Food With High Nutrient Density. Nutrient density is a term used in food nutritional labeling. This phrase refers to the amount of nutrients that are naturally occurring within a defined weight or volume of a food, expressed as a percentage of other related foods. The concept was developed in the context of human nutrition, but is more generally applicable to animals and plants as well.
The Most Nutrient Dense Foods Per Calorie
Leading a healthy lifestyle involves eating foods high in nutrients while avoiding empty, or suboptimal, calories. In order to identify the most nutrient-dense foods, we must look for foods highest in essential nutrients while being lowest in calories.
To create this ranking, we added all the daily values for the following nutrients:
Vitamins: Vitamins A, B1 (Thiamin), B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin), B5 (Pantothenic Acid), B6, B9, B12, C, D, E, and K.
Minerals: Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Selenium, and Zinc.
Macronutrients: Fat, Carbohydrates, and Fiber.
All these nutrients added together created a new nutrient density metric that we call “Total Daily Value” or “Total DV”.
|Total DV in 100g||1 cup chopped (60g)||1 tbsp (4g)|
|2634%DV (36 calories)||1580.4%DV (21.6 calories)||100.1%DV (1.4 calories)|
Nutrition Facts for Parsley.
|Total DV in 100g||1 cup (36g)||1 leaf (48g)|
|1337%DV (19 calories)||481.3%DV (6.8 calories)||641.8%DV (9.1 calories)|
Nutrition Facts for Swiss Chard.
|Total DV in 100g||1 cup, chopped (130g)|
|1457%DV (28 calories)||1894.1%DV (36.4 calories)|
Nutrition Facts for Cooked Kale.
|Total DV in 100g||1 cup, chopped (34g)||10 sprigs (25g)|
|534%DV (11 calories)||181.6%DV (3.7 calories)||133.5%DV (2.8 calories)|
Nutrition Facts for Watercress.
|Total DV in 100g||1 cup (180g)|
|1077%DV (23 calories)||1938.6%DV (41.4 calories)|
Nutrition Facts for Cooked Spinach.
|Total DV in 100g||1 cup, chopped (140g)|
|1105%DV (26 calories)||1547%DV (36.4 calories)|
Nutrition Facts for Cooked Mustard Greens.
|Total DV in 100g||1 cup shredded (36g)||1 head (360g)|
|394%DV (15 calories)||141.8%DV (5.4 calories)||1418.4%DV (54 calories)|
Nutrition Facts for Green Leaf Lettuce.
|Total DV in 100g||1 cup, undrained (248g)||3 oz (85g)|
|1383%DV (68 calories)||3429.8%DV (168.6 calories)||1175.6%DV (57.8 calories)|
Nutrition Facts for Canned Eastern Oysters.
|Total DV in 100g||1 slice (81g)|
|3490%DV (175 calories)||2826.9%DV (141.8 calories)|
Nutrition Facts for Pan Fried Beef Liver.
10Mushrooms (Exposed to UV Light)
|Total DV in 100g||1 cup sliced (72g)||1 piece whole (20g)|
|407%DV (22 calories)||293%DV (15.8 calories)||81.4%DV (4.4 calories)|
Mushrooms exposed to light will have much higher levels of vitamin D.
Nutrition Facts for Raw Crimini Mushrooms (Exposed To Sunlight Or UV).
11Sweet (Bell) Peppers
|Total DV in 100g||1 pepper, large (3-3/4″ long, 3″ dia) (186g)||10 strips (52g)|
|367%DV (27 calories)||682.6%DV (50.2 calories)||190.8%DV (14 calories)|
Nutrition Facts for Sweet Yellow Peppers.
|Total DV in 100g||1/2 cup (10g)||1 leaf (2g)|
|336%DV (25 calories)||33.6%DV (2.5 calories)||6.7%DV (0.5 calories)|
Nutrition Facts for Arugula.
|Total DV in 100g||1 cup, chopped (100g)||1 medium (4-1/8″ long) (15g)|
|406%DV (32 calories)||406%DV (32 calories)||60.9%DV (4.8 calories)|
Nutrition Facts for Spring Onions.
