Is watercress the latest superfood powerhouse?

When I first became interested in how food can significantly impact your health and well being, the concept of superfoods was not that well-known yet. Step forward five years, and thanks to celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver, almost everyone knows about superfood.

That’s a good thing! Of course, some people think the whole superfoods thing is a fad but if you really think about it, then any fresh, organic and natural food product is a superfood.

Of course, some superfoods are more powerful than others. And recently researchers at William Paterson University in New Jersey a list of 41 “powerhouse fruits and vegetables” ranked by the amounts of 17 critical nutrients they contain.

For their study, the researchers scored different superfoods according to the amount of fibre, potassium, protein, calcium, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin A and vitamin D (and a host of other critical health-giving nutrients) contained in each individual food.

The researchers worked on the average consumption of a 2,000 calorie diet per day, consuming 100 grams of each food. The scores were capped to ensure fruit or vegetables that provide a high amount of only one single nutrient didn’t get a disproportionately high overall score — using a score of 100 to be the highest.

Now, I have to admit their results surprised me. Watercress — long known as a superfood — scored a perfect 100, followed by Chinese cabbage (91.99), chard (89.27), beet greens (87.08), spinach (86.43) and chicory (73.36).

So, no broccoli in the top five… or kale?

In fact, six of the superfoods that didn’t make the list at all are some the foods most people probably think of as superfood powerhouses. These are raspberries, tangerines, cranberries, blueberries, garlic and onions.

Professor Di Noia explained that the reason for the relatively poor performance of berries, for example, is that they are rich in phytochemicals, which are non-essential nutrients despite their protective or disease-preventive properties. She added: “Since there are no uniform data on food phytochemicals and recommended intake amounts for these compounds are lacking, this particular study only focussed on scoring essential nutrients.”

Now, please don’t let these results prompt you to throw out every fruit and vegetable that doesn’t resemble watercress or chicory. I think it simply shows that when it comes to giving yourself a super nutrient-boost, some foods will pack a much bigger punch than others.

As always, balance is key… so keep the berries, broccoli and kale coming.

To a healthier life,

Thomas Smith