When it comes to veggies, all we hear is “kale, kale, kale.” But are there green cousins that are even healthier? Last year, the Center for Disease Control released a report that included a ranking of “powerhouse fruits and vegetables” based on nutrient density scores. These scores (0-100) are based on the appearance of 17 key nutrients in each superfood. Here are the 14 greens that kicked kale (49.07) to number 15 on the list.
Watercress (100.00): This superfood may be the most nutrient-dense, but you may be more interested in its age-fighting qualities! In a 2012 study, 10 out of 11 female participants saw visible improvements to their skin after adding one bag of raw watercress per day to their diets over a period of four weeks. This is because the green contains a rich source of beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E, all important for repairing damage, reducing age spots and hydrating skin. Watercress is also the richest food source of phenylethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC), which researchers suggests contains cancer-fighting properties.
Chinese cabbage (91.99): Also called Napa cabbage, Chinese cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C, protecting the body against pro-inflammatory free radicals. A 2013 study of over 1,000 Chinese women concluded that those who ate more cruciferous vegetables (including cabbage) had less inflammation than those who ate less of these greens per day.
Chard (89.27): Swiss chard, most popular in Mediterranean countries, may be the secret to living a long, healthy life. This leafy green is high in vitamin K, which a 2014 study linked to reducing leading causes of death. Over 7,000 people at risk for cardiovascular disease participated in the study and the results showed that those with the highest vitamin K intake were 36 percent less likely to die (from any cause) than those with the lowest intake.
Beet green (87.08): When you buy beets at the grocery, you’ll probably find the leafy greens still attached. Don’t toss them out, though, as beet greens pack a high amount of vitamin K and dietary fiber. High fiber foods keep your digestive system regular and can help you lose weight as you stay fuller longer. If you aren’t sure what to do with these greens, try this bowl by Simply Recipes!
Spinach (86.43): This green has become a salad staple because of its healthy, nutritious qualities. Notably, spinach is an excellent source of magnesium which is necessary to generate energy from nutrients. It also improves blood sugar levels, ultimately lowering blood pressure and promoting a healthy heart! This vegetable can be easily incorporated into your diet with recipes like this 5-Ingredient Spinach Parmesan Pasta or by making a perfect green smoothie.
Chicory (73.36): Common chicory is a blue flowering plant commonly found on roadsides, but its leaves belongs to a family with endives and radicchio (the red-leaved shreds often found in salad mixes). Chicory plants are used for salad leaves and their roots are baked, ground and used in popular New Orleans-style coffee. While you probably wouldn’t eat them alone, radicchio is one of the greatest courses of a disease-fighting nutrient, so adding it to your salads may be a wise choice to live healthier! (via Huffington Post)
Leaf lettuce (70.73): You may have considered green leaf lettuce to be the least nutritious, but this salad staple is more nutrient dense than Romaine. Lettuce is a strong source of vitamin A, which supports eye health and improves your immune system. The nutrients in this green help maintain healthy skin and synthesize mucus, defending your body from harmful bacteria that cause illness. If you’re tired of salads, try this recipe for Asian Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps which stars this healthy veggie.
Parsley (65.59): This green, often found on the side of your plate at a fancy restaurant, is packed with vitamins A, C and K. It is filled with antioxidants that support disease prevention and has been known to prevent tumor formation in animals. The oils in parsley also qualify it as a “chemoprotective” food, which can neutralize some types of harmful carcinogens. (via World’s Healthiest Foods)
Romaine lettuce (63.48): It’s no secret that lettuce is low-calorie and can help you lose weight, but Romaine’s high water content can also can quickly satisfy your hunger and prevent overeating. It also contains high levels of folic acid which boosts male fertility and may prevent issues in pregnant women. To get your daily dose of Romaine, serve this Skinny Greek Salad!
Collard green (62.49): Another member of the cruciferous vegetable family, collard greens are an extremely rich source of vitamin K, A and C. This vegetable may also have qualities that help lower cholesterol. One study found that steamed collard greens improved participants’ cholesterol levels 13 percent more than prescription drug Cholestyramine. (via Huffington Post)
Other vegetables that topped kale on the powerhouse charts were turnip greens, mustard green, endive and chive. Kale’s still got heavy nutritional benefits, but consider these other superfoods for a balanced, healthy diet.
>> Read more: 10 Foods with More Vitamin C Than Oranges