What Are THE 28 Most Nutritious Foods?

By Jess Barron ; Updated June 10, 2016

According to a Consumer Reports survey, 90 percent of Americans polled said they believed that they consumed a diet that was at least "somewhat" healthy.

But are we really eating healthy?

Unfortunately, it doesn't sound that way. Another report published in 2011 (based on data from national food-consumption surveys), found that 90 percent of Americans are NOT getting the essential nutrients we need to stay healthy.

According to this report, the 11 nutrients we are falling short on include: potassium, fiber, vitamin D, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12, zinc, folate, magnesium and iron.

So, what is it that we’re doing wrong?

Americans' shortages in these key nutrients are attributed to the fact that we aren’t eating enough of the foods that supply these particular vitamins and minerals.

If I asked you what the most nutritious foods were, what would you guess?

The answer is probably easier than you think.

Remember back to when your mom prodded you to "Eat your vegetables"? Well, she was right.

Vegetables and fruits are the most nutrient-dense foods you can find (followed by legumes/beans, nuts and seeds, and then whole grains).

If your mom was always prodding you to eat your spinach and Brussels sprouts she was actually on to something! (But if your mom told you to eat your bok choy, watercress and kale, she was REALLY onto something.)

The 11 Most Nutrient-Dense Foods Are ALL Green Vegetables:

1. Bok choy

2. Watercress

3. Kale

4. Collard greens

5. Mustard greens

6. Swiss chard

7. Spinach

8. Arugula

9. Romaine lettuce

10. Brussels sprouts

11. Broccoli

These foods rank at the very top when using the Aggregate Nutrient Density (ANDI) score that ranks the whole foods rated by highest nutrients per calorie as described by Dr. Joel Fuhrman in his books “Eat For Health” and “Eat Right America Nutritarian Handbook.” (Dr. Fuhrman defines a “nutritarian” as “a person who bases food choices on maximizing the micronutrients per calorie.”)

Whole Foods grocery stores adopted the ANDI system, where consumers can see ANDI rating signs around items in the salad bar and produce sections.

ANDI scores are calculated by evaluating an extensive range of micronutrients, including vitamins, minerals, beneficial phytochemicals (angiogenesis inhibitors, organosulfides, isothiocyanates, and aromatase inhibitors) and antioxidant capacities.

Did your mom try to get you to eat kale, watercress or arugula when you were little? Mine did not, and I’m pretty sure those greens were not on many people’s radar in the 1970s or 1980s. Today, you’re likely to find kale and arugula as tasty salad options at most restaurants.

On the Scale of Nutrient Density, Green Leafy Vegetables Are Followed by Non-Green Vegetables:

12. Carrots

13. Cauliflower

14. Bell peppers

15. Asparagus

16. Mushrooms

17. Tomatoes

18. Sweet potatoes

Fruits That Score High on the Nutrient-Density List Are:

19. Strawberries

20. Blackberries

21. Plums,

22. Raspberries

23. Blueberries

24. Grapes

25. Pomegranates

26. Cantaloupe

27. Papaya

28. Oranges

OK, So What Should We Do to Fix Our Nutrition and Health Issues?

We have to start eating foods with a bigger nutritional bang, rather than processed junk. For example, you could eat about 20 corn chips for 176 calories, 8 grams of fat, 24 grams of carbs, 3 grams of protein, 1 percent of vitamin A, 0 percent of vitamin C, 6 percent of calcium and 5 percent of iron.

Or you can eat three cups of raw kale for 100 calories, 1 gram of fat, 20 grams of carbs, 7 grams of protein (more than double the protein in the 20 chips!) plus 618 percent of vitamin A, 402 percent of vitamin C, 27 percent of calcium and 19 percent of iron. Now it makes sense why your friends are snacking on kale chips, right?

As Michael Pollan wrote in “In Defense of Food” in 2009: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

It makes sense when you look at ANDI scores because eggs, low-fat dairy and meats such as chicken and lean beef rank lower in nutrient density than plant-derived onions, sunflower seeds, kidney beans and oatmeal.

White bread and corn chips rank lower than eggs, meats, and low-fat dairy products in nutrient density.

If you’re one of those people who reaches for corn chips, crackers or vanilla ice cream at night, be aware that these foods rank very, very low on the list of nutrient-rich foods. They are just a small step above soda, which is at the bottom of the list.

I asked our LIVESTRONG.COM STRONGER Workout Challenge trainer Nicky Holender to share his recommended nutrient-dense foods. Here's what he had to say:

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