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Di Noia, J. (2014). Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables: A Nutrient Density Approach.
Preventing Chronic Disease, 11.
The purpose of this study was to provide a new classification scheme for
identifying/classifying fruits and vegetables as nutrient dense. This system will be beneficial for
establishing dietary restrictions and suggestions. The reason this system is important to establish is
because there is a direct correlation between consumption of nutrient dense foods and the
prevention of disease.
To establish the criteria for what a powerhouse fruit/vegetable is, they identified 17
vitamins/minerals found in fruits and analyzed their abundance in 47 different fruits/vegetables. The
study nutrients included: potassium, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate,
zinc, and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K.
The study sampled 100 grams of each food sample in the raw form. The reason it was kept
uncooked is because through the cooking process some of the nutrients will be damaged, or change
form and will not score as highly therefore this variable was negated. To figure out a score of each
food, the study established a metric which took the amount of daily values of each nutrient that was
present and divided it by the energy in the food which was measured in kilocalories per 100 grams.
This was all established because various foods may be very high in one nutrient and low in others,
whereas other foods might be high in nutrients, but not energy dense so the consumption must be
higher.
Based on their metrics and threshold limit (a score of 10%DV/100 Kcal) 41 of the food
measured were considered powerhouse foods. Surprising to me some were some of the foods not
considered to be a powerhouse food. Blueberries, garlic, and cranberries were three of the six
sampled foods not deemed to be powerhouse foods which, based on public promotion of these
foods and their “antioxidant” abilities I would have thought differently.
The foods scoring the highest on this study included leafy greens like: watercress, Chinese
cabbage, Swiss chard, beet greens, spinach and chicory. The entire list is dominated by leafy
greens and there is a considerable drop-off when more traditional vegetables and fruits are analyzed
including strawberries, lemon, tomato, oranges, and sweet potato. This must have to do with the
abundance of chlorophyll and other essential compounds in the leafy material whereas the fruit
portion is primarily sugar and water.
This data is extremely useful to an individual looking to enhance their diet and interested in
choosing the right foods to help their bodies function at 100%. This is useful for many different
professions and also the general public. It would be interesting if produce vendors adopted this
system of rating various foods based on their nutrient densities and shared it with the general public
prior to purchase.