|Total DV in 100g||1/2 cup, chopped (78g)||1 stalk, medium (7-1/2″ – 8″ long) (180g)|
|443%DV (35 calories)||345.5%DV (27.3 calories)||797.4%DV (63 calories)|
Nutrition Facts for Broccoli (Cooked).
|Total DV in 100g||1/2 cup slices (78g)||1 carrot (46g)|
|439%DV (35 calories)||342.4%DV (27.3 calories)||201.9%DV (16.1 calories)|
More Nutrient Rich Foods
|Acerola (West Indian Cherry)||2850%DV (32 calories) per 100 gram serving||2793%DV (31.4 calories) per 1 cup (98 grams)||136.8%DV (1.5 calories) per 1 fruit without refuse (5 grams)||Get the full nutrient profile for Raw Acerola Cherries|
|Amaranth Leaves (Raw)||1734%DV (23 calories) per 100 gram serving||485.5%DV (6.4 calories) per 1 cup (28 grams)||242.8%DV (3.2 calories) per 1 leaf (14 grams)||Get the full nutrient profile for Raw Amaranth Leaves|
|Radicchio||426%DV (23 calories) per 100 gram serving||170.4%DV (9.2 calories) per 1 cup, shredded (40 grams)||34.1%DV (1.8 calories) per 1 leaf (8 grams)||Get the full nutrient profile for Raw Radicchio|
|Dandelion Greens (Raw)||1419%DV (45 calories) per 100 gram serving||780.5%DV (24.8 calories) per 1 cup, chopped (55 grams)||Get the full nutrient profile for Raw Dandelion Green|
|Chicory Greens (Raw)||694%DV (23 calories) per 100 gram serving||201.3%DV (6.7 calories) per 1 cup, chopped (29 grams)||Get the full nutrient profile for Raw Chicory Greens|
|Endive (Raw)||473%DV (17 calories) per 100 gram serving||118.3%DV (4.3 calories) per 1/2 cup, chopped (25 grams)||2426.5%DV (87.2 calories) per 1 head (513 grams)||Get the full nutrient profile for Raw Endive|
|Collards (Raw)||875%DV (32 calories) per 100 gram serving||315%DV (11.5 calories) per 1 cup, chopped (36 grams)||Get the full nutrient profile for Raw Collards|
|Sweet Potato Leaves (Raw)||601%DV (42 calories) per 100 gram serving||210.4%DV (14.7 calories) per 1 cup, chopped (35 grams)||96.2%DV (6.7 calories) per 1 leaf (12-1/4″ long) (16 grams)||Get the full nutrient profile for Raw Sweet Potato Leaves|
|Chinese Broccoli (Cooked)||299%DV (22 calories) per 100 gram serving||263.1%DV (19.4 calories) per 1 cup (88 grams)||Get the full nutrient profile for Cooked Chinese Broccoli|
|Jute Potherb (Cooked)||493%DV (37 calories) per 100 gram serving||428.9%DV (32.2 calories) per 1 cup (87 grams)||Get the full nutrient profile for Cooked Jute Potherb|
Food With High Nutrient Density
Nutrient-dense foods are real and unprocessed as opposed to chemically altered, manmade or filled with synthetic ingredients.
Nutrients found in healthy, whole food include micronutrients like essential vitamins, trace minerals and electrolytes like magnesium/calcium/potassium, plus macronutrients, including carbohydrates (both “simple” and “complex”), proteins (amino acids) and different types of healthy fats.
A well-rounded, largely unprocessed diet is superior to taking supplements and eating a processed diet because real foods have complex chemical structures that are very difficult to replicate. For example, antioxidants and phytochemicals found in many plant foods support the immune system, the body’s detoxification processes and cellular repair.
What foods are most nutrient-dense?
