11.06.2014 Home & Food

Powerhouse Fruits and Veggies

Power fruits  credit: Valerie Janssen/StockFood
LISTEN JUN 11, 2014
Power fruits credit: Valerie Janssen/StockFood

What's a 'powerhouse' fruit or vegetable? According to a new study published in a Centers for Disease Control and Protection journal, they're foods that are 'most strongly associated with reduced chronic disease risk.'

They also contain 17 essential nutrients in quantities that constitute 10 percent or more of a person's ideal daily intake: potassium, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc, and vitamins A, B 6 , B 12 , C, D, E, and K 3 . But the top performer might surprise you.

The veggie you should buy right now is watercress, which scored a perfect 100 on the authors' 'nutrient density' scale. (Geek out over watercress recipes here.) Also in the top five: Chinese cabbage, chard, beet greens, and as Popeye already suspected spinach.

Way down on the list is the leafy green kale , which only scored a 54.80. Don't worry, kale lovers that's pretty good. It and 35 other fruits and vegetables still met the study's 'powerhouse' standards, including pumpkin, Brussels sprouts , and  strawberries.

Of the fruits and veggies examined, only six didn't tangerines, garlic, onions, cranberries, raspberries, and blueberries though this doesn't mean they're necessarily unhealthy. Berries, for instance, are rich in phytochemicals compounds that may have disease preventive properties but there isn't yet good information on recommended intake amounts for them, so they weren't factored into the study.

'Nutrient profiling is not new,' the lead researcher, Jennifer Di Noia, told The Washington Post. 'But applications to fruits and vegetables are limited. This is the first classification scheme of which I am aware to define and rank' fruits and vegetables.

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