Top 41 nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables that you should incorporate into your diet

When buying food at the grocery, get more bang for your buck by focusing on the most nutrient-dense produce. But first, you need to know which delicious and nutritious ingredients to use in your daily meals.

If you’re not sure which fruits and vegetables to get, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘s (CDC) list of the top 41 nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables below.

The list includes the top vegetables and fruits with at least 10 percent or more of 17 different nutrients, explained Amy Sapola, a functional medicine expert and Director of Farmacy at The Chef’s Garden in Huron, Ohio.

Here are the top 41 fruits and vegetables along with their nutrient density score:

  • Watercress (100)
  • Chinese cabbage/Napa cabbage (91.99)
  • Chard (89.27)
  • Beet greens (87.08)
  • Spinach (86.43)
  • Chicory (73.36)
  • Leaf lettuce (70.73)
  • Parsley (65.59)
  • Romaine lettuce (63.48)
  • Collard greens (62.49)
  • Turnip greens (62.12)
  • Mustard greens (61.39)
  • Endives (60.44)
  • Chives (54.8)
  • Kale (49.07)
  • Dandelion greens (46.34)
  • Red pepper (41.26)
  • Arugula (37.65)
  • Broccoli (34.89)
  • Pumpkin (33.82)
  • Brussels sprout (32.23)
  • Scallion (27.35)
  • Kohlrabi (25.92)
  • Cauliflower (25.13)
  • Cabbage (24.51)
  • Carrot (22.6)
  • Tomato (20.37)
  • Lemon (18.72)
  • Iceberg lettuce (18.28)
  • Strawberry (17.59)
  • Radish (16.91)
  • Winter squash, all varieties (13.89)
  • Orange (12.91)
  • Lime (12.23)
  • Grapefruit (pink and red) (11.64)
  • Rutabaga (11.58)
  • Turnip (11.43)
  • Blackberry (11.39)
  • Leek (10.69)
  • Sweet potato (10.51)
  • Grapefruit (white) (10.47)

Humble watercress took the number one spot. Watercress is full of vitamins B9, C and K, along with folate. Meanwhile, beet greens are full of vitamins A and C.

Sapola said beet greens, which are usually cut off and thrown away, actually have more minerals than the beetroots. She added that romaine’s score of 63.48 is rather surprising since she doesn’t generally consider it “as overly high [in nutrients].”

Surprisingly, strawberries and limes ranked high, but blueberries, a favorite among many health enthusiasts, didn’t even make the cut. Sapola said that this is because the CDC’s list doesn’t consider phytonutrients and that it only factored in vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber.

Just because your favorite fruit or vegetable didn’t make the list, it doesn’t mean that they are not healthy. Remember that eating more greens is always good for you, regardless of their exact nutrient score, because each plant delivers a wonderfully unique array of macro-, micro- and phytonutrients. (Related: Nutrient-dense acai berries: The ultimate superfood for optimal health.)

If you’re looking for a more convenient way to boost your nutrient intake, try using a high-quality greens powder made with a blend of organic vegetables like leafy greens, root vegetables and sea vegetables, along with organic berries, organic herbs and prebiotic fiber.

Follow a balanced diet and incorporate a variety of different fruits and vegetables, even those that didn’t make the CDC’s powerhouse list, as long as they are accessible to you.

Tasty recipes featuring the CDC’s top 3 picks

Here are some tasty recipes to try featuring the top three superfoods from the CDC’s list of nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables.

This salad is made with nutty, sweet and savory watercress. Serve this salad as a side dish or as part of a multi-course Japanese dinner.

  • 6 Cups watercress
  • 3 Tablespoons natural peanut butter
  • 2 Tablespoons mirin
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 Teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon honey (Use pure maple syrup or sugar for a vegan version.)
  • A pinch of salt
  1. In a medium size pot, bring six cups of water salted with a tablespoon of kosher salt to boil.
  2. Mix the peanut butter, honey, rice vinegar, soy sauce and mirin in a medium bowl. Whisk until smooth, then set the mixture aside.
  3. Rinse the watercress. Drain the watercress, then separate the leaves from the stems.
  4. Roughly chop the watercress stems and add to the boiling water with the leaves. Cook until the stems are tender but yield a soft crunch for at least two to three minutes.
  5. Drain the cooked watercress.
  6. Rinse the watercress under cold water and softly squeeze out excess water. Use a paper towel to pat the watercress dry, then and add to a mixing bowl.
  7. Pour the dressing over the dried watercress, then toss until the watercress is evenly coated with the dressing.
  8. Serve.

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