Powerhouse Fruits and Veggies


Photo 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, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K3. 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 suspectedspinach.

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, garliconionscranberries, raspberries, and blueberries—though this doesn’t mean they’re necessarily unhealthy. Berries, for instance, are rich in phytochemicals—compounds that may have disease preventative 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.

Click here for the full list of fruits and vegetables, and check out a few of our favorite “powerhouse” recipes below:


Photo credit: Everyday Food

Watercress and Cucumber Salad, from Everyday Food

Stir-Fried Chicken with Chinese Cabbage, from Food & Wine

Swiss Chard Pie, from Everyday Food

Warm Beet Greens with Sour Cream Dressing, from Food52

Spinach and Roasted Red Pepper Gratin, from Epicurious