What Are The Most Nutrient-Dense Foods? Think Fruits and Vegetables

Do you want to give your family foods that are healthy? Most of us answer “yes,” but a lot of us are not sure how to do that. In fact, a national study found that 52 percent of Americans think it’s easier to figure out their income taxes than to know how to choose the right foods.

To make it easier, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied the nutrient densities of a number of foods to help define foods that constitute powerhouse foods. After analyzing the foods for their nutrient density, a final list was constructed, which ranks the top foods that contained greater than 10 percent of the daily value (DV) of nutrients associated with reducing chronic diseases. These foods are defined as powerhouse foods.

You’ll see leafy green vegetables have the highest scores, but all these foods are powerhouses.

Absent from the list are foods like raspberries, tangerines, cranberries, garlic, onion and blueberries, but that doesn’t mean these foods are not healthy for you. They should still be included as part of a balanced diet.

Explore how you can include these powerhouse foods in your balanced diet.

Fruit and Vegetables


Nutrient Density Score

(% DV of 100 kcal of food)

Watercress 100.00
Chinese cabbage 91.99
Chard 89.27
Beet green 87.08
Spinach 86.43
Chicory 73.36
Leaf lettuce 70.73
Parsley 65.59
Romaine lettuce 63.48
Collard green 62.49
Turnip green 62.12
Mustard green 61.39
Endive 60.44
Chive 54.80
Kale 49.07
Dandelion green 46.34
Red pepper 41.26
Arugula 37.65
Broccoli 34.89
Pumpkin 33.82
Brussels sprout 32.23
Scallion 27.35
Kohlrabi 25.92
Cauliflower 25.13
Cabbage 24.51
Carrot 22.60
Tomato 20.37
Lemon 18.72
Iceberg lettuce 18.28
Strawberry 17.59
Radish 16.91
Winter squash (all varieties) 13.89
Orange 12.91
Lime 12.23
Grapefruit (pink and red) 11.64
Rutabaga 11.58
Turnip 11.43
Blackberry 11.39
Leek 10.69
Sweet potato 10.51
Grapefruit (white) 10.47

Meet the Author

Krysta Butkus, MS RD CD is a Clinical Dietitian at Aurora Sinai Medical Center in Milwaukee, WI.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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