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Kale has been kicked off the top spot

Lovers of kale cite wide ranging health benefits from fighting cancer to reducing the risk of heart disease.

However, despite its popularity in recent years, kale does not even make the top 10 fruits and vegetables for health, according to one study.

The study

Researchers from William Paterson University in New Jersey, USA looked at the nutrient density of more than 40 fruits and vegetables for health.

These foods were chosen because, on average, they provide 10 per cent or more of the daily recommended intake of 17 critical nutrients per 100 Calories.

These nutrients are considered important for reducing the risk of chronic diseases (including anxiety). They are potassium, fibre, protein, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc plus the vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E and K.

Of the foods studied, 41 satisfied the criteria to be named “powerhouse”. 

And the (unlikely) winner is… watercress!


“The scores can serve as a platform for educating people on the concept of nutrient density,” said study author Jennifer Di Noia. “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.”

However, some other nutrient-dense foods such as berries and garlic have not made the list because of the particular nutrient profiling that the study was based on, though in other nutrient density rankings they would rate highly, as Professor Di Noia acknowledged.

The full list of the 41 powerhouse fruit and vegetables for health

To download this list, along with the nutrient density scores, click here.

Ranking Fruit or vegetable
1 Watercress
2 Chinese cabbage (bok choy)
3 Silverbeet (chard)
4 Beetroot greens
5 Spinach
6 Chicory (curly endive)
7 Leaf lettuce
8 Parsely
9 Romaine lettuce
10 Collard greens
11 Turnip greens
12 Mustard greens
13 Endive
14 Chives
15 Kale
16 Dandelion greens
17 Red capsicum (pepper)
18 Rocket (arugula)
19 Broccoli
20 Pumpkin
21 Brussel sprout
22 Spring onion (scallion)
23 Kohlrabi
24 Cauliflower
25 Cabbage
26 Carrot
27 Tomato
28 Lemon
29 Iceberg lettuce
30 Strawberry
31 Radish
32 Winter squash (all varieties)
33 Orange
34 Lime
35 Grapefruit (pink and red)
36 Swede
37 Turnip
38 Blackberry
39 Leek
40 Sweet potato
41 Grapefruit (white)

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