Powerhouse is described as a person or thing of great energy and power.
Now, imagine that “thing” is food.
And eating this food will fuel your body with powerhouse benefits.
Or, you could eat a donut and “benefit from” excess sugar, carbohydrates and fat – o wait, just kidding. There are no benefits to eating that.
I mean come on, it doesn’t take a doctor to tell you our bodies will preform better when fueled properly.
Which gives us the power!
Eat foods that adequately fuel our bodies, supply us with needed nutrients and energy to get through the day OR eat nutrient-less (yes I made that up) foods that deplete our energy and harm our bodies.
Now the question is, are you up for the challenge to eat more powerhouse foods?
Great, glad to hear it, this article will help you get started by sharing top powerhouse foods and how to sneak them into your diet.
What Are Powerhouse Fruit & Vegetables
Powerhouse fruit and vegetables are foods most strongly associated with a reduced risk of chronic disease (source).
In other words, foods that pack the biggest nutritional punch.
Research to define powerhouse foods was conducted by Jennifer Di Noia, PhD.
She examined the “nutritional density score” of each contender, which is a measurement of 17 nutrients considered by the United Nations and Institute of Medicine to be important for public health.
These 17 nutrients are: potassium, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc, and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K.
Below is a list of the top 20 powerhouse fruit and vegetables (check out all 41 here) let us know in the comments below how you enjoy eating these items!
PS… who knew watercress was so good for you?!
Powerhouse Fruit and Vegetable
Nutrient density: 100.00
Watercress is a peppery green that packs quite the nutritional punch and would make a healthy addition to any salad or veggie dish.
Why it’s so great: Cleary watercress is brimming with nutrients, seeing as it’s the #1 nutritionally dense powerhouse vegetable…
To name a few: Vitamin A, C, K + antioxidants.
According to Dr. Oz, the high iron content of watercress helps the red blood cells carry more oxygen throughout the body, which cleanses and oxygenate tissues and results in better blood flow and glowing skin (source).
Eat it: Enjoy both the leaves and stems of the power veggie.
Think of it as the perfect addition to your salad, Buddha bowl or green drink.
Keep in mind it’s got a spicy flavor which can be complimented by ginger and garlic, or cooled down by water-pack ingredients like cucumber.
2. Chinese cabbage
Nutrient density: 91.99
Chinese Cabbage is an extremely mild and versatile veggie, making it the key ingredient in all sorts of cuisine.
Why it’s so great: In addition to being chock-full of fiber and Vitamin C, cabbage contains an important class of nutrients called indoles.
Research is still being conducted on indoles, however the focus of said research is on their potential ability to reduce the risk of prostate, breast, and other cancers (source).
Eat it: Chinese cabbage is the cardinal ingredient of kimchi, sauerkraut and coleslaw.
If none of these sound enticing, try shredded cabbage for an extra crunch on your taco, or chop it up for a delicious addition to a stir fry.
Nutrient density: 89.27
This powerhouse green adds significant nutritional value AND is a colorful compliment to all sorts of dishes.
Why it’s so great: Chard, aka Swiss chard, is comprised of Vitamins A, K, C, plus magnesium, potassium, iron and fiber (source) – in other words, it’s super healthy J
Eat it: Chard can be used similarly to most greens such as spinach and kale.
I typically add a handful to my morning green drink, or use it as the leading ingredient in stir fries, casseroles and soups.
4. Beet greens
Nutrient density: 87.08
Beet greens are typically neglected. Seems we all missed the memo that they’re the healthiest part of the veggie!
Their beautiful red core and green leaves add a pop of color to any dish.
Why it’s so great: Beet greens are loaded with fiber and potassium, plus a handful of essential vitamins (source).
Eat it: Beet greens have a soft texture (similar to spinach) which is why they’re often eaten raw in salads or as a side dish.
Toss some in your smoothie for a surprisingly bright red drink.
Nutrient density: 86.43
We all know Popeye attributed his large muscles to a mass consumption of spinach, but did you know spinach doesn’t actually have that much iron?
The scientist who determined the amount of iron in this veggie skipped a decimal, presenting it to have 35mg of iron as opposed to the 3.5mg it actually contains.
Regardless, spinach is still a super food.
Why it’s so great: Spinach contain high levels of Vitamin A, K, folate and magnesium (source).
It also contains carotenoids, specifically the carotenoids attributed with protecting our vision from age related diseases. (source)
Eat it: Spinach offers and extremely versatile flavor. Add it to salads or sauté it, you can’t go wrong!
Nutrient density: 73.36
As with most veggies, there are two parts to chicory – the roots and the greens.
The greens are a loose and feathered bitter green often found mixed into fancy salads.
