There is only a limited amount of food you can eat in a single day.
To maximize the amount of nutrients you take in, it makes sense to spend your calorie budget wisely.
The best way to do that is to simply eat the foods that carry the greatest amount and variety of nutrients.
Here are the 11 most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.
Not all fish is created equal.
Salmon — and other fatty types of fish — contain the greatest amount of omega-3s fatty acids.
Omega-3s are extremely important for the optimal function of your body. They’re linked to improved wellbeing and a lower risk of many serious diseases (1Trusted Source).
Although salmon is mainly prized for its beneficial composition of fatty acids, it also packs a massive amount of other nutrients.
A 100-gram piece of wild salmon contains 2.8 grams of omega-3s, along with lots of high-quality animal protein and ample vitamins and minerals, including large amounts of magnesium, potassium, selenium and B vitamins (2).
It is a good idea to eat fatty fish at least once or twice a week to get all the omega-3s your body needs.
Studies show that people who eat fatty fish regularly have a lower risk of heart disease, dementia, depression and many other common diseases (3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6).
Also, salmon tastes good and is fairly simple to prepare. It also tends to make you feel full with relatively few calories.
If you can, choose wild salmon instead of farmed. It is more nutritious, has a better omega-6 to omega-3 ratio and is less likely to contain contaminants (7, 8).
Of all the healthy leafy greens, kale is the king.
It is loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and various bioactive compounds.
A 100-gram portion of kale contains (9):
Vitamin C: 200% of the RDI
Vitamin A: 300% of the RDI
Vitamin K1: 1,000% of the RDI
Large amounts of vitamin B6, potassium, calcium, magnesium, copper and manganese
The same amount has 2 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein and only 50 calories.
Kale may be even healthier than spinach. Both are very nutritious, but kale is lower in oxalates, which are substances that can bind minerals like calcium in your intestine, preventing them from being absorbed (10Trusted Source).
Kale and other greens are also high in various bioactive compounds, including isothiocyanates and indole-3-carbinol, which have been shown to fight cancer in test-tube and animal studies (11Trusted Source, 12).
The sea has more than just fish. It also contains massive amounts of vegetation.
There are thousands of different plant species in the ocean, some of which are very nutritious. Usually, they are referred to collectively as seaweed (13Trusted Source).
Seaweed is popular in dishes like sushi. Many sushi dishes also include a type of seaweed known as nori, which is used as an edible wrapping.
In many cases, seaweed is even more nutritious than land vegetables. It is particularly high in minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium and manganese (14).
It is also loaded with various bioactive compounds, including phycocyanins and carotenoids. Some of these substances are antioxidants with powerful anti-inflammatory capacities (15Trusted Source).
But seaweed really shines in its high content of iodine, a mineral your body uses to make thyroid hormones.
Just eating a high-iodine seaweed like kelp a few times per month can give your body all the iodine it needs.
If you don’t like the taste of seaweed, you can also take it in supplement form. Dried kelp tablets are very cheap and loaded with iodine.
Garlic really is an amazing ingredient.
Not only can it turn all sorts of bland dishes delicious, it is also very nutritious.
It is high in vitamins C, B1 and B6, calcium, potassium, copper, manganese and selenium (16).
Garlic is also high in beneficial sulfur compounds such as allicin.
Many studies show that allicin and garlic may lower blood pressure as well as total and “bad” LDL cholesterol. It also raises “good” HDL cholesterol, potentially reducing risk of heart disease down the line (17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source).
It also has various cancer-fighting properties. Studies show that people who eat a lot of garlic have a much lower risk of several common cancers, especially cancers of the colon and stomach (21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source).
Raw garlic also has significant antibacterial and antifungal properties (23Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source).
Many sea animals are high in nutrients, but shellfish may be among the most nutritious of all.
Commonly consumed types of shellfish include clams, oysters, scallops and mussels.
Clams are among the best sources of vitamin B12 in existence, with 100 grams of clams supplying over 16 times the RDI. They are also loaded with vitamin C, various B vitamins, potassium, selenium and iron (25).
Oysters are also very nutritious. Only 100 grams supply 600% of the RDI for zinc, 200% of the RDI for copper and large amounts of vitamin B12, vitamin D and several other nutrients (26).
Though shellfish are among the world’s most nutritious foods, most people rarely consume them.
A single large potato is high in potassium, magnesium, iron, copper and manganese. It also contains vitamin C and most B vitamins (27).
They contain a little bit of almost every nutrient you need. There are accounts of people living on nothing but potatoes for a long time.
