Who’d have thought it? An unassuming leafy green often used as decorative garnish might just be the healthiest food you can eat. Researchers at William Paterson University put watercress at the top of a list of 41 “powerhouse fruits and vegetables” that contain 17 nutrients critical for human health. The study, recently published in the CDC journal Preventing Chronic Disease, gives watercress a score of 100 out of 100 for nutrient contents because it contains large amounts of fiber, potassium, protein, calcium, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin d, and other important building blocks for the human body.

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According to the study, watercress’ closest competitor for nutrient content is Chinese cabbage, which got a score of 91.99 in the study; followed by chard (89.27), beet greens (87.08), spinach (86.43), and chicory (73.36). Leafy greens won the day, as colored fruits and vegetables came in significantly lower on the score sheet. Red pepper scored the highest amongst them, at 41.26; followed by pumpkin (32.23), tomato (20.37) and lemon (18.72). And believe it or not, raspberries, cranberries and blueberries scored so poorly they didn’t even make the list.

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Lead researcher, Jennifer Di Noia told the Washington Post that though they contain plenty of phytochemicals that help prevent disease, little data actually exists on the nutrient content of these berries. “(T)there are no uniform data on food phytochemicals and . . . recommended intake amounts for these compounds are lacking,” she explained. “So the scores are based on nutrients only.”

Before you head out to the market and start cramming your cart full of watercress, keep in mind that no single food can you everything you need. Di Noia notes: “Consistent with a whole-diet approach . . . [Consumption of] all the items should be encouraged. The rankings may help consumers make nutrient-dense selections within the powerhouse group.”

Via Washington Post

Images via thaumatr0pe and Preventing Chronic Disease