One measurement of food quality is the amount of nutrients it contains relative to the amount of energy it provides. High-quality foods are nutrient dense, meaning they contain significant amounts of one or more essential nutrients relative to the amount of calories they provide. Nutrient-dense foods are the opposite of “empty-calorie” foods such as carbonated sugary soft drinks, which provide many calories and very little, if any, other nutrients. Food quality is additionally associated with its taste, texture, appearance, microbial content, and how much consumers like it.
Food: A Better Source of Nutrients
It is better to get all your micronutrients from the foods you eat as opposed to from supplements. Supplements contain only what is listed on the label, but foods contain many more macronutrients, micronutrients, and other chemicals, like antioxidants, that benefit health. While vitamins, multivitamins, and supplements are a $20 billion industry in the United States, and more than 50 percent of Americans purchase and use them daily, there is no consistent evidence that they are better than food in promoting health and preventing disease.
Make a list of some of your favorite foods and visit the “What’s In the Foods You Eat?” search tool provided by the USDA. What are some of the nutrients found in your favorite foods?