Based on the amount of nutrients in proportion to the amount of calories that these foods have, here are the most nutrient-dense foods available to us:
- Liver (beef and chicken)
- Leafy greens, like kale, collards, spinach, watercress, dandelion greens and arugula
- Broccoli rabe, broccoli, cauliflower and other cruciferous veggies like cabbage or Brussels sprouts
- Exotic berries like acai, goji and camu camu
- Red, yellow, green and orange bell peppers
- Carrots and parsnips
- Parsley, cilantro, basil and other herbs
- Berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
- Wild salmon and sardines
- 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 Are Nutrient-Dense Foods Important?
Healthy, whole foods provide us with essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids (that form protein), fatty acids and more. Another way a nutrient-dense diet could be described is as an anti-inflammatory diet, which we know is important for preventing chronic diseases and risk factors like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
Many experts believe that your overall health may be determined in part by your nutrient intake divided by your calorie intake. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture tells us that the overall quality of people’s diets depends upon factors, including:
- The level of micronutrients and macronutrients they obtain per calorie that they eat.
- Whether they continuously eat an appropriate amount of calories (in the form of macronutrients) in order to meet their individual needs. This means the ability to avoid excessive caloric intake but also avoiding under-eating or nutrient deficiencies.
- Avoidance of toxic substances, such as trans fats, sodium and refined sugars.
Here’s another way to look at it: In terms of the amount of nutrients you’d get per calorie consumed, 600 calories worth of fast food french fries is obviously NOT the same as 600 calories of kale.
In the same vein, 600 calories of brown rice is NOT the same as 600 calories of kale either. Sure, brown rice is a natural food, but it is also far less nutrient-dense than kale (and a host of other foods, too).
On Dr. Fuhrman’s “Nutrient Density Scale,” oatmeal has a score of 53. To give a little perspective, you would have to eat four bowls of oatmeal to equal the nutrient density of just one bowl of strawberries. And you’d have to eat about 20 bowls of oatmeal to get the equivalent nutrients of one bowl of kale!
Top 9 Most Nutrient Dense Foods on Earth
Like most dietary topics, identifying the most nutrient dense foods on earth is subject to bias and misinformation. There are nutrient-dense food lists out there that rank potatoes and garlic among their top 10, which is simply ludicrous!
Nutrient density means the combination of essential macronutrients (fat and protein), along with an array of vitamins, and minerals per calorie. The truth is that the most nutrient dense foods all come from animal sources. Full stop.
If you want to make your calories count towards your nutrition goals, this list is the place to start.
1. Beef Liver
Beef liver comes in at number one on our list of most nutrient dense foods. Commonly referred to as “nature’s multivitamin,” a 3.5 ounce serving of beef liver exceeds many of the minimum recommended daily intake of numerous hard-to-get nutrients. It’s also a rich source of protein.
Let’s take a look at some of the key nutrients found in abundance in beef liver:
Found only in red meat, heme iron is vital for many physiological functions. It plays an essential role in the formation of red blood cells, energy metabolism, immune function, cognitive ability, and fertility. The heme iron in red meat is far more easily absorbed and used by your body than the non-heme iron in plant foods .
Your body produces nucleic acid on it’s own, but its ability to do so decreases with age. And when the body is stressed, there can be greater demand for nucleic acids than the body can generate.
Though you won’t find nucleic acids on a nutrition label, Beef liver contains uniquely high amounts .
Nucleic acids in food can contribute to numerous health benefits, including :
- Strengthening the immune system
- Improved digestion
- Expedited muscle recovery
- Reduction in oxidative stress and inflammation
- Metabolic regulation
Beef liver is rich in B vitamins that may help you stay energized and lose weight. These vitamins are known as lipotropic, or fat-liberating. Research shows that the B vitamins found in liver can support the health of your own liver.
Beef liver an excellent source of the B vitamin folate, critical for healthy fetal development.
Yet another example of the like-supports-like concept of organ meats is the cytochrome P450 found in liver. Cytochrome P450 is an important family of liver enzymes that assist with hormone production, detoxification, and the overall health of your own liver.
