Nutrient Density is a critical concept in devising and recommending dietary and nutritional advice to patients and to the public. Not merely vitamins and minerals, but adequate consumption of phytochemicals is essential for proper functioning of the immune system and to enable our body’s detoxification and cellular repair mechanisms that protect us from chronic diseases Nutritional science in the last twenty years has demonstrated that colorful plant foods contain a huge assortment of protective compounds, mostly of which still remain unnamed. Only by eating an assortment of nutrient-rich natural whole foods can we access these protective compounds and prevent the common diseases that afflict Americans. Our modern, low-nutrient eating style has led to an overweight population, the majority of whom develop diseases of nutritional ignorance, causing our medical costs to spiral out of control.
Nutrient Density – The ratio of the amount of a nutrient in foods to the energy (calories) provided by these same foods.
Nutrient-Rich – The two word buzzword for healthful eating. Actually, the next level in healthy eating! It’s not low-calorie, low-carb or low-fat: It’s nutrient-rich. A term developed through consumer research to describe the concept of nutrient density. Research shows that people respond well to this term and to the positive approach to food choices it represents.
Nutrient-Dense Foods – Foods that provide substantial amounts of phytochemicals (micro nutrients), vitamins, minerals and other nutritional factors relative to calories (appropriate in calories).
Low Nutrient-Dense or “Nutrient Poor” Foods – Foods that supply calories but relatively small amounts of micronutrients or phytochemicals vitamins, minerals, water, fiber, (sometimes none at all) health promoting protein, real food carbohydrate and essential fat and contain substances your body does not need.
Nutrient-Rich Foods – A consumer-friendly way to describe nutrient-dense foods including those from the five basic food groups, such as:
- Raw Nuts Seeds
- Whole Unrefined Grains
- The Unlimited Meals and Menus You Can Create From These First Class Food Categories
Nutrition Profiling – The science of ranking or classifying foods based on their nutrient composition. ANDI – Aggregate Nutrient Density Index for Nutrient Rich Foods. To guide people toward the most nutrient dense foods, Joel Fuhrman M.D. developed a scoring system called ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index), which ranks foods based on their ratio of nutrients to calories. Because phytochemicals are largely unnamed and unmeasured, these rankings underestimate the healthful properties of colorful natural plant foods compared to processed foods and animal products. One thing we do know is that the foods that contain the highest amount of known nutrients are the same foods that contain the most unknown nutrients too. So even though these rankings may not consider the phytochemical number sufficiently they are still a reasonable measurement of their content. Keep in mind that nutrient density scoring is not the only factor that determines good health. For example, if we only ate foods with a high nutrient density score our diet would be too low in fat. So we have to pick some foods with lower nutrient density scores (but preferably the healthier ones) to include in our high nutrient diet. Additionally, if a slim or highly physically active individual ate only the highest nutrient foods they would become so full from all of the fiber and nutrients that would keep them from meeting their caloric needs and they would eventually become too thin. This of course gives you a hint at the secret to permanent weight control – to eat the greatest quantity of the foods with the highest ANDI scores, and lesser amounts of foods with lower ANDI scores. For further information, read chapter 3 of Eat for Health, in which I discuss nutrient density and the importance of phytochemicals in detail.
The Nutrient Rich Foods Way – The Nutrient Rich way is a positive, healthy eating plan that considers the complete nutrient package of foods( what foods have that you need and want, and what they contain that you don’t need from dietary sources) as a way to help people build the healthiest eating plans and encourages the selection of nutrient-rich whole foods always, or as best as possible.