These Are The Fruits & Veggies With The Most Vitamins, According To Research
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen, covering beauty and wellness. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
Quick! What's the most nutrient-dense produce you can buy? You might have immediately selected an item from the infamous "Clean 15" list or rattled off a bunch of fruits and veggies in no specific order. Honestly, we don't love the idea of ranking plants—filling your plate with a variety of fresh fruits and veggies will always be a cornerstone of good nutrition, no matter what kind you choose—but the CDC did study which staples truly earn "powerhouse" status.
"They looked at about 41 [items] and identified the top vegetables and fruits that had at least 10 percent or more of 17 different nutrients1," functional medicine expert Amy Sapola, PharmD, Director of Farmacy at The Chef's Garden in Huron, Ohio, shares on the mindbodygreen podcast. Curious which produce makes the cut? Find your new favorite fruits and veggies below.
A list of powerhouse vegetables, according to the CDC.
- Chinese cabbage
- Beet greens
- Leaf lettuce
- Romaine lettuce
- Collard greens
- Turnip greens
- Mustard greens
- Dandelion greens
Lo and behold, watercress earns the No. 1 spot—according to the CDC, it has a nutrient density score of 100. (A perfect score!) Specifically, it boasts vitamin K, vitamin C, folate, and vitamin B9. Beet greens, on the other hand, are rich in vitamin A and vitamin C (earning a score of 87.08), so don't toss them! "If you look at beetroot versus beet greens, the greens—which we most often cut off and throw away—actually have more minerals than the roots themselves," Sapola says.
Sapola also considers Romaine's score of 63.48 quite surprising: "Romaine is shockingly high," she notes, as it ranks above items like collard and dandelion greens. I generally don't think of it as overly high [in nutrients].” And in terms of fruit, you might be wondering why items like strawberries and limes ranked high, while polyphenol-rich blueberries didn't even make the cut. "This list doesn't consider phytonutrients, so it's only looking at vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber," Sapola says.
On that note, plenty of other fruits and veggies brimming with phytonutrients might not have made this specific CDC list—that doesn't mean they aren't healthy! Eating more greens is always a great idea, regardless of their exact nutrient score, since each plant delivers a wonderfully unique array of macro-, micro-, and phytonutrients.
Another way to elevate your daily nutrition game? A high-quality greens powder, ideally ones that delivers a blend of organic vegetables (including leafy greens, root vegetables, and even sea veggies), organic berries, organic herbs, prebiotic fiber, and more.
We repeat: Adding more plants to your plate is a major win in general, so please continue to buy any fruits and veggies that are accessible to you, even if they didn't make the CDC's powerhouse list. But if you'd like a resource to guide your grocery shopping habits, this list sheds light on a few underrated superstars. Consider this your sign to whip up some watercress.
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.