The root is most traditionally used as a less expensive / caffeine free coffee substitute. It can also be purchased as a tea.
Why it’s so great: Chicory root is extremely high in fiber.
In fact, the fiber found in chicory root called inulin is extracted from the root and added to edible products such as yogurt, breakfast bars and ice cream (source).
As with all fibrous foods, this benefits our bodies by preventing constipation and maintaining the amount of healthy bacteria in our colons.
Eat it: Chicory leaves are a peppery addition to any salad.
The root can most often be enjoyed mixed with coffee or on it’s own as a tea.
7. Leaf lettuce
Nutrient density: 70.73
Leaf lettuce’s mild flavor and unique texture making for the perfect salad base. Who knew this simple ingredient was a top powerhouse veggie?
Dietary nitrate plays an essential role in supporting cardiovascular health and gastrointestinal immune function (source).
The darker the lettuce, the healthier it is for you (source).
Eat it: This one is easy. Leaf Lettuce makes for the perfect salad base.
If the leaves look wilty, simply soak them in a bowl of ice water for 15 minutes to perk them back into eat-worthy shape!
Nutrient density: 65.59
Guess what? Parsley is more than just dish décor…
Why it’s so great: This powerful herb is abounding with nutrients, such as flavonoids, antioxidants, folic acid and Vitamins A, K and C (source).
Eat it: Take advantage of the stock and leaves of parsley, as they both have a strong and delicious flavor. Finely chop and add to the top of any dish.
Parsley leaves are an awesome natural breath freshener.
When applied topically, parsley may help to address chapped skin, bug bites and bruises (source) – try freezing some in ice cubes to see if it works for you!
9. Romaine lettuce
Nutrient density: 63.48
If you’re used to eating iceberg lettuce, let me introduce you to romaine. It’s your new healthy friend.
You’ll hardly taste a difference, all the while benefitting from its nutrients.
Why it’s so great: Consuming just six leaves of romaine lettuce supplies your body with the daily recommended value of Vitamin A (source).
Vitamin A boosts new skin growth, making your skin look fresh and revitalized.
Eat it: Romaine lettuce makes for yet another delicious salad base. Try spicing it up by grilling your Romaine.
As with all lettuces, make sure you thoroughly rinse and dry the lettuce before using. Capitalizing on the use of a salad spinner will make your life much easier, and you’ll be eating far sooner.
10. Collard greens
Nutrient density: 62.49
If you aren’t from the south, chances are you aren’t super familiar with this green. Seeing as it’s a powerhouse veggie, we should all get familiar, ASAP.
Why it’s so great: Collard greens are nutritionally similar to kale (although they have a higher nutrient density score), which means they’re high in Vitamins K, C, folate and beta-carotene (source).
Eat it: The fastest way to chop these greens is to stack them on top of each other, role, and slice with a knife.
11. Turnip greens
Nutrient density: 62.12
Who woulda’ thought those greens you’ve been tossing are actually good for you?!
Why it’s so great: Turnip greens are an excellent source of calcium, as well as Vitamins A, K and C (source).
Eat it: This sharp flavored veggie is another southern staple.
They’re a soft green so best eaten raw, or cooked for a short period of time. When cooking these greens, avoid using an aluminum pan as this can ruin their flavor (source).
12. Mustard greens
Nutrient density: 61.39
Although southern food isn’t typically regarded as healthy cuisine, they’re one upping the rest of the country in the greens department!
Mustard greens are another southern classic.
Why it’s so great: Mustard greens have a similar nutrient profile to collard and turnip greens.
“They’re also rich in natural substances called sulforaphanes that, when eaten, help the body get rid of bile acid in our gut. Bile acids are used by the body to make cholesterol, so the less bile acid results in less cholesterol.” (source)
Eat it: This pepper flavored green will shock you with the mustard smell it releases upon cooking.
Only wash these greens right before using, otherwise they’ll become wilty.
Nutrient density: 60.44
Why would you ever eat a chip again when you can squeeze in some nutrients with endive boats?!
Why it’s so great: Endives contain a cancer fighting super star called kaempferol.
According to Dr. Oz, upon coming into contact with kaempferol, ovarian cancer cells die! (source)
Eat it: Utilizing the frame of a whole endive leaf allows for a solid structure to parse out anything. The world is your oyster!
Think about the appetizers, sides dished, salads or couscous you could stuff in there. It also makes for the perfect vehicle to smother with your favorite dip.
Avoid discoloration of cut endive by brushing it with lemon.
Nutrient density: 54.80
Chives are the smallest of the onion family, and don’t make you cry when you cut them J
They’re often used to decorate a fancy dish, who knew they’re actually good for you! Bring on the onions baby!
PS… although they look similar, chives, scallions and green onions are not the same.
