Choosing Nutrient Dense Foods

By Beth O’Hara

Nutrient dense foods are those foods that are as chock full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants as possible. Choosing nutrient dense foods will not only help you fill your plate with nutritious calories, but will also leave less room for processed foods like white flour and white sugar that have been linked to increased inflammation and cancer risks.

Where do you find nutrient dense foods?

Most colorful fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, as are mushrooms, herbs, nuts, and seeds. Wild salmon and small oily fishes like sardines and herring are high in omega 3 fatty acids, which also are linked to numerous health benefits. Very fresh extra virgin olive oil is also a great source of antioxidants. A good rule of thumb is to shop the outer edges of the grocery store, particularly the produce department. If something is packaged and has more than a couple of ingredients, it is probably processed, which reduces the nutritional quality of foods.

How can I add more nutrient dense foods to my plate?

One great way to eat more nutritiously is to fill one-half to two-thirds of your plate with mostly vegetables and some fruits. If that seems overwhelming or difficult to start with, you can always try adding one additional daily serving of vegetables or fruit to a meal each week until you have reached your goal. Learn ways to cook vegetables that make them appealing to you, like seasoning them with herbs, unrefined sea salt, and some extra virgin olive oil or grass fed butter.

What are some of the most nutrient dense fruits and vegetables?

Try adding these foods to your plate each week to increase your vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant intake. Your health will greatly benefit!

Apples, especially Fuji, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, and Red Delicious (be sure to eat the peel)


Asparagus (Buy the freshest available and eat right away.)


Blueberries, fresh or frozen, especially wild blueberries

Blackberries, Cranberries, Raspberries, and Strawberries

Cauliflower, all colors

Citrus: Navel oranges and red and pink grapefruits

Dark leafy greens and red lettuces (Store in a plastic bag perforated with 10-20 holes to maintain nutrients. Tear lettuce into pieces several hours before eating to increase available nutrients)

Garlic, all varieties

Green and purple broccoli (Store in a plastic bag perforated with 10-20 holes to maintain nutrients.)

Green onion tops and chives (try finely chopping and adding to meats, fish, and other vegetables

Herbs, especially fresh herbs – use copiously!

Kale (Store in a plastic bag perforated with 10-20 holes to maintain nutrients. Use as soon as possible.)

Mango (the darker the flesh the better)

Nectarines and Peaches, particularly the white flesh varieties


Sweet potatoes, the darker the flesh the better

Tart Cherries

Remember to enjoy!!


An excellent resource on the most nutritious fruits and vegetables and how to select, store, and prepare them is Eating on The Wild Side by Jo Robinson.


Beth O’Hara is a Holistic Health Coach, Life Coach, Iyengar Yoga Teacher, and Certified Enneagram Teacher. She has been studying Nutrigenomics extensively for the past five years and has work with hundreds of clients to improve their health and well-being. Her listening skills, empathy and intuition make her a compassionate, effective and gifted coach and teacher. She is experienced in working with client's to transform areas that include health and wellness, relationships, self-understanding, self-esteem, and life balance.

You may contact her here for more information.

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