What is Nutrient Density and Why Does it Matter?

How we define “healthy” food varies from diet to diet and person to person, but for the most part, colorful foods with a variety of fruits and vegetables automatically spring to mind. We seem to naturally understand that these foods are good for us, but do we understand why?

The answer is that these foods are “nutrient dense,” meaning they pack many beneficial nutrients compared to the calories they have. When we choose these foods, we get more bang for our calorie buck, so to speak, and manage to get the nutrients we need without consuming excess calories.

Learn more about nutrient density and find out why this is such an important part of a healthy, balanced diet.

What Is Nutrient Density?

Nutrient density is the ratio of nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, to the energy content for the amount that is usually consumed. Generally, a good that has more nutrients than calories is considered nutrient dense.

Without stressing over the exact numbers, a nutrient density score gives us a quick comparison to see what foods have the nutrients we need more of, such as iron and calcium, and less of the nutrients we should avoid, such as refined sugar and sodium.

Why Does Nutrient Density Matter?

Americans are plagued by many health problems that are directly related to our diets, such as obesity and diabetes. Our typical diets of fast food burgers, fries and sugar-laden drinks are high in calories, but low in the nutrients our bodies need most.

If you were to choose more nutrient-dense foods over calorie-dense foods, they would offset the occasional “guilty pleasure” food and help you avoid these chronic health conditions.


You’ve certainly heard of “superfoods,” but all that really means is a food that is the best of the best in nutrient density. These are foods that typically contain moderate to high amounts of fiber, protein, potassium, calcium, iron, vitamins A, C, D, E, K and B-complex, among others, for a relatively low amount of calories.

Now, that’s not to say that a food high in both calories and nutrients can’t be good for you. Foods like avocado and eggs have tons of valuable nutrients, but they also have higher-than-average calories that put them lower on the nutrient density scale. It’s important to remember that some foods that are high in healthy fats are going to have a higher calorie count, but it’s worth the trade-off for some of the nutrients that are difficult to find in similar concentrations in other foods.

Discover the Paleo Diet

When it comes to nutrient density, there’s not much better than the paleo diet. This diet focuses on unprocessed, whole food that mirrors the diet of our ancestors, eliminating many of the chronic health conditions that are common in the standard American diet.

If you want to learn more about the paleo diet and its many health benefits, visit Paleo Angel. We believe in promoting better health and well-being through nutrient-dense, delicious foods found in primal diets, along with providing you with portable, superfood-filled paleo power ball snacks to make dieting easier and more convenient. Shop our collection of paleo power balls today!