The Most Nutrient Dense Foods Per Calorie

Leading a healthy lifestyle involves eating foods high in nutrients while avoiding empty, or suboptimal, calories. In order to identify the most nutrient dense foods, we must look for foods highest in essential nutrients while being lowest in calories.

To create this ranking we added all the daily values for the following nutrients:

Vitamins: Vitamins A, B1 (Thiamin), B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin), B5 (Pantothenic Acid), B6, B9 (Folate), B12 (Cobalim), C, D, E, and K.

Minerals: Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Selenium, Sodium, and Zinc

Macronutrients: Fat, Saturated Fat, Cholesterol, Carbohydrates, and Fiber.

All these nutrients added together created a new nutrient density metric that we call "Total Daily Value" or "Total DV". Some methodologies might suggest subtracting saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium as these are generally seen as "bad" nutrients. However, since some people now favor consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol, they were left in. Sodium was also included since processed foods will not be in the list, so only natural sodium will be counted, and sodium levels found naturally in foods are typically low enough to be healthy.

Below are 15 of the most nutrient dense foods, these include fresh herbs like parsley, and dark leafy greens like swiss chard, kale, and spinach. Also on the list are shellfish (oysters), organ meats (liver), mushrooms, peppers, green onions, broccoli, and carrots. For even more high nutrient foods see the extended list of less common foods rich in nutrients.


#1: Parsley
Total DV in 100g 1 cup chopped (60g)1 tbsp (4g)
2634%DV (36 calories) 1580.4%DV (21.6 calories)100.1%DV (1.4 calories)
To boost your consumption of parsley, try making tablouleh. Click for the full nutrient profile.


#2: Swiss Chard
Total DV in 100g 1 cup (36g)1 leaf (48g)
1337%DV (19 calories) 481.3%DV (6.8 calories)641.8%DV (9.1 calories)
Click for the full nutrient profile.


#3: Kale
Total DV in 100g 1 cup, chopped (130g)
1457%DV (28 calories) 1894.1%DV (36.4 calories)
Click for the full nutrient profile.


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#4: Watercress
Total DV in 100g 1 cup, chopped (34g)10 sprigs (25g)
534%DV (11 calories) 181.6%DV (3.7 calories)133.5%DV (2.8 calories)
Click for the full nutrient profile.


#5: Spinach
Total DV in 100g 1 cup (180g)
1077%DV (23 calories) 1938.6%DV (41.4 calories)
Click for the full nutrient profile.


#6: Mustard Greens
Total DV in 100g 1 cup, chopped (140g)
1105%DV (26 calories) 1547%DV (36.4 calories)
Click for the full nutrient profile.


#7: Lettuce
Total DV in 100g 1 cup shredded (36g)1 head (360g)
394%DV (15 calories) 141.8%DV (5.4 calories)1418.4%DV (54 calories)
Click for the full nutrient profile.


#8: Oysters
Total DV in 100g 1 cup, undrained (248g)3 oz (85g)
1383%DV (68 calories) 3429.8%DV (168.6 calories)1175.6%DV (57.8 calories)
Click for the full nutrient profile.


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#9: Liver
Total DV in 100g 1 slice (81g)
3490%DV (175 calories) 2826.9%DV (141.8 calories)
Click for the full nutrient profile.


#10: Mushrooms (Exposed to Light)
Total DV in 100g 1 cup sliced (72g)1 piece whole (20g)
407%DV (22 calories) 293%DV (15.8 calories)81.4%DV (4.4 calories)
Mushrooms exposed to light will have much high levels of vitamin D. Click for the full nutrient profile.


#11: Sweet (Bell) Peppers
Total DV in 100g 1 pepper, large (3-3/4" long, 3" dia) (186g)10 strips (52g)
367%DV (27 calories) 682.6%DV (50.2 calories)190.8%DV (14 calories)
Click for the full nutrient profile.


#12: Arugula
Total DV in 100g 1/2 cup (10g)1 leaf (2g)
336%DV (25 calories) 33.6%DV (2.5 calories)6.7%DV (0.5 calories)
Click for the full nutrient profile.


#13: Spring Onions (Scallions)
Total DV in 100g 1 cup, chopped (100g)1 medium (4-1/8" long) (15g)
406%DV (32 calories) 406%DV (32 calories)60.9%DV (4.8 calories)
Click for the full nutrient profile.


#14: Broccoli
Total DV in 100g 1/2 cup, chopped (78g)1 stalk, medium (7-1/2" - 8" long) (180g)
443%DV (35 calories) 345.5%DV (27.3 calories)797.4%DV (63 calories)
Click for the full nutrient profile.


#15: Carrots
Total DV in 100g 1/2 cup slices (78g)1 carrot (46g)
439%DV (35 calories) 342.4%DV (27.3 calories)201.9%DV (16.1 calories)
Click for the full nutrient profile.


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Click each heading below for more information from HealthAliciousNess.com

Acerola (West Indian Cherry)2850%DV (32 calories) per 100 gram serving2793%DV (31.4 calories) per 1 cup (98 grams)136.8%DV (1.5 calories) per 1 fruit without refuse (5 grams) Get the full nutrient profile for Raw Acerola
Amaranth Leaves (Raw)1734%DV (23 calories) per 100 gram serving485.5%DV (6.4 calories) per 1 cup (28 grams)242.8%DV (3.2 calories) per 1 leaf (14 grams) Get the full nutrient profile for Raw Amaranth Leaves
Radicchio426%DV (23 calories) per 100 gram serving170.4%DV (9.2 calories) per 1 cup, shredded (40 grams)34.1%DV (1.8 calories) per 1 leaf (8 grams) Get the full nutrient profile for Raw Radicchio
Dandelion Greens (Raw)1419%DV (45 calories) per 100 gram serving780.5%DV (24.8 calories) per 1 cup, chopped (55 grams) Get the full nutrient profile for Raw Dandelion Green
Chicory Greens (Raw)694%DV (23 calories) per 100 gram serving201.3%DV (6.7 calories) per 1 cup, chopped (29 grams) Get the full nutrient profile for Raw Chicory Greens
Endive (Raw)473%DV (17 calories) per 100 gram serving118.3%DV (4.3 calories) per 1/2 cup, chopped (25 grams)2426.5%DV (87.2 calories) per 1 head (513 grams) Get the full nutrient profile for Raw Endive
Collards (Raw)875%DV (32 calories) per 100 gram serving315%DV (11.5 calories) per 1 cup, chopped (36 grams) Get the full nutrient profile for Raw Collards
Walrus Liver (Raw) (Alaska Native)1848%DV (125 calories) per 100 gram serving Get the full nutrient profile for Raw Walrus Liver (Alaska Native)
Sweet Potato Leaves (Raw)601%DV (42 calories) per 100 gram serving210.4%DV (14.7 calories) per 1 cup, chopped (35 grams)96.2%DV (6.7 calories) per 1 leaf (12-1/4" long) (16 grams) Get the full nutrient profile for Raw Sweet Potato Leaves
Chinese Broccoli (Cooked)299%DV (22 calories) per 100 gram serving263.1%DV (19.4 calories) per 1 cup (88 grams) Get the full nutrient profile for Cooked Chinese Broccoli
Jute Potherb (Cooked)493%DV (37 calories) per 100 gram serving428.9%DV (32.2 calories) per 1 cup (87 grams) Get the full nutrient profile for Cooked Jute Potherb

  1. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28.