Powerhouse fruits and vegetables – defined!
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
A powerhouse fruit or vegetable is a food strongly associated with reducing chronic disease risk. Until now, we’ve lacked a clear definition of what constitutes a powerhouse fruit or vegetable, but a new method of classification has been established that is based on nutrient density.
WHAT WE KNOW
All fruits and vegetables are uniquely different, and each offers a wide array of nutrients and other beneficial plant compounds on a broad continuum. Typically, the way to determine a fruit or vegetable’s nutrient content is by color; the deeper the color, the greater the nutritional value. However, color isn’t always the most reliable means of determining how significantly a fruit or vegetable benefits your health.
The proposed classification scheme is based on the 17 nutrients that hold the greatest public health importance. These are potassium, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc, and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K1. The fruits and veggies that made the list offer the best nutritional value for the calories they offer.
HOW DO WE KNOW THIS?
To create the new guidelines, researchers compiled a list of tentative items that would be included based on scientific literature and guidelines for consumers. Each fruit and vegetable was given a nutrient density score based on the level of each of the 17 nutrients noted above. All in all, a total of 41 of the 47 fruits and vegetables that were reviewed are considered a powerhouse fruit or vegetable!
While the study didn’t compare the full range of fruits and vegetables available in the market and did not account for other compounds in fruits and vegetables that are thought to confer health benefits, it provides a nice guide to those that do indeed offer a powerhouse of nutrition. Choose from this list — and your other favorite fruits and vegetables — during every meal or eating occasion and strive to fill half your plate with fruits and veggies. Incorporating a wider range of fruits and veggies keeps you from getting bored with your meals to meet that goal.
5 Ways to Switch Up Your Fruits & Veggies
- Plant a new fruit or vegetable in your garden.
- If there are items on the list you’re interested in trying, ask your grocer to carry it or try visiting a local farmer’s market or ethnic grocery store.
- Experiment with different ways of cooking your produce to draw out new flavors: bake; stir fry, sauté, grill, stew or steam.
- Unsure of how to store your new produce? Check out our Fruit and Vegetable Storage 101.
- Explore our Fruit & Veggie Recipe Database for new dishes.
*Di Noia, J. “Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables: A Nutrient Density Approach.” Prev Chronic Dis 2014;11:130390. View Article