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.
Definition and usage
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.  
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reported in 2013 that:
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.
Impact of soil and plant genetics
Nutrient density is also affected by cultivar genetics and growing conditions. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the United States National Institute of Food and Agriculture funded research in 2009 by the University of Massachusetts, which summarized:
Literature on food composition demonstrates that the mineral nutrient density of vegetables has fallen in the past 50 years. This decline is associated with declines in soil fertility and with the genetics of plant cultivars that accumulate yield at higher rates than they accumulate mineral nutrients. Research is needed to develop systems of food crop production that will supply adequate mineral nutrition to people directly through crop-derived foods.
The Nutrient Profiling Scoring Calculator (NPSC) in Australia and New Zealand is a calculator for determining whether health claims can be made for a food by its reference to the Nutrient Profiling Scoring Criterion (NPSC). It is defined by the FSANZ Board, which operates under the FSANZ Act.
The United Kingdom Ofcom nutrient profiling model provides "a single score for any given food product, based on calculating the number of points for ‘negative’ nutrients which can be offset by points for ‘positive’ nutrients." A 2007 UK-commissioned review of nutrient profiling models commissioned by the UK Food Standards Agency identified over 40 different schemes.
- Nutrient Profiling: Report of a WHO/IASO Technical Meeting, London, United Kingdom, 4-6 October 2010, accessed 10/15/2014.
- Nutrient Profiling, accessed 10/15/2014
- Hunter, J. G., Cason, K. L., Nutrient Density, Clemson University, 2006(November), accessed 10/15/2014. Nutrient density is defined as "a measure of the nutrients provided per calorie of food, or the ratio of nutrients to calories (energy)."
- Darmon, N., Darmon, M., Maillot, M., Drewnowski, A., A Nutrient Density Standard for Vegetables and Fruits: Nutrients per Calorie and Nutrients per Unit Cost, Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 105(12),2005 (December), 1881–1887, DOI: 10.1016/j.jada.2005.09.005, accessed 10/15/2014
- Drewnowski, A., Defining nutrient density: Development and validation of the nutrient rich foods index. J Am Coll Nutr. 2009; 28(suppl 4):421S-426S.
- Drewnowski, A., The Nutrient Rich Foods Index helps to identify healthy, affordable food, Am J Clin Nutr, April 2010, 91(4), 1095S-1101S, accessed 10/15/2014. First published February 24, 2010, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2010.28450D
- Trichterborn J, Harzer G, Kunz C. Nutrient profiling and food label claims: Evaluation of dairy products in three major European countries. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2011;65(9): 1032-1038.
- Position Paper, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2013(February), 113(2), 307-317. Position Paper adopted by the House of Delegates Leadership Team on September 13, 2001; June 30, 2005; and August 31, 2010. 2212-2672/$36.00 doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2012.12.013, accessed 10/15/2014.
- "Increasing Nutrient Density of Food Crops through Soil Fertility Management and Cultivar Selection".
- FSANZ Board, Nutrient Profiling Scoring Calculator, accessed 10/15/2014
- Rayner, M., Scarborough, P., Lobtein, P., The UK Ofcom Nutrient Profiling Model, October 2009, accessed 10/15/2014
- World Health Organization, Nutrient profiling: report of a technical meeting, London, United Kingdom, 4-6 October 2010, 20 pages, Publication date: 2011, ISBN 978 92 4 150220 7, accessed 10/15/2014, downloadable as a PDF from http://www.who.int/entity/nutrition/publications/profiling/WHO_IASO_report2010.pdf
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association), Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Total Diet Approach to Healthy Eating. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (January 2012), http://www.andjrnl.org/article/S2212-2672(12)01993-4/pdf, accessed 10/15/2014.
- American Dietetic Association, Practice Paper of the American Dietetic Association: Nutrient density—Meeting nutrient goals within calorie needs. J Am Diet Assoc. 2007;107(5):860-869.
- Cason, K. L., Clemson University Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. Nutrient Density (Consumer Judging--Junior/Senior). February 2005.
- Dooley, D. A. Island Scene Online. Nutrient Density: An Idea Whose Time Has Finally Come. (Hawaii Medical Service Association), July 27, 2005. http://www.islandscene.com/Article.aspx?id=2641, accessed 10/15/2014.
- Drewnowski A. Defining nutrient density: Development and validation of the nutrient rich foods index. J Am Coll Nutr. 2009; 28(suppl 4):421S-426S, accessed 10/15/2014.
- Hersey, J., When Consumers Use the Nutrient Rich Foods Index, Better Choices are Made, RTI International, 12-Jan-2012, Research Triangle Park, NC, accessed 10/15/2014
- McCallum, S., Addressing Nutrient Density in the Context of the Use of Thickened Liquids in Dysphagia Treatment, ICAN: Infant, Child, & Adolescent Nutrition, December 2011; vol. 3, 6: pp. 351-360. http://can.sagepub.com/content/3/6/351.short, accessed 10/15/2014.
- Sizer, F., and Whitney, E., Eds. Nutrition Concepts and Controversies, Ninth Edition. 2003.
- Tufts University, Health Sciences Campus. Expert Recommends Communicating "Nutrient Density" to Consumers. April 5, 2006. http://www.newswise.com/p/articles/view/519371/
- University of Oxford, Annex II of Rayner M, Scarborough P, Boxer A, Stockley L. Nutrient profiles: Development of final model. London: Food Standards Agency, 2005 (December), accessed 10/15/2014.
- University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension. Nutrient Density: Optimize Your Intake!