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Nutrition, Vitamins & Supplements for Seniors

Powerhouse vegetables and fruits for your healthy menu choices

Watercress leads the list, red pepper best fruit – failing to make list: raspberry, tangerine, cranberry, garlic, onion, and blueberry

photo of watercress from watercress.comDec. 7, 2014 – Senior citizens who want to eat healthy, and most do, should probably put more emphasis on eating watercress. It was ranked number one among 41 “powerhouse” fruits and vegetables in a study published earlier this year in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal “Preventing Chronic Disease.”

Watercress, Chinese cabbage, chard, beet greens and spinach top the list of the healthiest vegetables and fruits, according to research conducted by Jennifer Di Noia, PhD, an associate professor of sociology at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J.

 

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The top four fruits are red pepper, pumpkin, tomato and lemon.

The federal government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommend consuming a variety of vegetables each day because different vegetables are rich in different nutrients. Research as shown that higher consumption of vegetables may protect against some diseases, including some types of cancer.

National nutrition guidelines consistently emphasize consumption of powerhouse fruits and vegetables (PFV), foods most strongly associated with reduced chronic disease risk; yet efforts to define these PFV has been lacking before this study.

Di Noia 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, including potassium, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc, and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K.

Vegetables are categorized into five subgroups: dark-green, red and orange, beans and peas (legumes), starchy, and other vegetables.

Cruciferous vegetables, such as watercress, fall into the “dark-green vegetables” category and the “other vegetables” category. More information about vegetables and diet, including how much of these foods should be eaten daily or weekly, is available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture website Choose My Plate

This is the first time that the nutritional values of nutrient-dense fruits have been ranked to provide a measurable tool for nutrition education and dietary guidance.

The study developed and validated a classification scheme defining “powerhouse fruits and vegetables” as foods providing, on average, ten percent or more daily value per 100 kcal of the 17 qualifying nutrients.

“Higher-ranking foods provide more nutrients per calories,” says Di Noia. “The scores may help focus consumers on their daily energy needs, and how best to get the most nutrients from their foods. The rankings provide clarity on the nutrient quality of the different foods and may aid in the selection of more nutrient-dense items within the powerhouse group.”

Results and Tables

Of 47 foods studied, 41 satisfied the powerhouse criterion and were more nutrient-dense than were non-PFV. All but 6 (raspberry, tangerine, cranberry, garlic, onion, and blueberry) satisfied the powerhouse criterion (Table 2).

Scores above 100 were capped at 100. Items in cruciferous (watercress, Chinese cabbage, collard green, kale, arugula) and green leafy (chard, beet green, spinach, chicory, leaf lettuce) groups were concentrated in the top half of the distribution of scores (Table 2) whereas items belonging to yellow/orange (carrot, tomato, winter squash, sweet potato), allium (scallion, leek), citrus (lemon, orange, lime, grapefruit), and berry (strawberry, blackberry) groups were concentrated in the bottom half.

Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables, by Ranking of Nutrient Density Scores, 2014

1

Watercress

100.00

 

22

Scallion

27.35

2

Chinese cabbage

91.99

 

23

Kohlrabi

25.92

3

Chard

89.27

 

24

Cauliflower

25.13

4

Beet green

87.08

 

25

Cabbage

24.51

5

Spinach

86.43

 

26

Carrot

22.60

6

Chicory

73.36

 

27

Tomato

20.37

7

Leaf lettuce

70.73

 

28

Lemon

18.72

8

Parsley

65.59

 

29

Iceberg lettuce

18.28

9

Romaine lettuce

63.48

 

30

Strawberry

17.59

10

Collard green

62.49

 

31

Radish

16.91

11

Turnip green

62.12

 

32

Winter squash (all)

13.89

12

Mustard green

61.39

 

33

Orange

12.91

13

Endive

60.44

 

34

Lime

12.23

14

Chive

54.80

 

35

Grapefruit (pink & red)

11.64

15

Kale

49.07

 

36

Rutabaga

11.58

16

Dandelion green

46.34

 

36

Turnip

11.43

17

Red pepper

41.26

 

38

Blackberry

11.39

18

Arugula

37.65

 

39

Leek

10.69

19

Broccoli

34.89

 

40

Sweet potato

10.51

20

Pumpkin

33.82

 

41

Grapefruit (white)

10.47

21

Brussels sprout

32.23

       

 

Nutrient

Bioavailability, %

Iron

18

Riboflavin

95

Niacin

30

Folate

50

Vitamin B6

75

Vitamin B12

50

Vitamin C

70–90

Vitamin K

20

Table 2 - Bioavailability of Nutrients Used to Weight Nutrient Density Scores, 2014

Values shown represent the bioavailability of naturally occurring forms of the nutrients. When a range of values was reported, the lowest value in the range was used as the weighting factor.

>> Professor Di Noia’s study.

>> A short video with Professor Di Noia.

>> The Super-Veggies: Cruciferous Vegetables (Cancer Fighters), WebMD

>> Cruciferous Vegetables and Cancer Prevention, National Cancer Institute

>> What Foods Are in the Vegetable Group? – USDA Choose My Plate

>> What Foods Are in the Fruit Group? - USDA Choose My Plate

>> The Five Food Groups - USDA Choose My Plate

>> More about Watercress at Watercress.com

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