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40 most nutritious fruits and vegetables, according to experts

  • 40 most nutritious fruits and vegetables, according to experts

    While it's common knowledge that eating fruits and vegetables is good for one's health, incorporating them into daily diets can be more challenging. On average, just one in every 10 adults in the U.S. meets the recommended intake allowance of 2 to 3 cups per day for fruits and vegetables, according to a 2017 government health report. That rate is even lower among men and young adults.

    Getting enough fruits and greens isn't just about keeping one's weight down or that daily dose of vitamins: Fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients, which are naturally occurring chemicals in plants that contribute to the plant's health. When consumed, those phytonutrients also contribute to human health. Phytonutrients work as antioxidants, which help with immunity, repair DNA damage, and detoxify carcinogens. A phytonutrient-rich diet may lower the risk of certain cancers and heart disease.

    In a 2015 study of global food and nutritional data, researchers calculated each food's nutritional fitness via factors such as nutrient-density, protein levels, and calorie content. Nutritional fitness gauges food quality based on its overall nutritional balance and composition. Raw foods were researched first, followed by minimally altered frozen or dried products. For recommended daily allowances of nutrients, researchers referred to the Dietary Reference Intakes from the Institute of Medicine of the U.S. National Academies, which calculates daily nutrients required for adequate health and energy levels.

    Stacker created a comprehensive list of the 40 most nutritious fruits and vegetables available, ranked by nutritional fitness scores, with the highest score being 1.00. Ties in nutritional fitness were broken by price per 100 grams (approximately 3.5 ounces), with lower-priced foods being ranked higher; meat, fish, and other animal products were excluded from the list.

    Read on to discover some of the best nutritional choices for getting the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables.

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  • #40. Sour red cherries (frozen)

    - Nutritional fitness score: 0.53
    - Known for being: Rich in carbohydrates
    - Price per 100 grams: $0.58

    Available in the freezer section of most supermarkets, sour cherries aren't as sugary as their sweeter cousins and contain more vitamin A than blueberries, as well as tons of powerful antioxidants. Sour or tart cherry juice may help post-exercise muscle recovery, decrease cholesterol, and improve heart health. Frozen sour cherries can be used in pies or desserts for a tart treat, or they can be pressed in a juicer for a refreshing and healthy drink.

  • #39. Leeks (raw)

    - Nutritional fitness score: 0.54
    - Known for being: Low-calorie
    - Price per 100 grams: $1.83

    Part of the same family as garlic and onions, leeks are readily available in produce sections of the grocery store. High in folate, which supports cardiovascular health, and rich in antioxidants, leeks can be used in nearly any dish and can be baked, sauteed, grilled, or tossed into a salad.

  • #38. Red leaf lettuce (raw)

    - Nutritional fitness score: 0.54
    - Known for being: Low-calorie
    - Price per 100 grams: $1.55

    Red leaf lettuce adds a little pizzazz to any salad, as well as a boost of vitamins A and K. While it's considered a zero-calorie food, the added vitamins and flavor make it a better choice than other zero-calorie greens like iceberg lettuce, which has high water content and only trace amounts of vitamins.

  • #37. Green snap beans (raw)

    - Nutritional fitness score: 0.54
    - Known for being: Low-calorie
    - Price per 100 grams: $0.28

    Rich in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as folic acid and fiber, fresh green beans can be an excellent choice for a healthy side dish or as part of a salad. There are more than 130 different varieties of green beans, many of which are found in the produce section of any grocery store, specialty store, and farmer's market. Fresh is better, as half a cup of canned green beans may contain more than 300 micrograms of sodium.

  • #36. White grapefruit (raw)

    - Nutritional fitness score: 0.54
    - Known for being: Rich in carbohydrates
    - Price per 100 grams: $0.27

    Grapefruit has long been touted as a magical solution for weight loss, and while studies have recently debunked that theory, it's still an excellent choice for a healthy diet. Full of potassium, lycopene, vitamin C, and choline, consuming grapefruit may help improve lipid levels and blood pressure as well as reduce the risk of stroke. All that vitamin C is also great for the skin, whether eating it or applying it topically. Note that grapefruit may interact with certain medications, such as statins, so be sure to consult with your physician if you're planning to regularly consume the citrus fruit.

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  • #35. Gold and green kiwi fruit (raw)

    - Nutritional fitness score: 0.54
    - Known for being: Rich in carbohydrates
    - Price per 100 grams: $0.22

    Once only found in gourmet markets, fresh kiwi has become mainstream and is a staple at most grocery stores. Both gold and green kiwis are high in a natural digestive enzyme called actinidin and vitamin C. While many people think kiwis have to be peeled before eating, the entire fruit is edible, and recent studies indicate that consuming the skin nearly triples the fiber intake.

  • #34. Arugula (raw)

    - Nutritional fitness score: 0.55
    - Known for being: Low-calorie
    - Price per 100 grams: $0.48

    This zesty Mediterranean green, also known as Italian cress or rocket, has a peppery flavor that adds a kick to any dish. High in fiber, calcium, potassium, and folate, it can be served as part of a salad, on sandwiches and pizza, or even as an alternative to basil when making pesto. Arugula can also be added to cooked dishes, giving it a mellower flavor.

  • #33. Chives (raw)

    - Nutritional fitness score: 0.55
    - Known for being: Low-calorie
    - Price per 100 grams: $0.22

    Nutrient-dense chives are much more than just a topping for potatoes. Rich in folate, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin K, research indicates that eating chives may help reduce the risk of some cancers, and their high choline content can help improve sleep, memory, and mood. Chives are usually available with other fresh herbs at the grocery store, and they are also quite easy to grow in a garden or container.

  • #32. Taro leaves

    - Nutritional fitness score: 0.56
    - Known for being: Low-calorie
    - Price per 100 grams: $2.19

    An inherent part of the culture and cuisine of the Pacific Islands, taro leaves aren't just a unique and flavorful addition to a recipe; they also contain many nutrients and antioxidants. Taro grows wild in many tropical areas and can be purchased at specialty or gourmet grocers. The leaves are rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, and folate, and they are high in protein while also being low in fat. Taro leaves can be toxic in their raw form, so it's important to soak them in water and cook them for at least 15 minutes before eating.

  • #31. Green leaf lettuce (raw)

    - Nutritional fitness score: 0.56
    - Known for being: Low-calorie
    - Price per 100 grams: $1.55

    Mild in flavor, dense in nutrients, green leaf lettuce makes for the perfect salad mix or sandwich topper. With vitamin K and vitamin A carotenoids beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, just 1 cup of shredded green leaf lettuce provides 88% of recommended vitamin A needs, as well as 38% of the recommended vitamin K allowance.

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