Why it’s so great: Like I said above, it’s an onion you wont cry when you cut, can I get a heck ya?!
Most onions contain a phytonutrient call allicin, which may help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure (source).
Eat it: Chives are extremely delicate, and should be added to a dish just before serving as opposed to cooking for long periods of time.
They add an awesome punch of flavor and color to just about everything.
I find it easiest to cut chives with scissors instead of a knife – this helps me achieve that clean, even cut I find hard to achieve with my lack in cutting skills.
Nutrient density: 49.07
This green is a clean eating kitchen staple.
A member of the cabbage family, it’s unique flavor, texture and flexibility as an ingredient lends itself useful in all sorts of recipes.
Why it’s so great: Along with most dark and leafy greens, kale contains Vitamins A, K and C – but you’re probably tired of hearing that so let’s talk about some of its other goodness.
Kale receives its dark green color from the carotenoids (or naturally occurring plant pigments) lutein and zeaxanthin. There is much evidence that these two nutrients help with age related eye disorders (source).
Eat it: Kale is great in a salad or sautéed.
Using immature leaves is a way to ease into eating this green, as they tend to be softer. The center core of kale is very hard – if you’re eating it raw it’s best to cut it away.
16. Dandelion greens
Nutrient density: 46.34
Brace yourselves, this green is often regarded as a weed, but it’s actually good for you.
So good that it’s been used medicinally for centuries throughout the world! (source)
Why it’s so great: Although it’s a measly #16, I try to incorporate dandelion greens in my diet as often as possible.
It’s packed with your typical vitamins listed above, but it’s got a few more tricks up its sleeve…
“used to cleanse the liver; treat problems such as diabetes, acne, cancer, anemia, high blood pressure, and gall bladder issues; premenstrual symptoms such as bloating, gas and water weight gain; and urinary disorders.” (source)
I mean seriously, it’s like the green to end all greens!
Eat it: Their bitter flavor is similar to that of arugula.
To be honest, I don’t love the flavor of dandelion greens and find the most palatable way to sneak it in is in my morning smoothies.
17. Red pepper
Nutrient density: 41.26
Hold the phone, did you know red pepper is actually a fruit?! Thanks Web MD, I had not idea!
And, more shocking news, green and red bell peppers are the same thing! Red peppers have just been left to mature on the plant a tad longer (source).
Why it’s so great: Since red peppers are more mature, they have a higher concentration of Vitamin C when compared to their less mature sibling.
In fact, one medium bell pepper delivers more than twice the daily recommended value of Vitamin C!
It’s also got beta–carotene (another carotenoid, hence the color) and Vitamin B (source).
Eat it: You can’t go wrong with peppers, just make sure you cut out the seeds and core.
I love slicing peppers and serving them in lieu of chips. They’re great in salads or sautéed with onions.
Nutrient density: 37.65
Did you know some countries call arugula ‘rocket’? So much cooler, we should call it that here.
Why it’s so great: Arugula’s got two cancer fighters packed into its little leaves called kaempferol and quercetin.
In fact, “Researchers have shown that diets containing arugula can reduce the risk of lung cancer.” (source)
Eat it: This green has a serious bite that adds a unique flavor to salads and sides.
You can play up this flavor! Or tone it down (I typically go this route) by adding fresh/dried fruit to an arugula salad.
Nutrient density: 34.89
Wed MD describes broccoli as nature’s superstar. Doesn’t that make it sound even more delicious?!
Why it’s so great: Broccoli is a killer source of folate, phytonutrients Vitamins C and A (source).
According to Dr. Weil, broccoli may help support your immune system and keep your gastrointestinal function in line! (source)
Eat it: Broccoli is delicious when cooked, and an acquired taste when raw.
The florets are typically separated from the stem. If you’re cooking you can actually chop the whole thing up and take advantage of both!
Have you tried riced broccoli?! Same concept as cauliflower rice, pretty exciting.
Nutrient density: 33.82
The facts below are based on pumpkin.
Not pumpkin pie, or pumpkin muffins. Plain ol’pumpkin. I saw where your head was going there.
Why it’s so great: One cup of pumpkin supplies your body with the daily recommended dose of Vitamin A. Not to mention it’s packed with potassium and carotenoids (again, hence the color). (source)
This veggie also has a good amount of fiber. In fact, one cup supplies your body with 3 grams, and with it’s low calories content that’s a lotta bang for your buck! (source)
Eat it: Think less sugar.
Pumpkin is super versatile. Try roasting it, or adding it to your next or casserole.
If you’re using a whole pumpkin take advantage of those seeds! They make for a delicious snack.
We hope this article inspires you to add some powerhouse fruit and vegetables into your diet!
Let us know in the comments below how you enjoyed eating any of the items on the list!