Beef liver is one of the worlds richest sources of vitamin A. In fact, there is so much vitamin A in liver that it should be consumed in limited quantities, and not every day. This vitamin comes in various forms including b-carotene and preformed A. They are essential for maintaining healthy skin and vision .
|Based on 100 grams|
|Vitamin A Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 ThiamineRiboflavinNiacin Folate CholineVitamin C Vitamin D Vitamin K||4968μg1mg59.3μg0.2mg2.8mg13.2mg290μg333.3mg1.3mg1.2μg3.1μg||552%84%2471%13%163%66%73%61%3%8%3%|
|Iron MagnesiumPhosphorus Zinc CopperManganeseSelenium||4.9mg18mg387mg4mg9.8mg0.3mg39.7μg||62%6%39%27%488%16%57%|
These mighty bi-valves are some of the most nutrient dense and beneficial foods on earth. The nutrient profile of oysters makes them a food that can:
- Reduce oxidation
- Support fertility
- Improve body composition
Oysters are remarkably rich in vitamin D, zinc, and selenium, three hard-to-get nutrients that work in synergy to support a healthy immune function
Adequate vitamin D intake has been found to reduce the risk of respiratory infection by up to 70% . Not getting enough D3 from diet and sunlight may result in various negative symptoms including depression, multiple sclerosis, and an impaired immune response. While studies show that vitamin D3 can help you fight viral infections including Covid-19
A 3.5 ounces serving of oysters provides many hard-to-get vitamins and minerals
|RAW OYSTER CALORIES||68 CALORIES||% RDV|
|VITAMIN D||320 IU||80%|
|VITAMIN B1||0.1 mg||7%|
|VITAMIN B3||1.4 mg||7%|
|VITAMIN B12||19.5 mcg||324%|
3. Salmon Roe
Salmon eggs are one of the earth’s most nutrient-dense superfoods. Salmon roe is loaded with highly bioavailable vitamins A, B, D, and K2, zinc, iodine.
They’re also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which have been shown to support healthy brain function.
The abundance of nutrients in salmon roe including robust amount of B12, selenium, along with vitamin D, and E all contribute to various health benefits including:
- Healthy infant brain development
- Supports male and female fertility
- Increased cognitive performance
- Mood support
- Reduced inflammation
- Supports heart health
- Antioxidant properties
- Supports healthy immune function.
You can explore salmon roe’s superfood benefits in-depth here.
Salmon Roe nutrition per 100g
|SATURATED FAT||2.04 g|
|MONOUNSATURATED FAT||4.13 g|
|POLYUNSATURATED FAT||4.12 g|
|OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS||3.50 g|
|OMEGA-6 FATTY ACIDS||0.31 g|
|COBALAMIN (B12)||20.0 mcg||333 %|
|VITAMIN D||232 IU||58 %|
|CHOLINE||247.5 mg||45 %|
|PANTOTHENIC ACID (B5)||3.50 mg||35 %|
|VITAMIN C||16 mg||26 %|
|RIBOFLAVIN (B2)||0.36 mg||21.2 %|
|PYRIDOXINE (B6)||0.32 mg||16.0 %|
|VITAMIN E||2.68 mg||13.3 %|
|FOLATE||50.0 mcg||12.5 %|
|VITAMIN A||91 mcg RAE||10.1 %|
|THIAMIN (B1)||0.14 mg||9.3 %|
|NIACIN (B3)||0.40 mg||2.0 %|
4. Ribeye Steak
Ribeye steaks are one of the most popular cuts of steak due to their tender juicy texture and rich flavor. And they happen to be one of the most nutrient dense foods on earth.
If you’re practicing a carnivore or ketogenic diet the ribeye is one of the fattiest cuts of keto meats here.
In addition to robust protein and nourishing fats, ribeye also provides robust amounts of B vitamins, zinc, selenium, and beneficial compounds only found in meat. compounds.
These meat-specific compounds include:
- Carnitine: supports male fertility, reduces anemia, improves mitochondrial function, and supports heart heath
- Taurine: An antioxidant that can reduce glycation, reduce oxidative stress, and significant improvements in overall mental health .
