Nutrient density

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The term "nutrient density" has several meanings.

Firstly, nutrient density is defined as a ratio of nutrient content (in grams) to the total energy content (in kilocalories or joules). Nutrient-dense food is opposite to energy-dense food (also called "empty calorie" food). According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, nutrient-dense foods are those foods that provide substantial amounts of vitamins and minerals and relatively few calories. For example, fruit and vegetables are considered nutrient-dense food, while products containing added sugars, saturated fats, and alcohol are considered nutrient-poor food.

Secondly, nutrient density is defined as a ratio of food energy from carbohydrate, protein or fat to the total food energy. To calculate nutrient density (in percent), divide the number of calories or joules from one particular nutrient by the total number of calories or joules in the given food and then multiply this by 100.

Thirdly, nutrient density is understood as the ratio of the nutrient composition of a given food to the nutrient requirements of the human body. Therefore, a nutrient-dense food is the food that delivers a complete nutritional package.


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  • "Adequate Nutrients Within Calorie Needs". Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005. Retrieved 2006-05-04.
  • "Nutrient-dense food vs. empty-calorie food". Calorie Counter. Retrieved 2006-05-04.
  • "What is nutrient density and why is it so important?". The World's Healthiest Foods. Retrieved 2006-05-04.