on consuming high-nutrient foods.

The foundation of your diet should be the base of the pyramid and ideally contain foods with the highest ratios of nutrients to calories and those that carry that the highest ANDI score. These include vegetables.

90 percent of the daily diet should be made up of nutrient-rich plant foods, whose calories are accompanied by health-promoting phytochemicals: green and other non-starchy vegetables; fresh fruits; beans and legumes; raw nuts, seeds, and avocados; starchy vegetables; and whole grains.

Benefits of Nutrient-Dense Diet

1. Essential for Metabolic Function

Approximately 40 different micronutrients are required by the body for normal metabolic function. Maximizing nutrition density should be the primary goal of your diet in order to prevent the development of chronic diseases. Since deficiencies in any of these essential micronutrients contribute to various health hazards, it’s vital to acquire them through your diet.

2. More Nutrients for Fewer Calories

Nutrient dense foods pack a punch with respect to nutrients, yet are low in calories, giving you the biggest bang for your buck. For example, you are hungry and want to snack on something. Let’s say you have to choose between an apple and a donut. Thankfully, you choose the apple which has a nutrient score of 53 with fewer calories and a donut has a nutrient score of only 10, with approximately 200 calories.

3. Healthiest Way to Eat

No principle is likely to support healthy eating than the principle of a nutrient-dense diet. Because it can serve you the most concentrated form of valuable nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, essential fatty acids, and phytonutrients, to name a few.

Choosing Nutrient-Dense Food

A nutrient-dense diet is the best solution for nutrition deficiencies. But what exactly is the most nutrient-dense diet and how to pick the right one? Here’s how:

Recognize Foods with High ANDI or Aggregate Nutrient Density Index Score Along with its Nutrient Value

The ANDI is just a tool that helps consumers to easily make healthy choices of food. Obviously, the foods with the highest ANDI score are leafy green vegetables like Kale, Spinach, Broccoli. In addition, you should also look for other salient features of the food.

Some foods that have a low ANDI score, may have other nutritional capacities that should not go unnoticed. For example, blueberries and avocados have a low ANDI score, yet they are rich in antioxidants and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. 

Fast vs. Slow Food

Another important aspect of a nutritarian diet is that it should be hormonally favorable. The food that you eat should not lead to an instant shoot up of fat storage hormones like insulin, estrogen, IGF-1.

Fast food can be categorized as food containing calories that are absorbed rapidly while slow food makes you feel full longer and are absorbed in a gradual rate. Instead of storing those calories in the form of fat, it is synthesized by the body and used as an energy source.

Consume a Variety of Plant and Animal Foods

The most nutrient-dense diet is one that contains a wide variety of both animal and plant foods. As each contains different nutrients our bodies require, including food from both sections become important.

Plant foods contain important nutrient profiles like polyphenol, sterol, fibers, vitamins, and carotenoids. On the other hand, animal foods like fatty fish, wild-caught seafood, pasture-raised dairy products, and organic meat contain nutrients like Omega-3 Fat, Vitamin B12 and more.

Moderate Glycemic Load and Resistant Starch

The foods that you consume should be low-medium glycemic load. In simple words, it should not rev up the fat storage hormone of insulin. Therefore, include lentils, apples, squash, beans, sweet potato, whole grains.

Also, consider the resistant starch content of the food. Resistant starch functions like soluble fiber and is not digested, eventually reaching your colon where it feeds the friendly gut bacteria. It also helps to increase the production of short-chain fatty acids that enable break-down and absorption of nutrients. Some foods that have a high percentage of resistant starch are beans, lentils and split peas.

The more you eat green, the more you are lean, the whiter your bread the sooner you are dead” – Consider a nutrient-dense diet for your overall health and wellbeing.


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