Everywhere you look, you see the terminology “Super Food.” The headlines trumpet -- Eat this! Eat that! Make sure this is part of your diet to stay healthy! However, I along with a lot of other readers got a rude awakening in reading the book “Counter Clockwise” when author Lauren Kessler noted that the title of “Super Food” isn’t based in research.
That’s now beginning to change, thanks to research out of William Paterson University in New Jersey. In this study, a researcher developed and validated a classification scheme that defined powerhouse fruits and vegetables based on whether they provided 10 percent or more of the daily value of 17 qualifying nutrients. The study used a three-step process to identify powerhouse fruits and vegetables. First, the researcher developed a tentative list of produce that included green leafy produce, yellow and orange produce, citrus and cruciferous produce. This list was generated based on previously published research as well as consumer guidelines. In addition, berry fruits and allium vegetables (such as garlic) were added because they’ve been linked to reduced risk of heart disease, neurodegenerative disease and some types of cancer. The researchers then collected information on the amounts of 17 nutrients in these foods in their raw form as well as four produce items – apples, bananas, corn and potatoes – that have been described as having low nutrient density.
The researcher then developed a nutrient density score using data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These power foods were calculated based on their contents of 17 nutrients: potassium, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K. Based on this calculation, foods that were nutrient dense – which were those defined as having scores that were greater or equal to 10 – were classified as powerhouse fruits and vegetables.
The researcher found that 41 of the 47 identified foods studied met the criterion to be named a powerhouse fruit and vegetable. Not surprisingly, cruciferous and dark green leafy vegetables were found to be in the top 10 of these foods. These leading vegetables included watercress, Chinese cabbage, chard, beet greens, spinach, chicory, leaf lettuce, parsley, romaine lettuce and collard greens. Other foods that made the list included turnip greens, mustard greens, endive, chive, kale, dandelion green, red pepper, arugula, broccoli, pumpkin, Brussels sprouts, scallions, kohlrabi, cauliflower, cabbage, carrot, tomato, lemon, iceberg lettuce, strawberry, radish, winter squash, orange, lime, grapefruit (pink and red), rutabaga, turnip, blackberries, leek, sweet potato and white grapefruit. Interestingly, six types of produce that didn’t make the cut were raspberries, tangerines, cranberries, garlic, onion and blueberries.
Besides providing additional encouragement to eat your fruits and vegetables, there are a couple of things that are important to note in this study. These are:
- Parts of vegetables that you normally throw away may actually be chalk full of vitamins. Take beet greens. In her book, “Root-to-Stalk Cooking,” author Tara Duggan suggests considering beet greens as an extra gift since they are normally cut off by supermarkets. “Dark green and red-veined, beet greens have a flavor and texture that is similar to that of their close cousin, chard,” she said. Duggan recommends that you remove the tops from beets and other root vegetables such as turnips and radishes and then store them unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
- Make sure to enjoy the types of produce that didn’t make the list! Even if they didn’t qualify as a powerhouse fruits and vegetables, these fruits and vegetables are still good for you. Take blueberries, for instance. The antioxidants in these fruits may help improve memory, which is especially important as we age. Furthermore, blueberries have been found to improve antioxidant defenses throughout the body, including muscles, nervous system, the digestive tract and blood sugar regulatory system. These fruits are considered low on the glycemic index, thus they doesn’t impact blood sugar levels. Therefore, blueberries provide a lot of benefit, even if they don’t qualify for “powerhouse” status.
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
Di Noia, J. (2014). Defining powerhouse fruits and vegetables: A nutrient density approach. Preventing Chronic Diseases.
Duggan, T. (2013). Root-to-stalk cooking: The art of using the whole vegetable.
George Mateljan Foundation. (ND). Blueberries.
MedlinePlus. (2014). Are you eating enough ‘powerhouse’ vegetables?
Published On: June 10, 2014