Many nutrition headlines give superfood status to a variety of fruits and vegetables, but the definition of superfood is lacking. The actual term used within the nutrition community is not superfood, but "powerhouse food" and relates to those foods associated with reduced risk of chronic disease. A study in 2014 by Jennifer Di Noia, PhD noted "uniform data on food phytochemicals and corresponding intake recommendations are lacking", and set out to define these foods based on nutrient density, looking at potassium, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc, and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K.
Forty seven raw foods were considered and included densities of 8 nutrients protective against cancer and heart disease (ie, fiber, folate, zinc, and vitamins B6, B12, C, D, and E) Of these 47 foods studied, all but 6 (raspberry, tangerine, cranberry, garlic, onion, and blueberry) met the powerhouse criterion.
Table 2. Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables (N = 41), by Ranking of Nutrient Density Scores, 2014
Item Nutrient Density Score
Chinese cabbage 91.99
Beet green 87.08
Leaf lettuce 70.73
Romaine lettuce 63.48
Collard green 62.49
Turnip green 62.12
Mustard green 61.39
Dandelion green 46.34
Red pepper 41.26
Brussels sprout 32.23
Iceberg lettuce 18.28
Winter squash (all) 13.89
Grapefruit (pink and red) 11.64
Sweet potato 10.51
Grapefruit (white) 10.47
Calculated as the mean of percent daily values (DVs) (based on a 2,000 kcal/d diet) for 17 nutrients (potassium, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc, and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K) as provided by 100 g of food, expressed per 100 kcal of food. Scores above 100 were capped at 100 (indicating that the food provides, on average, 100% DV of the qualifying nutrients per 100 kcal).
What becomes obvious is that some of the foods that make the headlines (think kale and blueberries for example) aren't at the top of the list. On the other hand, phytonutrients weren't considered here because there isn't sufficient information. For instance, we know that kale contains a heaping amount of lutein, but we don't know what happens to the potential absorption of lutein when we combine kale with another vegetable, fruit, fat, etc.
The take away here is that we can look at powerhouse foods from different angles and create headlines about each and every one of them. In fact, depending on the nutrient we're looking for, we can list all these foods in a different order. So, rather than buying into the "superfood" mantra, feed a variety of veggies and fruits and you'll actually cover a lot more ground.
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Seminar and Workshop in Montreal
This is the Care Conference! My seminar in the Montreal area is confirmed for Oct. 14th and 15th. Several presenters; all of us in our own rooms with our own schedules. Attendees will be able to choose their area of interest (nutrition, grooming, reproduction, physics and forces on the performance dog, SNAP testing and thyroid OFFA on site, and much, much more) and join their chosen speakers for 1 session, 2 sessions, or full days...the choice will be yours. You can make your own schedule to take advantage of you time. This is a unique opportunity to have many recognized experts in their fields under one roof. I'm honored to be a part of the weekend. Join us!