Super food used to be the big nutrition buzz word, the one that let everyone know certain foods had what amounted to superpowers if eaten regularly. From lowering cholesterol, to warding off disease, to boosting your memory, the list of foods with super benefits has become fairly well known. But, like all recommendations in the nutrition world, if you wait a while, a new and better suggestion seems to come at you, and here it is: powerhouse foods. And at the top of the list, with a nutrient score of 100, is . . . watercress?
Powerhouse fruits and vegetables are defined as those that have a high nutrient density, are green and leafy, yellow or orange, citrus, or cruciferous, and provide over 10% of the daily value of 17 important nutrients. They’ve made a splash in news media thanks to a recent list published by researchers at New Jersey’s William Paterson University as part of a study published in the CDC journal “Preventing Chronic Disease.” The list ranks the powerhouse foods by assigning each one a nutrient density score from 0-100. This is the first ranking of it’s kind to classify a fruit or vegetable according to its important nutrients, in order to help the public understand the ranking and start choosing more nutrient dense foods to add to their diets for better health.
The study looked at the nutritional content of 47 fruits and vegetables. Important nutrients included protein, fiber, calcium, potassium, and several vitamins and minerals. The score was limited to 100 so that foods that offered an unusually high level of one nutrient, but little else, were not chosen over a more nutritionally complete food. Foods containing the highest scores were watercress, Chinese cabbage, chard, beet greens and spinach. Other high scoring foods included leaf lettuce, chives, kale, red peppers, broccoli, and pumpkin. These foods, when eaten regularly, are strongly associated with reducing the risk of developing chronic diseases and also reducing the likelihood of developing certain cancers.
One surprising find to come out of the study? Fruits, according to the study’s criteria, are not powerhouse foods! Raspberries, blueberries, tangerines and cranberries, long considered to be potent super foods, didn’t even make the list. And oranges, lemons, strawberries and blackberries only had scores of 18 or below! So what does it all mean? Should you dump your diet and rush out to stock up on watercress? Not so fast! Like everything else in life, it’s all about balance. Try a few powerhouse foods if they’re not already on your grocery list. Check out some fun recipes. Add a few choices to your food rotation. You’ll be discovering some new, adventurous dishes, and helping reduce your risk of disease and cancer while you’re at it!