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Powerhouses: CDC Ranks Healthiest Fruits And Veggies

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, GA place as much stock in preventing disease as they do in handling actual outbreaks. And a major aspect of this role is their nutrition recommendations for reducing chronic disease risk…

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The CDC has created what it calls a PFV rating system ranking dozens of commonly consumed produce items by their nutrition density scores. Those with the highest scores are considered Powerhouse Fruits and Veggies.

Quantifying the nutritional benefits of fresh produce

We’ve all had the message pounded into us: eat more fresh fruits and veggies for improved health and longevity. And we’ve seen countless learned studies and pop-culture endorsements of specific fruits and veggies as cures or treatments for specific ills.

But until now, there was no authoritative reference to tell us which produce items pack the most nutritional power.

The PFV ranking lists almost 4 dozen of the most commonly eaten fruits and veggies according tho their nutritional density.

Some surprises…

What would you guess was the most nutritious item in your supermarket’s produce section? If you said blueberries or sweet potatoes or broccoli, you’d be way wrong.

The leader of the PFV pack is – surprise! – Watercress. Yes. The brunt of many jokes through the ages about wimpy sandwiches and insubstantial salads, Watercress scores a perfect 100 on the PFV scale.

It should come as no surprise to faithful readers of the Fab Food Blog that Leafy Greens occupy the next 15 slots on the list. But fans of Spinach (PFV score 86.43) will be disappointed to hear that it was outranked by Chinese (Napa) Cabbage, Swiss Chard and Beet Greens. And Kale (PFV score 49.07) doesn’t appear until slot 15.

Other notable players…

The top veggie on the PFV list was the Red Pepper (PFV score 41.26). Broccoli scored just 34.89. And Cauliflower came in at a thin 25.13.

Top fruit on the list was the ubiquitous Tomato. We’ll leave the eternal debate on whether the Tomato is a fruit or a veggie for another day. Scientifically, it’s officially a fruit. But with a PFV score of just 20.37, and a ranking way down the list at 33, it speaks volumes about the relative overall nutritional value of fruits versus veggies.

Citrus fruits – traditionally associated with good health – don’t appear until slot 39 on the list. The highest- placed type is the Orange, with PFV score of 12.91.

The highest-rated root veggie is the Carrot (PFV score 22.60), at number 32 on the list.

Conspicuous by their absence…

In spite of all we hear about the healthfulness of blue and purple foods, the only such player on the PFV list is the Blackberry. And it’s embarrassingly near the bottom, in slot 44, with a PFV score of just 11.39. Blueberries, plums and other blue/black fruits and veggies are absent altogether.

Corn – a staple in such iconic cuisines as Mexican – is also a no-show. Though you may want to argue that it’s neither a fruit nor a veggie, but a grain.

Onions, which are found around the world in almost every major cuisine, are not on the list. Scallions come in about half way down the chart (PFV score 27.35). The Onion’s cousin, the Leek, just makes the list at slot 45 (PFV score 10.69). Garlic – considered a must-have in cuisines around the globe, is nowhere to be seen

Potatoes are, surprisingly, not among the tubers and root veggies listed. Sweet Potatoes (PFV score 10.52) just make the list, at slot 46. Although the sweet potato is technically not a potato at all.

A wealth of information

The CDC PFV list contains a wealth of information designed to make it easier for consumers to gauge the nutritional value of the produce they eat.

You may be as surprised as I was at where some of your fave fruits and veggies place in the PFV rankings…

~ Maggie J.