Knowing which foods are nutrient-dense can help with meal planning and nutrition strategies. However, it’s essential to remember that no single food provides all the nutrients you need, and the healthiest choice is a varied diet.

If you’re managing your weight, it makes sense to spend your calorie budget wisely by choosing the foods with the highest amount and greatest variety of nutrients.

To start with, you’ll need to avoid highly processed foods that provide a lot of calories but little nutritional value. Then start thinking about adding some of the following.

Oily fish, such as salmon, is high in omega-3 fatty acids. These are essential nutrients, which means you can only get them from foods. Every cell in your body needs omega-3 fatty acids. They are necessary for the correct functioning of the brain, eyes, heart, blood vessels, lungs, immune system, and endocrine system.

A 100-gram serving of wild Atlantic salmon contains about 2.2 grams (g) of omega-3s, along with 25.4 g of high-quality animal protein. It also provides vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, potassium, selenium, and B vitamins.

Salmon tastes good and is fairly simple to prepare. It also tends to make you feel full with relatively few calories.

When buying fish, always check it comes from a sustainable source.

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Fatty fish like salmon provides beneficial fatty acids, protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Sardines are small, oily fish that you can eat whole. They contain a little of almost every nutrient your body needs.

Like other fatty fish, they’re also high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

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Small, oily fish like sardines are usually eaten whole, so you consume the organs, bones, and other nutritious parts. They contain a little bit of almost every nutrient you need.

Kale is a green, leafy vegetable that’s rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and various bioactive compounds.

It provides vitamins C, A, K, and B6, potassium, calcium, magnesium, copper, and manganese. A one-cup serving has only 9 calories.

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Kale is one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables you can eat, containing large amounts of vitamins, minerals, and potentially cancer-fighting compounds.

There are many types of seaweed and ways to use it in food. Nori, for instance, is used to wrap sushi.

Seaweed provides minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, and manganese.

It is also high in iodine, a mineral your body uses to make thyroid hormones.

Research suggests that polysaccharides and other nutrients in seaweed may also have antioxidant properties. This means they could help protect against oxidative stress, which plays a role in inflammation and other health issues.

The nutrients of seaweed are also available in supplement form.

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Sea vegetables are highly nutritious. They are a good source of iodine, which is essential for optimal thyroid function.

Garlic provides vitamins C, B1, and B6, calcium, potassium, copper, manganese, and selenium, as well as allicin, a sulfur compound.

While more research is needed, there is some evidence that allicin and garlic may help reduce the risk of heart disease by:

  • lowering blood pressure
  • reducing total and LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • raising HDL (good) cholesterol

A high intake of vegetables from the garlic family has also been linked to a lower risk of gastrointestinal cancer.

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Garlic is both tasty and healthy. It’s highly nutritious and contains bioactive compounds that have confirmed disease-fighting properties.

How to peel garlic

Clams, oysters, scallops, and mussels are types of shellfish that can be highly nutritious.

Clams are a good source of B vitamins, particularly vitamin B12. They also provide vitamin C, potassium, selenium, and iron.

As with other fish, be sure to obtain shellfish that are sustainable and safe to eat, as some seafood can contain mercury and other toxins.

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Shellfish are some of the most nutritious animals found in the sea. They’re very high in important nutrients like vitamin B12 and zinc.

Potatoes are good sources of potassium, magnesium, iron, copper, and manganese. They also contain vitamin C and most B vitamins. If you eat them with their jackets, they are a good source of fiber.

A 2021 study of data for adolescents in the United States found that those who eat potatoes are more likely to have higher levels of essential nutrients — such as B vitamins, fiber, protein, and a range of minerals — than those who don’t. However, there could be various reasons for this.

Potatoes are a high-satiety food, which means they are satisfying and filling. Some research suggests they may be more filling than other high-carb foods, such as rice or pasta. This can help people manage their weight, as they are less likely to snack after eating potatoes.

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Potatoes contain a little bit of almost every nutrient you need. They are filling and can provide large amounts of resistant starch.

One function of the liver is to store important nutrients for the rest of your body. As a food, this makes it highly nutritious.

