Watercress, bok choy, chard and beet greens are some of the most nutrient-dense vegetables packed with vitamins and minerals, according to a new study.
At the same time, you should not expect nutrition from raspberries, tangerines, garlic and onions, according to the same study.
National dietary guidelines emphasize the importance of “energy” fruits and vegetables, which are associated with a reduced risk of chronic disease.
However, the author of the study notes that at the moment there is no clear distribution of the nutritional value of vegetables, which would show which of the products should be most classified as “energy”.
In her presentation, Jennifer Di Noya, assistant professor of sociology at William Patterson University, Wayne, New Jersey, compiled a list based on the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables using data from the USDA.
“High-ranking foods have a high nutrient-to-calorie ratio,” Di Noya says. “Points can help consumers focus on their daily energy needs and how to get as many nutrients as possible from food. The rankings clearly show the nutritional value of different foods and can help guide selection.”
Di Noya calculated the nutritional value of 47 fruits and vegetables and found that all but six met the criteria for “energy” foods.
In the top ten – cruciferous and dark green vegetables. In order, they are watercress, bok choy, chard, beet greens, followed by spinach, chicory, leaf lettuce, parsley, romaine lettuce, and collard greens.
All of these vegetables are high in vitamins B, C, and K, iron, riboflavin, niacin, and folic acid—nutrients that help protect the body from cancer and heart disease.
“These green vegetables are rightfully at the top of the list of ‘energy’ vegetables,” says Lori Wright, spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“They’re high in B vitamins, and their leaves are high in fiber,” says Wright. – If you think about plants, it is in the leaves that nutrients are stored. These leafy plants are loaded with minerals, vitamins, and fiber and are very low in calories.”
People who cut the leaves of plants like celery, carrots, or beets “cut off a very useful part,” says Wright, an assistant professor at the Institute of Public Health at the University of South Florida, Tampa.
Six fruits and vegetables not included in the list of energy products: raspberries, tangerines, cranberries, garlic, onions and blackberries. Although they all contain vitamins and minerals, they are not very rich in nutrients, the study says.
The full list is published June 5 in the journal Chronic Disease Prevention. People will get the nutrients from these plants whether they eat them raw or cook them. The key is not to boil them, says Wright.
“You get 100% of the vitamins and minerals in fresh vegetables,” she says. “If you cook them, you will lose some part, but not much.”
However, when vegetables are cooked, vitamins B, C and other nutrients can be drawn out, Di Noya and Wright say.
“Cooks who cook spinach and kale should keep the water from the boil, either by using it when serving dishes or by adding it to sauces and soups,” Di Noya says. Wright agrees with her: “We recommend using liquid. If you eat green beans, add a little decoction,” she says.