Are You Eating These 'Powerhouse' Fruits and Veggies?

Some of the produce picks on this list will surprise you!

June 10, 2014
Chinese cabbage
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Welcome to the Hollywood Walk of Stars for your produce aisle. These fruits and veggies were named powerhouse fruits and veggies in a recent study published in Preventing Chronic Disease, a journal put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What's a powerhouse fruit or vegetable? The Food and Drug Administration says that any food providing 10 percent or more of a single daily value of a nutrient is considered a "good source" of that nutrient. But, to earn the title of "powerhouse," fruits and vegetables need to be considered a good source of 17 key nutrients, from vitamin A to zinc.

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Having a hard time finding these veggies? Grab your tote bag and head to a farmer's market prepped with these strategies.

Here are the top 15 powerhouse fruits and veggies:

#1: Watercress
Powerhouse Perk: A Cleaner Body
High in vitamins A, B6, C, K, and even calcium, protein, and potassium, it's no surprise that watercress comes in as the leader of the pack. This veggie has shown in studies to help excrete carcinogens. This green makes a great addition to any side salad, such as this Watercress and Radicchio Salad with Honey-Mustard Vinaigrette.

#2: Chinese Cabbage
Powerhouse Perk: Anti-Cancer Properties
Chinese cabbage is high in nutrients that help prevent precancerous cells from turning cancerous. Chinese cabbage can generally be used interchangeably with bok choy in recipes, so try serving it with Szechuan Noodles.

#3: Chard
Powerhouse Perk: Sunny Smiles
All varieties of chard are packed with magnesium, making the veggie a great dish to eat when you're feeling blue. Magnesium deficiency is a common condition associated with clinical depression. Serve up some smiles with this Swiss chard stir-fry.

#4 Beet Greens
Powerhouse Perk: A Brain Boost
If you think that the only part of a beet you can eat is the root at the bottom, you've been missing out on the best the veggie has to offer. The greens are higher in fiber, vitamin B2, vitamin C (50 percent of your daily value), vitamin K, calcium, iron, and potassium than the root. The combo of vitamin B and folate can give your brain the boost it needs. Eat them together in this complete beet sauté to get the max benefit.

#5: Spinach
Powerhouse Perk: Saves Your Sight
No one is surprised to see spinach on this list. What is surprising is that spinach may be better for your eyes than carrots. High in antioxidant lutein, spinach may help reduce your risk for age-related macular degeneration. Save your peepers with this recipe for easy spinach manicotti.

More From Rodale: For the Healthiest Spinach, Go Toward the Light

#6: Chicory
Powerhouse Perk: Detoxes Your Liver
Show your liver some love. Chicory is a prebiotic, meaning it feeds the probiotics (or healthy bacteria) in your gut. Keep your gut happy, and the rest of your digestive system will follow suit. Mix it into your potato salad for a new spin on this picnic staple.(And check out these other top foods for your liver.)

#7: Leaf Lettuce
Powerhouse Perk: A Beginner Gardener's Friend
Unlike a head of lettuce, leaf lettuce grows (as the name suggests) as a clump of leaves. In less than a month, you'll go from seed to salad, making it perfect for impatient newbie planters. And if nothing sprouts in your summer garden, it's OK. Late-summer salads are great for growing in that transition time into fall. And leaf lettuce makes the perfect bed for grilled mushrooms, asparagus, and goat cheese.

#8: Parsley
Powerhouse Perk: You'll Breathe Easy
Parsley is done with sitting on the sidelines. This traditional garnish is finally boasting about its nutrient-dense properties that have several health benefits (from bone health to urinary health). The most instant benefit: sweet breath. The chlorophyll in this plant helps beat anything from coffee breath to garlic breath. To serve this underappreciated green, try swapping it in for basil in your homemade pesto.

#9: Romaine Lettuce
Powerhouse Perk: Protects Your Prostate
If you think that salads are just for women, think again. The high levels of beta-carotene in romaine lettuce put it squarely on the "eat this!" list for men. Research shows that beta-carotene can inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells. Turn it into a manly dish with this Muscle-Building Salad.

#10: Collard Greens
Powerhouse Perk: Makes Sandwiches Healthy Again
Unfortunately, most bread is a sorry excuse of nutrients held together by plenty of carbs. Serving up your sandwich between two leaves of collard greens instead of bread saves you 24 grams of carbs, plus it adds a healthy dose of vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium. Or serve up this green Southern style.

#11: Turnip Greens
Powerhouse Perk: Helps You Have a Punctual Delivery
Studies show that pregnant women should bump up their folate intake to ensure an on-time delivery. In fact, taking folic acid supplements reduced the risk of delivering a baby too early by 70 percent. Can't stomach the prenatal vitamins? Turnip greens are an excellent source of this vital nutrient. Try adding it to your favorite clam chowder recipe.

#12: Mustard Greens
Powerhouse Perk: You Can Detox Deliciously
Sometimes the cure to feeling stressed and overloaded is a good detox. Strengthen your blood with mustard greens to reenergize yourself. But heads up—you won't get the same benefits if you juice these green leafies. Eat them whole, as in this recipe for mustard greens with dill, lemon, and soy sauce.

#13: Endive
Powerhouse Perk: Loves Your Heart
Endive gives heart disease a one-two punch. Since it's high in fiber, it's automatically your heart's best friend, but it also can spark the production of nitric oxide in your body. Nitric oxide is a molecule that helps relax blood vessels, lowering high blood pressure. Stick it directly onto the grill to add that great smoky flavor.

#14: Chive
Powerhouse Perk: Regulates Diabetes
If you grow your own chives, use the entire plant, not just the stalk. Chive blossoms aren't just pretty; the light purple edible flower has also been linked with antioxidants that help lower blood sugar to help reduce the risk of diabetes. Try it as a topping in this spring greens with chive vinaigrette using the blooms.

#15: Kale
Powerhouse Perk: Keeps You on Your Diet
There are a few times a year when dieting seems totally impossible—Christmas, Thanksgiving, the 4th of July. This year, let kale be your secret weapon. Packed with belly-filling fiber, this nutrient-dense green helps keep you feeling fuller, longer. Keep these kale chips on hand to take your hunger defense on the road.

Honorable Mentions: Just because they didn't top the charts doesn't mean these fruits and veggies aren't worth your time.

16. Dandelion Greens
17. Red Bell Peppers
18. Arugula
19. Broccoli
20. Pumpkin
21. Brussels sprouts
22. Scallion
23. Kohlrabi
24. Cauliflower
25. Cabbage
26. Carrot
27. Tomato
28. Lemon
29. Iceberg Lettuce
30. Strawberry

Check out the full list of Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables here.

And now that you've got your list of 30 fabulous powerhouse foods, learn about the 14 foods you should avoid