Watercress scores on blueberries?!@

06/10/2014 12:09:00 PM
Tom Karst

Tom KarstSitting in a Caribou Coffee shop in Chicago, a sign tells me that "The Caribou Coffee location's last day of business will be June 22. Thank you for 13 fantastic years. Your patronage has brought many smiles, much laughter and memories that we will cherish forever."

Such are the passages of life, a long run that eventually ends. The same passage will mean a new beginning; this Caribou location will become a new fangled tea shop, the barista told me.

So the beat of the industry goes on, and today is the start of the United Fresh Produce Association expo, another convention in a long line that promises to stretch far into the future. There will be new products, technology and innovations that could be game-changers, the type of punctuation marks in the industry timeline that we will only recognize later.

It is impressive that Peruvian avocados nabbed the "superfood nutrition" language from the U.S. Department of Agriculture regulators. Once applied to one fruit item, I'm sure that other commodities will also angle for similar distinction.

In that context, a new study that identifies "powerhouse" fruits and veggies is making news in recent days. Of course, any naming of specific fruits and vegetables to a "powerhouse" or "superfood" lists is bound to be a little controversial. The most shocking part of this recent list is that blueberries are not among the powerhouse produce items. I kid you not. The chief reason for this is that researchers did not include phytonutrients in their equation for powerhouse fruits and vegetables.

The abstract of the study, called "Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables: A Nutrient Density Approach," says this about the approach:

National nutrition guidelines emphasize consumption of powerhouse fruits and vegetables (PFV), foods most strongly associated with reduced chronic disease risk; yet efforts to define PFV are lacking. This study developed and validated a classification scheme defining PFV as foods providing, on average, 10% or more daily value per 100 kcal of 17 qualifying nutrients. Of 47 foods studied, 41 satisfied the powerhouse criterion and were more nutrient-dense than were non-PFV, providing preliminary evidence of the validity of the classification scheme. The proposed classification scheme is offered as a tool for nutrition education and dietary guidance.

Of 47 foods studied, all but 6 (raspberry, tangerine, cranberry, garlic, onion, and blueberry) satisfied the powerhouse criterion (Table 2). Nutrient density scores ranged from 10.47 to 122.68 (median score = 32.23) and were moderately correlated with powerhouse group (ρ = 0.49, P = .001). The classification scheme was robust with respect to nutrients protective against chronic disease (97% of foods classified as PFV were separately classified as such on the basis of 8 nutrients protective against cancer and heart disease). For ease of interpretation, scores above 100 were capped at 100 (indicating that the food provides, on average, 100% DV of the qualifying nutrients per 100 kcal). Items in cruciferous (watercress, Chinese cabbage, collard green, kale, arugula) and green leafy (chard, beet green, spinach, chicory, leaf lettuce) groups were concentrated in the top half of the distribution of scores (Table 2) whereas items belonging to yellow/orange (carrot, tomato, winter squash, sweet potato), allium (scallion, leek), citrus (lemon, orange, lime, grapefruit), and berry (strawberry, blackberry) groups were concentrated in the bottom half (4–7).


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