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Nutrition science tells us again and again to eat more dark green leafy vegetables, so we reach for what we know. But a recent ranking of 47 ultra-healthful produce items reveals some surprising front-runners you may not have tried yet.
The 2014 study, published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, ranks the fruits and vegetables by their concentration of 17 key nutrients: potassium, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E and K.
The top of the list includes some familiar favorites, like spinach (#5) and kale (#15), as well as a few veggies that might seem exotic, but are actually widely available.
The next time you’re feeling adventurous, look for these three “powerhouse foods” in your produce section:
This is the blue ribbon super-green that ranked as the most nutrient-dense food among the 47 samples tested. It contains a wealth of fiber and vitamins and because it’s a cruciferous vegetable like broccoli and radishes, it also contains special compounds called glucosinolates that can prevent cancer.
If you pick some up at the market today, get ready for a peppery punch! The small, delicate leaves of the watercress plant may look unassuming, but they deliver a strong and sometimes spicy flavor. Try mixing the chopped fresh leaves into a green salad with a sweet vinaigrette to offset the slight bitterness of this verdant veggie.
This category of leafy vegetables, which ranked 6th among the Powerhouse Foods, includes a few varieties you may never have tried before, like radicchio, escarole and leaf chicory. A single, raw cup of these greens provides more than a day’s worth of vitamin K and a third of your recommended daily amount of vitamin A.
Your grocery store might not have every variety, but any one of them will deliver amazing nutrition and unique flavors. Try curly-cue escarole in a crisp salad with Dijon dressing or vibrant cranberry-colored heads of radicchio, roasted and drizzled with balsamic reduction.
3. Turnip Greens
Do you eat turnip roots? Stop composting those greens! Turnip greens ranked 11th on the list of most nutrient-dense Powerhouse Foods—four places higher than beloved kale. The roots also made the list at #37, so you get a lot of superfood for your dollar when you buy a bunch.
Since turnip leaves wilt quickly when they’re attached to the root, snip them off and store them separately when you get home from the market. Then cook up a side-dish with Southern flair by stewing chopped turnip greens low and slow, with a little plant-based bacon to top them off at the table.
Remember: Any and all greens you enjoy eating deliver terrific nutritional benefits, so don’t skimp on your usual leafy fare. Instead, savor something new. Bon appétit!
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