They are also one of the most filling foods. When researchers compared the satiety value of different foods, boiled potatoes scored higher than any other food measured (28Trusted Source).
If you allow potatoes to cool after cooking, they also form resistant starch, a fiber-like substance with many powerful health benefits
Humans and our remote ancestors have been eating animals for millions of years.
However, the modern Western diet has prioritized muscle meat over organ meats. Compared to the organs, muscle meat is nutritionally poor.
Out of all the organs, liver is by far the most nutritious.
The liver is a remarkable organ with hundreds of functions related to metabolism. One of its functions is to store important nutrients for the rest of your body.
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) portion of beef liver contains (30):
Vitamin B12: 1,176% of the DV
Vitamin B5, vitamin B6, niacin and folate: Over 50% of the DV
Vitamin B2: 201% of the DV
Vitamin A: 634% of the DV
Copper: 714% of the DV
Iron, phosphorus, zinc and selenium: Over 30% of the DV
High-quality animal protein: 29 grams
Eating liver once per week is a good way to ensure that you get optimal amounts of these vital nutrients.
Sardines are small, oily fish that can be eaten whole.
Shop for sardines online.
Given that the organs are usually the most nutritious parts of an animal, it is not surprising that whole sardines are very nourishing.
They contain a little bit of almost every nutrient that your body needs and are nearly nutritionally perfect.
Like other fatty fish, they’re also very high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
When it comes to the nutritional value of fruits, blueberries are in a league of their own.
Although not as high — calorie for calorie — in vitamins and minerals as vegetables, they’re packed with antioxidants.
They are loaded with powerful antioxidant substances, including anthocyanins and various other plant compounds, some of which can cross the blood-brain barrier and exert protective effects on your brain (32Trusted Source).
Several studies have examined the health effects of blueberries in humans.
One study found that blueberries improved memory in older adults (33Trusted Source).
Another study found that obese men and women with metabolic syndrome had a lowered blood pressure and reduced markers of oxidized LDL cholesterol when they added blueberries to their diet (34Trusted Source).
This finding is in line with studies showing that blueberries increase the antioxidant value of your blood (35Trusted Source).
Multiple test-tube and animal studies also suggest that blueberries can help fight cancer (36Trusted Source, 37Trusted Source, 38Trusted Source).
10. Egg yolks
Egg yolks have been unfairly demonized because of their cholesterol content.
However, studies show that dietary cholesterol isn’t something you generally need to worry about.
Eating moderate amounts of cholesterol doesn’t raise the “bad” LDL cholesterol in your blood (39Trusted Source).
Egg yolks are therefore one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. Whole eggs are so nutritious that they’re sometimes referred to as “nature’s multivitamin.”
Egg yolks are loaded with vitamins, minerals and various powerful nutrients, including choline (40).
They’re high in lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that can protect your eyes and reduce your risk of eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration (41Trusted Source).
Eggs also contain high-quality protein and healthy fats. Several studies suggest that they can help you lose weight (42Trusted Source, 43Trusted Source).
They are also cheap, flavorful and easy to prepare.
If you can, buy pastured and/or omega-3 enriched eggs. They’re healthier and more nutritious than most conventional supermarket eggs (44, 45).
11. Dark chocolate (cocoa)
Dark chocolate with a high cocoa content is one of the most nutritious foods you can eat.
It is loaded with fiber, iron, magnesium, copper and manganese (46).
But its biggest benefit is its amazing range of antioxidants.
In fact, a study showed that cocoa and dark chocolate scored higher in antioxidants than any other food tested, which included blueberries and acai berries (47Trusted Source).
Multiple studies in humans show that dark chocolate has powerful health benefits, including improved blood flow, lower blood pressure, reduced oxidized LDL and improved brain function (48Trusted Source, 49Trusted Source, 50Trusted Source).
One study found that people who consumed chocolate more than five times per week had a 57% lower risk of heart disease (51Trusted Source).
Given that heart disease is the most common cause of death worldwide, this finding could have implications for millions of people.
Make sure to get dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa content. The best ones contain 85% cocoa or higher.
Eating a small square of quality dark chocolate every day may be one of the best ways to supplement your diet with additional antioxidants.
Shop for high-cocoa dark chocolate online.
The bottom line
If you want lots of nutrients without many calories, the most obvious strategy is to take dietary supplements.
However, supplements can hardly replace a healthy diet. A better way to get all the nutrients you need is to fill your meals with nutrient-dense foods.
Nutrient-dense foods are rich in nutrients relative to their calorie content. These include various healthy foods such as whole vegetables, fruits, cocoa, seafood, eggs and liver.
