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Alasdair Thomson—Getty Images

41 Superfoods, Ranked By How Healthy They Are

Jun 06, 2014
TIME Health
For more, visit TIME Health.

Jennifer Di Noia, associate professor of sociology at William Paterson University, did the work for us and reported her results in the Centers for Disease Control’s Preventing Chronic Disease. We’re told to add powerhouse fruits and vegetables to our diet, but we don’t have much guidance on which ones are really potent and which are coasting by on their color alone. Nutritionists point us toward anything dark green and leafy, for example, but it turns out that they can vary by as much as 70 points on how many nutrients they contain.

Di Noia focused on 17 nutrients considered by the food experts at the United Nations and the Institute of Medicine to be important to good health and to lowering risk of heart disease and cancer: potassium, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc, and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K.

She then combed the scientific literature to calculate how many nutrients they contained per calorie of energy they provided (based on a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet); the higher the value, the more of a powerhouse food it was. “It gives people a way of thinking how to maximize the nutrients per calorie,” she says.

She admits that the list doesn’t include all the phytochemicals, or compounds that could add to a food’s nutritional profile but, she says, “now that we have a list of foods it can help consumers know what are the powerhouse fruits and vegetables, and maybe choose the more nutrient-dense foods over less nutrient dense ones.”

Here’s the list. And since this list is all fruits and veggies, it stands to remind you that you can't really go wrong with anything listed here. That said: Who knew watercress was such a power-veggie?

ItemNutrient Density Score
Watercress100.00
Chinese cabbage91.99
Chard89.27
Beet green87.08
Spinach86.43
Chicory73.36
Leaf lettuce70.73
Parsley65.59
Romaine lettuce63.48
Collard green62.49
Turnip green62.12
Mustard green61.39
Endive60.44
Chive54.80
Kale49.07
Dandelion green46.34
Red pepper41.26
Arugula37.65
Broccoli34.89
Pumpkin33.82
Brussels sprout32.23
Scallion27.35
Kohlrabi25.92
Cauliflower25.13
Cabbage24.51
Carrot22.60
Tomato20.37
Lemon18.72
Iceberg lettuce18.28
Strawberry17.59
Radish16.91
Winter squash (all varieties)13.89
Orange12.91
Lime12.23
Grapefruit (pink and red)11.64
Rutabaga11.58
Turnip11.43
Blackberry11.39
Leek10.69
Sweet potato10.51
Grapefruit (white)10.47
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