Nutrient dense foods list
The latest U.S. government dietary guidelines advise Americans to meet their nutritional needs — including vitamins, minerals, and fiber — by including substantial amounts of nutrient dense foods in their diets.
It’s not hard to figure out which foods are in the nutrient dense category. If you skip processed foods, refined starches like white bread, and sugar-laden snacks and desserts and instead eat generous amounts of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and healthy, lean proteins, you’ll be on the right track.
You can search the USDA Food Composition Databases to check specific foods to see what nutrients they contain and how much.
Some examples of the most nutrient dense foods:
- Leafy greens like spinach, cabbage, chard, and kale
- Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries
- Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as sardines and salmon
- Lean meats
- Brussels sprouts
- Sweet potatoes
- Bell peppers
- Cantaloupe and other melons
- Beans, including kidney, garbanzo and black beans
- Walnuts, almonds, and other nuts and seeds
- Whole grains and brown rice
Health benefits of nutrient dense foods
“Not only is there scientific evidence that eating primarily plant-based, nutrient dense foods, reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain kinds of cancer — but nutrient dense diets can also aid in weight loss, if needed,” said Schwartz.
“While density dense foods tend to have less calories than energy dense foods, the fiber in nutrient dense foods also helps you feel full and eat less,” she explained. “In addition, most nutrient dense foods provide a variety of flavor, texture, and visual appeal, and experts in food psychology point to evidence indicating these factors lead to a higher sense of satiety after meals and snacks.”
To lose weight or to keep your weight at a healthy level, Schwartz advises using what she calls the “plate method” to increase your nutrient dense food intake.
“Fill at least half of your 8- to 9-inch plate with vegetables or fruits at each and every meal or snack,” she explained. “Ideally, the other half of the plate also contains healthy options. However, even if it doesn’t, the nutrient dense foods help to balance the overall meal and boost your nutrient intake.”
You can use the USDA’s online SuperTracker to keep track of how many nutrient dense foods you eat and what nutrients you are consuming.
April 09, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN