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Nutrient Density

  • Dr. Fuhrman's food pyramid is based on his principles of the health equation Health = Nutrients / Calories (H=N/C)
  • 90% of the daily diet should be comprised of nutrient rich plant foods (high ANDI score) with health-promoting phytochemicals.
  • The pyramid promotes foods that are richest in micronutrients and benefit health and longevity.

Nutrient Density is a critical concept in devising and recommending dietary and nutritional advice to patients and to the public. Not merely vitamins and minerals, but adequate consumption of phytochemicals is essential for proper functioning of the immune system and to enable our body’s detoxification and cellular repair mechanisms that protect us from chronic diseases. 

Nutritional science in the last twenty years has demonstrated that colorful plant foods contain a huge assortment of protective compounds, most of which still remain unnamed. Only by eating an assortment of nutrient-rich natural foods can we access these protective compounds and prevent the common diseases that afflict Americans. Our modern, low-nutrient eating style has led to an overweight population, the majority of whom develop diseases of nutritional ignorance, causing our medical costs to spiral out of control. 

To guide people toward the most nutrient dense foods, I developed a 0-100 scale of micronutrient scores called the Nutrient Density Line, which ranks categories of foods based on their ratio of nutrients to calories.

Because phytochemicals are largely unnamed and unmeasured, these rankings underestimate the healthful properties of colorful natural plant foods compared to processed foods and animal products. One thing we do know is that the foods that contain the highest amount of known nutrients are the same foods that contain the most unknown nutrients too. So even though these rankings may not consider the phytochemical number sufficiently they are still a reasonable measurement of phytochemical content.

Keep in mind that nutrient density scoring is not the only factor that determines good health. For example, if we only ate foods with a high nutrient density score our diet would be too low in fat. So we have to pick some foods with lower nutrient density scores (but preferably the healthier ones) to include in our high nutrient diet. Additionally, if a slim or highly physically active individual ate only the highest nutrient foods they would become so full from all of the fiber and nutrients that they would not be able to meet their caloric needs, and they would eventually become too thin. This of course gives you a hint at the secret to permanent weight control – eat the greatest quantity of the foods with the highest micronutrient scores, and lesser amounts of foods with lower scores.  For more information on the Nutrient Density Line, please refer to Eat to Live (2011 edition), pages 118-122.


Dr. Fuhrman's Micronutrient Scores

Line Chart



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