In an ideal world, we wouldn’t go first to a pharmacist to address maladies ranging from the common cold to cancer; instead, we’d create grocery shopping lists aimed at fostering optimal health. Good nutrition may not cure disease, but a growing body of research shows it could do something even more powerful: help prevent disease. “By choosing foods wisely, we can control our health destiny,” says Joel Fuhrman, MD, author of Eat for Health (Gift of Health, 2008). “But we can’t make small, moderate changes to the average diet and expect prevention; we need to make aggressive, radical changes.” Indeed, a 2010 study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that adults who added only two servings of vegetables to their daily diet had, on average just a 4 percent drop in cancer risk. (Another study of the same group, however, found those who ate the most vegetables had significantly lower risk for heart disease than those who ate the least.)
Over the past two decades, Fuhrman reviewed 20,000 human-nutrition studies to develop a comprehensive nutrient-per calorie ranking system, which he calls the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI). His goal is to help you find the best foods for weight control, disease prevention, and overall health. Looking at the ANDI rankings, one conclusion stands out: You really should eat more dark leafy greens. These nutrient powerhouses earned the top spots on the list, and those with sources of 1,000 (out of 1,000) far exceed Fuhrman’s definition of superfoods: fruits and vegetables with ANDI scores of 100 or more. Other rankings may seem counterintuitive. Because radishes and bean sprouts contain so few calories vis-a’-vis nutrients, they prove to be among the smartest options for health and weight management, while nutritionally worthy almonds’ calories push them farther down the list.
The ANDI rankings don’t account for the largely unnamed and unmeasured phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables. What they do is compare common foods based on quantifiable nutrients-per-calorie. The charts on the following pages list the top ANDI-ranked foods by category. Use them as guides to make the healthiest eating choices for you and your family.
TOP 6 VEGETABLES:
Dark leafy greens*
Vitamins A, C, and K, folate, manganese, magnesium, calcium, fiber
May promote eye health (thanks to carotenoids, a group of pigments found mainly in green leafy vegetables, carrots, and tomatoes), fight cancer, and reduce diabetes risk (Vitamin K improves insulin sensitivity and blood glucose control).
Vitamin C, folate, calcium, fiber
May help promote bone health and support immunity
Vitamins A, C, and K, folate, manganese, fiber, potassium, vitamin B6
Linked to reduced cancer risk, especially breast and colon cancer
Vitamin C, fiber, folate
Help with weight control; may boost the immune system.
Vitamins C and K, folate, protein, potassium
May boost satiety and assist in weight management.
Red Bell Peppers
Vitamin C (three times as uch as green bell peppers), vitamins A, B6, and K, fiber, manganese, and folate
May promote heart health. Vitamin C supports immunity; carotenoids may decrease risk of certain types of cancer, including lung cancer.
By Jessica Rubino
Deliciousliving.com Annual Guide 10