Nutrient-Dense Foods

I’m often asked how to get the most nutritional bang for your buck, and what foods give you the most nutritional value.

One of my teachers, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, created the ANDI-scoring system that is now widely used in Whole Foods to indicate the nutrient-density of a variety of foods. He and his team also created an easy acronym for remembering the most nutrient-dense and long-term health-promoting foods: G-BOMBS.

I like to share this acronym since it’s a quick and easy way to remember which foods you want to incorporate more of into your diet. That said, I also believe that we’re all different in terms of what our bodies need for optimal nutrition and performance, so I encourage you to play with these and see which ones hold true for you.

Greens: Leafy greens are some of the most nutrient-dense foods around. You want to get as much variety as possible here. In fact, I encourage you to try a new leafy green each week for the next few weeks so you can experiment with adding more variety here. Some examples include kale, bok choy, chard, mustard greens, broccoli, and spinach.

Beans/Legumes: Beans and other legumes are the most nutrient-dense source of carbohydrates and are very high in soluble fiber. They help to stabilize blood sugar and prevent cravings, so are particularly beneficial for those who tend to have issues with sugar.  If you tend to feel gassy after eating them, I recommend soaking your beans prior to use and then discarding the water or cooking them with a piece of kombu (a type of sea vegetable) to help neutralize those compounds. You can also experiment with different types of legumes to see which ones work best for you.

Onions: Onions, leeks, garlics, shallots, and scallions are fantastic for promoting cardiovascular health as well as immune health. With these, the finer you can mince them, crush them, or chew them, the better, since many of the most beneficial compounds are released that way.

Mushrooms: Mushrooms have some fantastic anti-cancer properties, and since each type of mushroom differs in what it offers, I recommend adding more variety. Here again, try a new type of mushroom each week to see which ones you like and which ones you don’t, and to add more variety to your diet.

Berries: Berries are incredibly nutrient-dense, and while they’re sweet, they are still fairly low in sugar. Have a handful of berries as a snack or a sweet treat. Change up which berries you go with and experiment with different uses for them. Frozen berries and fresh berries have similar nutritional profiles, so feel free to grab a few different kinds of frozen berries to keep year round.

Seeds and Nuts: Nuts and seeds have a wide spectrum of healthy fats, proteins, antioxidants, and a number of phytonutrients. They make a fantastic snack, or addition to a smoothie, or a soup recipe (have you seen my cashew cream recipe in The Blissful Cooking Guide?). Once again, add some variety in here and try different kinds of nuts and seeds to see which ones are best for you. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my article on how to get maximum nutritional value from nuts here.

As you can see, there are a lot of foods that fall under this umbrella, and this acronym can be very helpful when you’re in the store wondering what to buy. The key is always variety. Make sure you’re trying out new foods regularly. Really experiment and play with ingredients so you know what you do like, and what works best for your body.