We've heard about powerhouse fruits and vegetables (PFVs) for a decade now. These foods come from the plant world and are strongly linked to reduced chronic disease risk. They include leafy greens, yellow/orange varieties of produce, and cruciferous items. However, the top 10 all come from one category – leafy greens. Until a recent study there was no clear definition of what constituted a powerhouse fruit or vegetable based on nutrients and phytochemicals, but now that's changed.
This study looked at a cross section of foods identified as PFVs using a three-step process. First, they created a list of PFVs based on scientific literature and consumer guidelines. They also looked at berry fruits and allium vegetables based on their association with reduced risks for cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, and some cancers. The second step was to calculate a nutrient density score for each food. In the third step, based on what they learned in the first two steps, nutrient dense foods which were identified as those with scores ≥10 were classified as PFV.
While we can all wade through the data of this study, for those who like distilled information, this list offers the top 10 powerhouse fruits and vegetables defined by the percentage of recommended daily value of 17 nutrients as identified by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Institute of Medicine. They include potassium, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zine, and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K. Of the 47 foods researched in this study, all but 6 satisfied the powerhouse criterion. But you won't believe those that didn't make the cut! Raspberries, tangerines, cranberries, garlic, onions, and blueberries all fell from the powerhouse category based on these new findings. It's not that any of these foods are unhealthy. For instance blueberries are rich in phytochemicals and are thought to have disease preventative properties. However, because there wasn't good information on recommended intake they weren't factored into the study.