Fast Facts: Nutrient Density


Make your food work for you.

Density is something you probably learned about in high school. It’s all about how much mass is inside a certain volume. Different objects may have the same volume, but different densities. 1 pound of rocks is very different than 1 pound of feathers. They both weigh the same, but their densities definitely¬†tell them apart. Density measures the number of atoms in a particular space – the closer and more compact the atoms, the higher the density.

This scientific measurement is a complicated one, for sure. But did you know it also applies to nutrition? Let me explain.

WHAT is it?

Nutrition density is how we measure if a food is nutritious. Take plain sandwich bread for example: white versus whole wheat. I can make my sandwich with 2 slices of white bread or with 2 slices of whole wheat bread. The difference may not seem so obvious on the outside, but when that food gets inside your body, the differences can be seen.

Inside your body, the white bread will raise your¬†blood sugar at a faster rate due to the lack of fiber that is taken out during the milling process. Whole wheat bread will raise your blood sugar at a slower, more even rate. This is important even if you aren’t a diabetic. The nutritional density of whole wheat bread is greater for sure.

So just by eating your whole wheat bread sandwich, you will help maintain a steady blood sugar and also help fight cholesterol problems just with the fiber that is still intact with the grain.

Let me re-phrase that: YOU CAN FIGHT OFF TWO OF THE BIGGEST HEALTH PROBLEMS JUST BY EATING A NUTRIENT DENSE PIECE OF BREAD! See what I mean when I say “make your food work for you”??

The best way to explain what nutrition density is by using this saying: Biggest Bang For Your Buck. Who doesn’t love a good deal? That’s what you are getting with nutritionally dense foods.

HOW Do I Know If A Food Is Nutritionally Dense?

Take a look at our whole wheat vs. white bread example and let’s look at the food label:

Nutrition Density via Nutrition Fact Food Label

Serving Size: 1 sliceWhite BreadWhole Wheat Bread
Total Carbohydrates15 grams12 grams
Fiber0.8 grams2 grams
Protein2.7 grams3.6 grams
Total Fat1 gram0.9 gram

You can see with this comparison that with the SAME serving size, you are getting fewer calories, less total carbs, more fiber and more protein (slightly less fat) with the whole wheat slice than what you are getting with a slice of white bread. This is how you know if a food is nutritionally dense.

You can also bet your bottom that a food is nutritionally dense is by these keywords like:

  • vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, phytonutrients, etc.

Characteristics of nutrient-dense foods:

  • low in saturated fats – to help aid in fighting heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • No added sugars – to help maintain regular blood sugar levels
  • Sodium free – (except for those naturally occurring sodium that is regularly low) to help maintain blood pressure and help with unnecessary bloating
  • Organic whole foods – they are not genetically modified and are straight from the source

DO You Need These?

YES. Hands down. These are the types of foods you should be eating.

Nutrient dense foods are the opposite of empty calorie foods (sodas, processed foods, candy, etc). Empty calories are foods that are high in calories but don’t help your body out in any way – they are actually doing you more harm.

Nutritionally dense foods are: fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean proteins

NEED To Know More?

Check out my blog post on superfoods to find food sources that double as immune boosters, protein powerhouses, and cancer fighters.

Make sure you know what the ingredients are in the foods you are eating and make them work towards your efforts for a healthier life instead of working against all of your hard work!

As always, ask questions!