by | Feb 27, 2018 | Healthy Living

What is Nutrient Density?

Nutrient density is a phrase used to categorize the quality of food. A food that is not nutrient dense is something you’d typically find in the center aisles of a grocery store, such as a bag of Cheetos, Sour Patch Kids, or boxed cake mix. This “food” may taste good, and maybe even give you a brief sensation of fullness, but it is so depleted of nutrients and so filled with synthetic ingredients that it could hardly be considered as food. It does nothing to boost the health status of the body, but rather leaves it starving for nutrients.

On the other hand, real food that is nutrient dense is filled with naturally occurring substances that provide the body with energy and the building blocks to health. Not only is this food filling, but it can also contain different kinds of fats, proteins, carbohydrates, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, et cetera used to boost the body’s natural functions and maintain or reach a healthy state. A great example is grass-fed beef liver. Loaded with vitamins, this superfood is touted as one of the best sources of absorbable nutrients (especially fat-soluble vitamins, B vitamins, and minerals) available.

As a former vegan, my definition of nutrient density used to be highly reliant on the ratio of nutrients to calories. I thought that high nutrient density only applied to low calorie foods, but this is not true. Because of my flawed thinking, I was not getting enough calorie-dense healthy fats that would have provided my body with plentiful fat soluble vitamins, such as vitamin D, E, A, and K, along with the essential benefits of fat-soluble antioxidants, such as CLA. My body became nutrient deficient and manifested this through poor dental health and low body weight.

Let food be thy medicine, not thy poison. Choosing nutrient dense food that includes calorie-dense healthy fats is essential to an energized life with fewer health concerns.

Fortunately, our bodies are capable of alerting us of specific nutritional needs through food cravings, especially while trying to meet the high nutrient demands of pregnancy or breastfeeding. For example, during pregnancy, it is common for one to crave chocolate. This does not mean that you should go out and eat a big Hershey’s chocolate bar; instead, it may indicate you are in need of magnesium, which naturally occurs in cacao/cocoa. So, your options are to eat dark chocolate or another magnesium-rich food, or, alternatively, go take an epsom salt bath to absorb higher amounts of magnesium. Your cravings may subside post-bath. Here is an excellent food craving chart assembled by the blogger Mommypotamus to help you decipher your body’s messages:

Of course, not all cravings are due to nutrient deficiencies. Sometimes, they occur because of systemic candida, sleep deprivation, stress, or even dehydration. Whatever the reason, it is good to identify the root cause of your craving before you go and raid your pantry. Overeating is not a good thing. 🙂

Do you have strong cravings? How do you satisfy them?

Article Summary:

  1. Nutrient density is phrase used to categorize the quality of food.
  2. Food cravings have meanings. Decipher them with Mommypotamus’ food chart.


Disclaimer: All information on this blog is for informational purposes only. I am not a licensed medical professional. Please discuss any dietary or lifestyle changes, supplements, or medical questions with your doctor.

Written by:


Diane is a wife, mother, and researcher with the goal of restoring the practice of traditional holistic approaches to wellness and sharing evidence-based information with the public. She lives in Grand Forks North Dakota with her husband and four children and receives raw milk and pastured meats from Bartlett Farms.


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