We learn the health benefits of a different nutrient almost every other day it seems. We need more antioxidants, more iron, more magnesium, but we can’t just keep eating more food.
While counting calories is now thought to be a poor approach to losing weight, we still know that we can’t eat an unlimited number. And so it becomes important to get the most nutrients possible out of the calories we do consume. In other words, we need to eat nutrient dense foods, with plenty of nutritional value and almost no calories.
15 Nutrient Dense Foods
Celery is your classic zero calorie food. Consisting of mostly water, by the time you’re done all that chewing, you’ve probably expended more calories than you’ve consumed. A 100-gram serving contains just 16 calories. Just don’t go overboard with dips or spreads or whatever topping you usually prefer.
Broccoli is one of my all time favorite vegetables. In a stir-fry or as a side, I absolutely love it. It’s great because it contains a ton of fiber, helping your digestive system, and even some plant protein. There’s just 34 calories in a 100-gram serving.
At 52 calories per 100 gram serving, apples actually have more calories than most of the foods on this list. But filled with fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, they’re more than worth it. Personally, I like to eat one as a snack between lunch and dinner to stop me from turning to something a lot less healthy.
Growing up cucumbers were one of the few vegetables I liked to eat. Filled with water, they are great for hydration and are delicious when added to a pitcher of water. At 16 calories per 100-grams, they are extremely low in calories and make an excellent addition to any salad.
I’m not really a big fan of oranges, but their health benefits are undeniable. Filled with vitamin C, oranges come in at just 47 calories per 100 gram serving, far fewer than many other fruits.
Cabbage has been known to help fight cancer and heart disease. It can also help you lose weight, coming in at just 25 calories per 100 grams. I absolutely love cabbage soup and it’s a great soup to love because it’s so filling and has so few calories.
Cauliflower has anti-inflammatory properties and can help your heart and digestive system. It contains just 25 calories in a 100 gram serving and can be used to make delicious pizza crusts. You may even burn more calories preparing it than you will eating it.
Grilled asparagus in the summertime is one of my favorite side dishes. It’s filling but doesn’t have many calories, just 20 in a 100-gram serving.
Kale is one of the most nutrient dense foods around. For just 49 calories you get a ton of fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and protein. You can try making kale chips, put it in a salad, or I even regularly eat it in wraps.
Pretty much all kinds of mushrooms are low in calories. Chanterelles have just 38 calories in a 100-gram serving, portabellas just 22. Put them in a sauce, a sauté, or even make them into a burger, they add nothing but earthy flavor and nutrients.
Carrots aren’t just good for your eyesight. They also have anti-inflammatory properties, are a natural diuretic, and can help stabilize your blood sugar levels. All that for just 41 calories per 100-gram serving.
Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable, like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, and so have many of the same benefits, including being low in calories (just 43 per 100 grams). But they aren’t everyone’s favorite vegetable. My sister absolutely despises them.
Watermelon is another summertime favorite of mine. So sweet and juicy – who would’ve guessed that it is so low in calories? With just 30 in a 100-gram serving and containing loads of beneficial antioxidants, it really is a guilt-free treat. It’s even been known to boost your metabolism. Just be sure not to overindulge – something I’m definitely guilty of on occasion.
Zucchini has just 17 calories in a 100-gram serving. I love it in a stir-fry or a pasta sauce, but you can use it in a ton of different ways, even in bread.
Onions are the starting point for a lot of different recipes. When I don’t know what I’m doing in the kitchen, I always start with frying some onions in a pan to get some flavor going. It’s nice to know that I’m not adding many calories, just 40 per 100 grams. They also contain beneficial flavonoids.
Some other nutrient dense foods include beets, lemons, tomatoes, grapefruit, and turnips.