A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) portion of beef liver contains significant amounts of:

  • vitamin B12
  • vitamin B5, vitamin B6, niacin, and folate
  • vitamin B2
  • vitamin A
  • copper
  • iron, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium
  • high-quality animal protein

Eating liver once per week is a good way to ensure that you get optimal amounts of these vital nutrients.

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Liver is a highly nutritious organ meat containing large amounts of B vitamins as well as other healthy substances.

Many berries are an excellent source of antioxidants.

Blueberries, for instance, contain anthocyanins and other polyphenols. Some research suggests these compounds can cross the blood-brain barrier and have a neuroprotective function.

The possible health effects of blueberries include:

  • improvements in thinking and mood
  • enhancing endothelial function, essential for healthy blood flow, in females with low estrogen and high blood pressure
  • inhibit the growth of cancer cells

However, more research is needed to confirm these findings.

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The nutrients in blueberries may increase the levels of antioxidants in your blood and help protect your brain.

Eggs provide high-quality protein and healthy fats and are a satisfying food. Their high satiety value means you are less likely to be hungry soon after eating. As a result, eating eggs for breakfast may help with weight loss.

Egg yolks contain vitamins, minerals, and various powerful nutrients, including choline. They’re also high in lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that can protect your eyes and reduce your risk of eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration.

They are also cheap, flavorful, and easy to prepare.

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Whole eggs are so nutritious that they’re sometimes called “nature’s multivitamin.” Most of the nutrients are in the yolk.

Momordica charantia, also known as bitter melon or bitter gourd, is a cucumber-shaped vegetable with antioxidant properties.

It is commonly grown across parts of Asia, South America, and Africa, and has long played a role as a traditional medicine or medicinal food in some regions.

Research suggests the nutrients it contains may:

  • help manage blood sugar levels in people with diabetes
  • protect the brain and improve memory in people with Alzheimer’s disease
  • have anti-cancer properties

One 130-g cup of cooked bitter melon contains 53 calories and also provides:

  • fiber
  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • potassium
  • B vitamins
  • vitamins K, C, and A

Try it in the following recipes:

How can bitter melon benefit people with diabetes?

Cocoa powder provides iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese, as well as antioxidants. A cup of cocoa made with milk but no added sugar can make a nutritious treat.

Some studies have suggested that eating dark chocolate with a 70–85% cocoa content might reduce the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease.

However, the amount of nutrients you can get from eating a reasonable amount of chocolate is unlikely to have significant health benefits.

The American Heart Association recommends eating a little chocolate for enjoyment, but not for its health benefits.

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Dark chocolate and cocoa are very high in minerals and antioxidants. Eating them regularly may provide various health benefits.

Which food is the most nutrient-dense?

No single food can provide all the nutrients you need, but potatoes are high in nutrients and relatively easy to produce in many places, making them the most important non-cereal staple crop worldwide and essential for food security in many places.

Fried potatoes and potato chips, however, may be detrimental to health due to added fat and factors related to processing. Baked potatoes in their jackets are likely the healthiest option.

What is the number 1 healthiest food in the world?

It is not possible to identify a single healthiest food, but the healthiest diet will be one that contains a variety of fresh, plant-based foods and provides a range of nutrients.

What are some of the most nutritious foods?

Some of the most nutritious foods you can eat are oily fish, eggs, avocados, potatoes, and green leafy vegetables.

However, no food provides all the nutrients we need, so it’s essential to have a varied diet that includes plenty of fresh ingredients and is as little processed as possible.

The more processed a food is, the more likely nutrients are to be destroyed or unwanted nutrients — such as sugar — to be added.

What is one food you can survive on?

It is unlikely a person could survive for long on a single food, but the choice would depend on many factors, such as where you lived, access to cooking facilities, water content (if you didn’t have access to water), and the availability of the food.

Dates are high in antioxidants, minerals, and other nutrients. They provide energy and can help sustain life in harsh desert conditions. Some research suggests they may have health benefits. But, they do not provide protein or other nutrition you need long-term.

People have also used potatoes as a survival food, but eating only potatoes would likely have a negative effect on your health.

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.

Adding these foods to your diet can make it healthier.

Typically, however, the best diet will always be one that contains as wide a variety of fresh foods as you can obtain and afford, as no single food can provide all the nutrients your body needs.