The 11 Most Nutrient-Dense Foods on the Planet

Medically Reviewed on 7/28/2022
11 Most Nutrient-Dense Foods
Nutrient-dense foods are a vital part of the diet and can aid in several different benefits.

A healthy diet is not just the number of calories, but it widely relies on a range of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, and essential fatty acids for appropriate growth and development of the body. 

Nutrient-dense foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, complex carbs including fiber, lean protein, and healthy fats while being relatively low in calories.

Eating foods that are high in calories but low in nutrients could lead to nutrient deficiencies and health problems such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and heart diseases.

11 most nutrient-dense foods

Here are the 11 most nutrient-dense foods on the planet:

  1. Kale:
    • Leafy green vegetables such as kale are nutrient powerhouses but low in calories.
    • Kale is loaded with:
      • Vitamins A, C, and K
      • Minerals
      • Fiber
      • Antioxidants
      • Potentially cancer-fighting properties
  2. Salmon:
    • Fatty fish such as salmon are the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids and natural sources of vitamin D, which support brain and heart health.
    • Poaching, steaming, baking, and broiling are the healthiest ways to prepare salmon.
    • Besides omega-3 fatty acids, salmon provides high-quality animal protein and ample vitamins and minerals, including a large amount of magnesium, potassium, selenium, and B vitamins.
  3. Eggs:
    • Eggs are versatile foods that are excellent sources of protein while being low in calories.
    • A single egg contains about seven grams of protein and 70 calories.
    • Eggs are high in lutein and zeaxanthin (antioxidants) that can protect the eyes and reduce the risk of eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration.
    • Besides their high nutritional value, they are cheap, tasty, and easy to prepare.
    • Avoid adding too much salt or fats to your eggs to maximize the health benefits.
  4. Liver:
    • Out of all the animal organs that humans eat, the liver is the most nutritious that is rich in:
      • Vitamins A, B2, B6, and B12
      • Niacin
      • Folate
      • Minerals such as iron, copper, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium
    • Consuming liver one time a week is a good way to ensure an optimal amount of these vital nutrients and animal proteins.
  5. Potatoes:
    • Potatoes are high in potassium, magnesium, iron, copper, and manganese. 
    • Potatoes are inexpensive, versatile, and nutritious and contain vitamin C and most B vitamins.
  6. Sardines:
    • Similar to other fatty fish, they are very high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
    • They contain protein, several vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that the body requires for proper functioning.
  7. Shellfish:
    • Shellfish are one of the most nutritious animals found in the sea.
    • Clams, oysters, scallops, and mussels are commonly consumed types of shellfish.
  8. Blueberries:
    • Almost all the berries are a notable source of beneficial plant-based phytochemicals that provide protective benefits.
    • Blueberries are loaded with powerful antioxidant substances, including anthocyanins and various other plant compounds, which can cross the blood-brain barrier and exert protective effects on the brain.
  9. Garlic:
    • Garlic is rich in vitamins C, B1, and B6 and minerals including calcium, potassium, copper, manganese, and selenium.
    • Studies report that garlic may help lower blood pressure and low-density lipoprotein (bad) cholesterol levels efficiently. 
    • Garlic can help increase high-density lipoprotein (good) cholesterol levels, potentially reducing the risk of heart diseases.
  10. Lean meat and poultry:
    • Lean meat and poultry can provide important nutrients such as protein and iron.
    • Examples include lean chicken, turkey, lamb, and beef.
    • Baking, broiling, and roasting are the healthiest ways to prepare these meats.
  11. Fat-free and low-fat dairy:
    • Dairy is a good source of calcium and important for bone health.
    • Try replacing full-fat dairy products with fat-free or low-fat dairy products such as:
      • Low-fat milk
      • Low-fat cottage cheese
      • Plain nonfat yogurt
      • Greek yogurt


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What are the other nutrient-dense foods?

Other nutrient-dense foods include:

  • Colorful fruits:
    • It is important to include a wide variety of colorful fruits in your diet to get the full benefit of anti-inflammatory bioactive compounds. 
      • Apples, plums, mangos, papaya, pineapple, and bananas
      • Pomegranates and grapes
      • Citrus fruits such as grapefruits and oranges
      • Peaches, pears, and melons
      • Tomatoes and avocados
  • Leafy green vegetables:
    • They are low in calories and provide plenty of phytonutrients, fiber, minerals, and vitamins.
      • Spinach, chard, cabbage, romaine, and Bok choy
      • Broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts
  • Whole grains:
    • Whole grains are low in fat and high in fiber, vitamins, and complex carbs, which can help keep you feeling fuller for longer and prevent you from overeating.
      • Oats
      • Brown or wild rice
      • Whole wheat pasta, tortillas, and bread
      • Barley, quinoa, buckwheat, whole corn, and cracked wheat
  • Legumes:
    • Legumes are nutrient-dense, non-meat sources of protein that are excellent options if you are on a vegan or vegetarian diet.
      • Beans
      • Peas
      • Lentils
      • Chickpeas
      • Edamame
  • Nuts:
    • Unsalted nuts are a great source of plant-based fat, vitamins, and minerals. 
      • Almonds
      • Walnuts
      • Cashews
      • Pistachios
  • Seeds:
    • Similar to nuts, seeds are relatively calorie-dense but satiating and rich in nutrients.
      • Sunflower seeds
      • Pumpkin seeds
      • Chia seeds
      • Flaxseeds
      • Peanuts
  • Dark chocolate:
    • Dark chocolate contains a high amount of cocoa, which is rich in minerals and antioxidants.
    • It improves mood and reduces stress levels.

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Medically Reviewed on 7/28/2022
Image Source: iStock image

What is nutrient density? EUFIC:

Changing Your Diet: Choosing Nutrient-rich Foods. American Academy of Family Physicians:

How Can I Eat More Nutrient-Dense Foods? American Heart Association: