Author: Ingrid K. Adams, PhD, Assistant Professor, Kentucky Cooperative Extension System, University of Kentucky
You may have heard the term "nutrient dense." What exactly does that mean? Nutrient-dense foods and beverages provide vitamins, minerals, and other substances that may have positive health effects with relatively few calories. The term "nutrient dense" indicates that the nutrients and other beneficial substances in a food have not been "diluted" by the addition of calories from added solid fats, added sugars, or added refined starches, sodium, or by the solid fats naturally present in the food. Ideally, they also are in forms that retain naturally occurring components, such as dietary fiber. All vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, eggs, beans and peas, unsalted nuts and seeds, fat-free and low-fat milk and milk products, and lean meats and poultry - when prepared without adding solid fats or sugars - are nutrient-dense foods. For most Americans, meeting nutrient requirements within their calorie needs is an important goal for health. Eating nutrient-dense foods, in the recommended amounts, from each food group is the best approach to achieving this goal and building a healthy eating pattern.
High-nutrient dense food
Low-nutrient dense foods
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. Accessed February 16,2011 from http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/DietaryGuidelines2010.pdf