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5 Unusual Nutrient-Dense Foods To Support Optimum Health

Margaret Wertheim, R.D.
Written by Margaret Wertheim, R.D.

To support vibrant health, it’s wise to choose foods that have a high nutrient density. This means eating foods that have a high vitamin and mineral content, while minimizing empty calories or low-nutrient foods such as sweets and refined grains. Try incorporating these five uncommon foods into your diet to achieve a higher state of health and vitality:

Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is a great source of B vitamins including vitamin B12, which strict vegans don’t get in their diet without a supplement. Vitamin B12 is vital for red blood cell production and for DNA methylation, which may play a role in cancer prevention. 

Nutritional yeast is also a source of iron, which is especially important for women as iron requirements are higher for women than men. Vegetarian and vegan women are at a particularly high risk for iron deficiency, so incorporating nutritional yeast is a good way to boost iron intake. 

Add nutritional yeast to popcorn, kale chips, or sprinkle on cooked leafy greens or use as a binder instead of bread crumbs in recipes for black bean burgers or crab cakes.


Nettle Tea

Nettles are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, but did you know that nettles are also a rich source of nutrients? 

Drink pure nettle tea or blend with green tea or peppermint tea for a deliciously nourishing tea blend that provides you with beneficial nutrients like calcium, B vitamins, iron and potassium. Drinking nettle tea can be a great way to increase your calcium intake without dairy products and may also decrease inflammation. 

Many chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer are all inflammatory conditions. Drink nettle tea hot to warm up on a cold day, or serve cold with a splash of fruit juice or some berries in the summer for a refreshingly hydrating health tonic.


Sauerkraut, which is made by fermenting cabbage, contains indole-3-carbinol, a compound that helps to balance estrogen levels. Cabbage is also a good source of vitamins C and K. The fermentation process makes sauerkraut a great source of beneficial lactobacillus bacteria. These probiotic bacteria may help support digestion as well as help to keep the immune system strong.


Seaweed is another rich source of beneficial minerals like iron, iodine, and calcium. It’s high iodine content makes seaweed especially nourishing for the thyroid. Use dulse flakes in place of salt to boost the mineral content of your food. 

Snack on toasted nori, sprinkle arame on salad or add to stir-fries. Use kombu (a kind of edible kelp) in cooking beans to tenderize the beans and for an infusion of beneficial minerals.



Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae that is a rich source of minerals. It's particularly rich in copper and manganese, which have antioxidant functions in the body. Copper is also important for neurotransmitter synthesis, and manganese is important for the production of collagen that makes up skin, ligaments and tendons. Add spirulina to smoothies or homemade energy bars.

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