The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta doesn’t just have the morbid job of monitoring and managing negative health concerns–it is also responsible for helping us live better. It has recently released a study in its journal Preventing Chronic Disease to define “powerhouse” fruits and vegetables–those delivering the biggest nutritional bang for the buck.
What is a “Powerhouse”?
The first thing the researchers had to do was define “powerhouse” and devise a scale, a point of reference on which to base the forty-seven foods tested.
The definition they landed on:
“Powerhouse fruits and vegetables (PFV), foods most strongly associated with reduced chronic disease risk, are described as green leafy, yellow/orange, citrus, and cruciferous items…Defining PFV on the basis of nutrient and phytochemical constituents is suggested (1)…This article describes a classification scheme defining PFV on the basis of 17 nutrients of public health importance per the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Institute of Medicine (ie, potassium, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc, and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K) (3).”
Based on these criteria, a vegetable not particularly popular in North America was jettisoned to the top of the list: watercress.
Forty-one of the forty-seven produce items tested met the minimum ten percent daily value (DV) of the listed nutrients per one hundred calories.
Watercress Received a Score of 100 (on a scale of 0 to 100).
Watercress is not unknown in other parts of the world; there is even an annual Watercress Festival in the United Kingdom to celebrate this terrific vegetable. You can add it to a smoothie, salad, or sandwich. Doesn’t take much to get its goodies.
The six items that didn’t meet the criteria of ten percent DV are blueberry, cranberry, garlic, onion, raspberry, and tangerine.
Avocado, for example, wasn’t tested but it is still considered by many to be very nutrient-dense with significant health benefits.
The lead researcher, Jennifer Di Noia, PhD of William Paterson University, advises:
“Consistent with a whole-diet approach, [consumption of] all of the items should be encouraged. The rankings may help consumers make nutrient-dense selections within the powerhouse group.”
Other Produce is Important, Too.
What’s important about the study is that there are so many choices among foods to eat, it may be important to some to select those with the right amount of a particular nutrient; the range of different constituents in green leafy vegetables alone can be seventy points.
The items that made the list are the most nutrient-dense based on the elements tested–that doesn’t mean you should exclude any other fruit or vegetable because each contributes to overall good health in its own way.
Keep in mind, too, that only forty-seven were included in the study; nature has provided a healthful cornucopia of thousands of nutritious and healing plants.