Start adding the above foods to your diet today to reap their benefits.
Written by Kris Gunnars, BSc
Grocery shopping can be a difficult task, even for the most organized person.
Tempting, unhealthy foods seem to lurk in every aisle, threatening to offset your health goals.
A grocery list is a handy tool that can help you navigate the store with ease and help you stick to your healthy eating plan.
A well-thought-out grocery list is not only a memory aide, it can also keep you on track, minimizing impulse buying while saving you money. It will also set you up for success even when you’re tight on time, helping you keep nutritious food on hand to eat all week.
What’s more, studies have shown that using a list while grocery shopping can lead to healthier food choices and even weight loss (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).
The following tips will help you prepare a healthy grocery shopping list so you can fill your cart with smart choices.
Having the ingredients necessary to prepare tasty meals all week long is an excellent way to maintain a healthy diet.
Having an empty fridge, freezer or pantry can lead you to rely on fast food or takeout, especially when you have a packed schedule. That’s why it’s so important to stock your shelves with nutritious options.
Studies have shown that people who plan their meals in advance have a healthier overall diet and lower body weight than those who don’t (3Trusted Source).
Plus, those who plan their meals ahead of time tend to cook more meals at home, a practice that has been linked to better diet quality and lower levels of body fat (3Trusted Source).
Making a point of planning your meals for the week may help you avoid making poor choices and help you create a grocery shopping list more efficiently.
An excellent way to start planning your meals is to create a recipe board detailing the meals you would like to eat for the week, including breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks.
After figuring out what ingredients you will need to create your meals, add these to your grocery list, being sure to include the amount of each food you will need.
Keep a Running Grocery List
Rather than scrambling to remember which favorite pantry staple you recently ran out of, keep a running list of the items you need to buy during your next trip to the grocery store.
Dry erase boards or magnetic to-do lists that hang on your fridge are excellent ways to keep tabs on your kitchen inventory.
There are also many apps designed to help you stay on top of grocery shopping and meal planning.
Keeping track of the foods you use, as well as the new and healthy foods you want to try, will make compiling your weekly shopping list that much easier.
Summary Meal planning is the
first step to creating a healthy grocery shopping list. Creating a grocery list
based on pre-planned meals will help you make nutritious dishes that fit your
When you’re creating a healthy grocery list, it’s important to be realistic about the foods you will actually consume.
Although you may want to try lots of new and different foods when you’re first beginning a more nutritious way of eating, try to choose just a few new healthy foods each week.
When you’re grocery shopping without a list, it’s easy to become sidetracked by items that appeal to you.
This may cause you to purchase more food than you can realistically consume in a week, or lead you to choose items that you should be eating but don’t necessarily like.
This can lead to wasted food and less money in your wallet.
Choosing just a few new foods each week to incorporate into your meals is a good way to expand your palate, add nutrients and discover which healthy foods you really enjoy.
For example, if you are trying to incorporate more green, leafy vegetables like kale, arugula and spinach into your diet but don’t know which ones you would like, try out one new leafy green each week until you narrow down a few favorites.
This will allow you to sample new foods without the risk of wasting food and money.
Before you know it, you will be able to create a fresh grocery list every week, filled with nutritious foods that you love to eat.
Summary When you’re trying out
new foods, try incorporating one or two new ingredients each week to help you
identify items that you truly like to eat. Introducing new foods gradually will
also save you from wasting food and money.
Organize Your List
Separating your grocery shopping list by category is an excellent way to save time and keep your shopping trips stress-free.
You can organize your list by food category or how your favorite grocery store is laid out.
Organizing your list into sections helps you shop in a more efficient manner and minimizes the chances of impulse buying.
This type of list keeps you on task and focused on the items you’ve planned, rather than distracted by the endless unhealthy foods on the grocery shelves.
To start, divide your list into sections based on food types. Categories include:
If you are trying to cut back on snacking or don’t want to keep sweets in the house, avoid creating space on your list for snacks or desserts.
Try to include only healthy categories on your list so that your focus is only on wholesome, nutrient-dense foods.
If you are familiar with your grocery store’s layout, try separating your list based on the sections where your foods are located. For example, if you usually begin your shopping trip in the produce aisle, list your fruits and vegetables first.
This way, you can streamline your shopping trip and avoid having to circle back to a particular section.
This narrows the chances of being tempted by unhealthy items while you’re wandering around the grocery store in search of foods on your list.
Summary Organizing your
grocery shopping list into categories can help you stay on task, saving you
time and keeping you from making unhealthy choices.
Written by Jillian Kubala, MS, RD — Updated on August 27, 2020