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Nutrient density identifies the proportion of nutrients in foods, with terms such as nutrient rich and micronutrient dense referring to similar properties. Several different national and international standards have been developed and are in use (see Nutritional rating systems).
According to the World Health Organization, nutrient profiling classifies and/or ranks foods by their nutritional composition in order to promote human (and/or animal) health and to prevent disease. Ranking by nutrient density is one such nutrient profiling strategy. Ordering foods by nutrient density is a statistical method of comparing foods by the proportion of nutrients in foods. Some such comparisons can be the glycemic index and the Overall Nutritional Quality Index.
Nutrient-dense foods such as fruits and vegetables are the opposite of energy-dense food (also called "empty calorie" food), such as alcohol and foods high in added sugar or processed cereals. Beyond its use to distinguish different types of food from each other, nutrient density allows comparison to be made for different examples or samples of the same kind of food. Nutrient density is correlated with soil quality and mineralization levels of the soil, although the relationship is complex and incorporates other dimensions.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reported in 2013 that:
Several indicators of nutrient quality have been summarized by the Academy.
The Nutrient Rich Food Index has been developed by a research coalition involving food and nutrition practitioners. This index uses nutrient profiles that have been validated against accepted measures of a healthy diet, such as the Healthy Eating Index created by the USDA.
Nutrient density is also affected by cultivar genetics and growing conditions.
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