First, by “nutrient dense” I mean two things. The amount of nutrition in food measured by vitamins and minerals compared to calories. The most nutrition-packed foods are typically fruits and vegetables. “Energy dense” foods are normally high in calories and low in vitamins and minerals, including most cereals and grains, products with added sugar and inputs that are high in carbohydrates, and alcohol. Foods with high nutrient density provide relatively more of the nutritional needs of our bodies, and usually provide a more complete and balanced nutritional package. Good news: of these healthy foods we can grow in our gardens!
The second meaning has to do with how foods are grown. Just because a food is nutritional-packed does not always mean it’s healthy. Some fruits and vegetables with high nutritional density may be unhealthy because of how they were grown. Toxic pesticide contamination is the main reason foods that normally have high nutritional value may actually be unhealthy. According to the Environmental Working Group these are the “Dirty Dozen” foods with the highest pesticide residues:
Peaches, Apples, Sweet Bell Peppers, Celery, Nectarines, Strawberries, Cherries, Pears, Grapes (Imported), Spinach, Lettuce, Potatoes
These nutrient dense foods can be far healthier if we eat them WITHOUT the added poisons. How do we find these 12 crops without pesticide residues? By buying them from organic sources (and the more local the source the more nutritional value, usually). OR, by growing them at home. Half of these “Dirty Dozen” are perfect candidates to grow in Kitchen Gardens, raised beds and containers where you control how they are grown.
This tomato seedling is surrounded by our "magic spinach".