Ever wondered what people mean when they say you should eat more superfoods?
But that doesn't mean it's completely bogus. In fact, there is some scientific basis for calling a food "super."
According to the CDC, which published a ranking of what it called "powerhouse" foods in 2014, these types of fruits and veggies pack a lot of key nutrients into each calorie and are linked with a reduced risk of chronic disease. Studies also suggest that people who eat more of them tend to be thinner and live longer than those who rarely or never eat them.
Here are the CDC's top 25, along with how they came up with their definition of "powerhouse" food:
The author of the CDC's "powerhouse" ranking, sociologist and public health expert Jennifer Di Noia, ranked the selections based on nutrient density, or how much good stuff (vitamins, fiber, protein, etc.) gets packed into each bite of a particular food.
Cabbage and its cousin Chinese cabbage (which ranked even higher at #2) made the cut because they're a good source of calcium, iron, fiber, folate, and vitamins and they're both very low in calories — 22 for a fraw cup of regular and 9 for a raw cup of the Chinese variety.
When looking at nutrient density, Di Noia focused on 17 nutrients, including:
- Potassium: a key mineral which helps nerves and muscles communicate and may help offset some of sodium's harmful effects on blood pressure
- Fiber: important for digestion and to help us feel full
- Protein: critical for building and maintaining muscle
- Calcium: key to strong bones
- Iron: helps our muscles store and use oxygen
- Zinc: for a healthy immune system
- Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K
Cauliflower made the cut because it's rich in fiber and folate, vitamins B6, C, K, and potassium. A cup of chopped, raw cauliflower has just 27 calories, 3 grams of fiber, and 2 grams of protein. Toss some in your next curry.
To make the cut, each food on Di Noia's list had to provide 10% or more of the daily value of those key nutrients. Lower-calorie foods got higher scores, as did foods with more "bioavailable" nutrients, or those that could be readily absorbed by the body.
Kohlrabi — a.k.a. that cream-colored veggie you've never heard of — is high in fiber, folate, vitamins C and B6, and potassium. A cup of it raw packs just 37 calories but a whopping 5 grams of fiber. Try it baked.
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