- Carnosine: Supports and protects healthy heart and skeletal muscle. Reduces glycation, and protects against damage to telomeres–therby providing anti-aging benefits.
- Creatine: Associated with improved cognition and neuroprotection. Enhances athletic performance, and heart health
|NUTRIENT||200G (7 OZ)|
Anchovies are a nutrient dense food loaded with B3 and selenium and hard-to-get copper.
B3 plays an important role in turning the food you eat into useable energy. Selenium supports heart health and is crucial to healthy thyroid function
Fatty fish provide more omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) than most other fish including salmon.
When combined with selenium, Omega-3 can help prevent tumor growth and is used to treat various types of cancer
|Anchovies (Wild)||Amount per 3 oz.||% RDA|
6. Beef Kidney
Beef kidney is an ultra-nutrient dense organ meat. Highlights include over 1000% of your B12 intake per serving, along with robust amounts of selenium, heme iron, and an important balance of copper and zinc.
In a demonstration of the like-supports-like properties of organ meats, kidney provides a rare amino acid L-ergothioneine, that promotes kidney health Kidney also offers the rare amino-acid Ergothioneine, known to support fertility
The nutrient density of kidney made it a popular food among Inuit tribes. Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson wrote, “The kidneys are usually given to children, somewhat as if they were candy”
Kidney is also known for the special highly saturated fat surrounding it called suet This fat is high in stearic acid which has been shown to help reduce body fat and improve mitochondrial function
|Beef Kidney: Raw|
|Based on 100 grams|
|Vitamin AVitamin A IUThiamineRiboflavinNiacinFolateVitamin B6Vitamin B12Vitamin CVitamin DVitamin D IUVitamin D3Vitamin E||419μg1397IU0.4mg2.8mg8mg98μg0.7mg27.5μg9.4mg1.1μg45IU1.1μg0.2mg||47%–24%168%41%25%52%1146%16%8%––2%|
7. Pork Belly
Pork belly is one of the most affordable highly nutrient dense foods. It comes from the same place on the pig as bacon, but it’s not cured or smoked, so it doesn’t have nitrites.
In addition to nourishing and satiating fats, including omega-3s and whole food proteins, pork belly provides significant amounts of many B vitamins and selenium
|PORK BELLY NUTRITIONAL CONTENT PER 224G||AMOUNT||% RDA|
|OMEGA 3 ALA||900mg||100%|
|PANTOTHENIC ACID (B5)||2.5mg||50%|
Like the other nutrient dense meats on this list, lamb provides a rich profile of healthy fats, protiens, vitamins, and minerals.
Some of these vital nutrients and their roles include:
- Vitamin B12: essential to healthy brain function and blood formation
- Zinc: used in the synthesis of numerous hormones including testosterone
- Glutathione: An antioxidant shown to reduce insulin resistance, oxidative damage in children with autism, risk of autoimmune disease, and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease .
- Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Found in greater abundance in lamb than any other meat. CLA is a healthy trans fat (not the kind you find in vegetable oils and margarine). CLA supports the immune system, bone strength, heart health, and fat loss
Nutrition information per 4 oz.
|Nutrients per 4 oz||Amount||% RDA|
|Trans Fat (CLA)||1.5g|
Eggs are an ultra convenient, ultra nutrient dense food. They offer a fantastic balance of healthy fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
The choline content of eggs also makes them great for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant
|Nutrients||100 grams (appx 2 eggs)||%Daily Value|
|Fat||10||16% (Not on Ketogenic Diet|
|Vitamins and Minerals|
|Retinol (vitamin A)||98mcg||12%|
|Iron||1.8mg||Men (23%) Women (10%)|
The Most Nutrient Dense Foods: The Takeaway
The most nutrient dense foods on earth offer robust blend of fat, protein, vitamins, minerals, along with rare amino acids and peptides.
Many of these foods are the center of nose-to-tail ancestral diets. The rich array of fat soluble vitamins in these animal whole foods is likely a factor in the robust health and absence of disease that pioneering dietician and dentist Weston A. Price first identified in ancestral diets nearly 100 years ago.