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Top 5 Most Nutritious Green Leafy Vegatables

Written by Melissa Shughrue, dietetic intern at Duke University Hospital.

Many people are looking for nutrient dense fruits and vegetables to incorporate into their diet. A system used to determine to nutrient density of food is called ANDI, which stands for "Aggregate Nutrient Density Index." ANDI is a scoring system that rates foods on a scale from 1 to 1000 based on nutrient content, with the most nutrient dense cruciferous leafy green vegetables scoring 1000. 

ANDI scores are calculated by evaluating an extensive range of micronutrients, including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants. Unlike food labels, which list only a few nutrients, ANDI scores are based on thirty-four nutritional parameters.

ANDI demonstrates the nutritional power of vegetables and fruits, especially compared to processed foods and animal products. Although it is important to consume these nutrient rich foods, it is also important to achieve micronutrient diversity, and eat an assortment of plant foods to obtain the full range of nutrients.

Each vegetable and fruit contains different micronutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It is important to vary your fruit and vegetable consumption so that you are getting access to a variety of nutrients, not just the ones found in very nutrient dense greens.

More ANDI information here

Our first article on this subject focuses on the leafy GREEN VEGGIES. Here are the top 5:

  1. Kale, watercress, Swiss chard, mustard/turnip/collard greens: 1000

  2. Bok Choy: 865

  3. Chinese/Napa Cabbage: 714

  4. Spinach: 707

  5. Arugula: 604

 

Kale, Watercress, & Other Greens:

Kale is rich in vitamin C, vitamin A (from beta-carotene), vitamin K, vitamin B6, fiber, potassium, calcium, magnesium, copper and manganese. Watercress is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. Mustard greens and turnip greens contain vitamins K and C, lutein and fiber. Collard greens have those same nutrients, plus loads of potassium. Swiss chard is loaded with vitamins A, C, and K, and also provides some iron and calcium.

 

Bok Choy:

Bok choy is right behind the dark leafy greens when it comes to nutrient density. This Chinese green has a wealth of cancer-fighting properties. Bok choy contains potassium for proper muscle and nerve function, and vitamin B6 for efficient carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism.

 

Napa Cabbage:

This Chinese cabbage contains high doses of vitamins C, A, and K, as well as calcium, fiber, and selenium. New research shows that apigenin, a flavone in Chinese cabbage, may cause cell death in certain types of breast cancer.

 

Spinach:

This leafy green is high in niacin and zinc, as well as protein, fiber, vitamins A, C, E and K, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and manganese. With all of these flavonoids and antioxidants, it’s no surprise that spinach has been found to maintain vigorous brain function, memory and mental clarity.

 

Arugula:

Consuming 2 cups of arugula will provide 20% of vitamin A, over 50% of vitamin K and 8% of your vitamin C, folate and calcium needs for the day. Arugula contains very high nitrate levels (more than 250 mg/100 g). High intakes of dietary nitrate have been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce the amount of oxygen needed during exercise and enhance athletic performance.

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