10 Vegetables That Reduce the Risk of Chronic Disease

Want to fight disease? Eat your vegetables. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published a list of 41 “powerhouse” fruits and vegetables.1 Their list includes plant foods that are strongly associated with a reduced risk of chronic disease — such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and arthritis.

You’ll find more antioxidants, vitamin C, and B vitamins in a side of sauerkraut than you will in a side of sliced cabbage.

According to the CDC, a whopping 75 percent of our healthcare dollars are spent treating chronic disease. While chronic diseases are the most common and costly of all health problems, they are also the most preventable.2

The Top 10 Vegetables and Fruits That Could Transform Your Health

Jennifer Di Noia of William Paterson University developed a way to analyze and categorize 17 common nutrients in raw fruits and vegetables. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Institute of Medicine, these 17 nutrients are critical to the prevention of chronic disease.

This list includes minerals such as potassium, calcium, iron, and zinc. Vitamins also made the lineup.


10 Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables may have the power to ward off disease and improve your quality of life. Enjoy Powerhouse Vegetables, like gut-friendly cruciferous vegetables, easily at home by fermenting them with the Veggie Culture Starter.

Di Noia measured amounts of:

  • Thiamin (or vitamin B1)
  • Riboflavin (or vitamin B2)
  • Niacin (or vitamin B3)
  • Folate
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K

Of the Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables, raw cruciferous veggies (like watercress, Chinese cabbage, collard green, kale, and arugula) and leafy greens (such as chard, beet green, spinach, chicory, and leaf lettuce) made the top of the list. Whereas, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, alliums, citrus, and berries were concentrated in the bottom half of the list.

According to the CDC and Di Noia’s research, the top 10 Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables are:

  1. Watercress
  2. Chinese cabbage
  3. Chard
  4. Beet greens
  5. Spinach
  6. Chicory
  7. Leaf lettuce
  8. Parsley
  9. Romaine lettuce
  10. Collard greens

be-infographic-10-veggies-page-001Understanding the nutrient density of the vegetables on your plate is critically important, but at Body Ecology, we take a few other factors into consideration. Many of the green, leafy vegetables, especially spinach, are high in a compound called oxalate. Oxalates can be found in foods, and they’re also produced as a waste product by the body and excreted through urine. Too many oxalates in the body can form crystals as they start to accumulate, causing serious pain and kidney stones. Oxalates can frequently build up in the joints and even into the brain. Boiling high-oxalate vegetables, like spinach and parsley on the Powerhouse list, and dumping out the water can help to reduce oxalate content dramatically.

Things can get even more confusing when we look up oxalates online — the way different vegetables are grown can make a difference in their total oxalate count. If you don’t have a problem with oxalates, you may be able to eat high-oxalate vegetables without an issue. If you do have difficulty tolerating oxalates, you can practice the Body Ecology Principle of Step-by-Step and start out slowly. For instance, try eating a few leaves of spinach instead of an entire serving to see how your body responds, along with boiling your high-oxalate veggies and throwing the water out.

At Body Ecology, we count oxalates, not calories. It also helps to remember that every single thing you put in your body has a positive and a negative side to it. For some people, oxalates may not pose a problem in the present. And for others, making seemingly healthy choices — like adding high-oxalate almond milk to smoothies — could be sabotaging their health by creating an oxalate buildup throughout the day.

The Benefits of Cultured Powerhouse Vegetables

We are not surprised that cruciferous vegetables ranked high on the list of Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables. While cruciferous vegetables are rich in the 17 nutrients that the CDC uses to define a powerhouse vegetable, they also contain other plant chemicals — such as glucosinolates, polyphenols, and plant flavonoids — that have been shown to safeguard against several chronic diseases.3,4

Raw cruciferous vegetables also support gut health.

Research shows that by simply consuming a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli and cabbage, you can change the type of bacteria living in your gut.5

For those who suffer with digestive issues, raw cruciferous vegetables, which are high in fiber and phytonutrients that feed gut bacteria, may make symptoms of leaky gut and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) worse. To make cruciferous vegetables easier to digest, we recommend fermenting them with a culture starter.

Cultured cruciferous vegetables are not only easier to digest (because they are pre-digested by probiotic bacteria), they are also higher in antioxidants, vitamin C, and B vitamins — all of which are byproducts of the fermentation process.6 In other words: You’ll find more antioxidants, vitamin C, and B vitamins in a side of sauerkraut than you will in a side of sliced cabbage.

Why Berries Didn’t Make the List

Berries — such as raspberries, cranberries, and blueberries — didn’t make the CDC’s list of Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables.

As researcher Di Noia explains, “Had I been able to incorporate phytochemical data, these items may have made the list. I think this is an important direction for future research.”

Phytochemicals include polyphenols, plant flavonoids, and carotenoids that all act as antioxidants in the body. Antioxidants protect cells from aging, helping to ward off the development of cancer. Studies also tell us that phytochemicals may lower our risk of developing heart disease and some forms of dementia.7

Get started fermenting the Powerhouse Veggies today with this simple recipe.

What To Remember Most About This Article:

The CDC recently compiled a list of 41 powerhouse plant foods strongly associated with a reduced risk of chronic disease, like stroke, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and arthritis. Chronic diseases are the most common of all health problems and are also the most preventable.

The Top 10 Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables contain 17 nutrients needed to prevent chronic disease:

  1. Watercress
  2. Chinese cabbage
  3. Chard
  4. Beet greens
  5. Spinach
  6. Chicory
  7. Leaf lettuce
  8. Parsley
  9. Romaine lettuce
  10. Collard greens

But that’s not all — cruciferous vegetables are ranked high on the list, and for good reason. Raw cruciferous vegetables contain a number of beneficial plant chemicals that have been proven to safeguard against chronic disease. Raw cruciferous vegetables are most potent when they are fermented (pre-digested) with a culture starter. Fermentation not only enhances digestion, it produces powerful byproducts in antioxidants, B vitamins, and vitamin C.


  1. Di Noia, J. (2014). Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables: A Nutrient Density Approach. Preventing Chronic Disease, 11.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014, May 09). Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/overview/index.htm.
  3. Dillard, C. J., & German, J. B. (2000). Phytochemicals: nutraceuticals and human health. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 80(12), 1744-1756.
  4. Bennett, R. N., Rosa, E. A., Mellon, F. A., & Kroon, P. A. (2006). Ontogenic profiling of glucosinolates, flavonoids, and other secondary metabolites in Eruca sativa (salad rocket), Diplotaxis erucoides (wall rocket), Diplotaxis tenuifolia (wild rocket), and Bunias orientalis (Turkish rocket). Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 54(11), 4005-4015.
  5. Li, F., Hullar, M. A., Schwarz, Y., & Lampe, J. W. (2009). Human gut bacterial communities are altered by addition of cruciferous vegetables to a controlled fruit-and vegetable-free diet. The Journal of nutrition, 139(9), 1685-1691.
  6. Chun, O. K., Smith, N., Sakagawa, A., & Lee, C. Y. (2004). Antioxidant properties of raw and processed cabbages. International journal of food sciences and nutrition, 55(3), 191-199.
  7. Seeram, N. P. (2009). Recent Trends and Advances in Berry Health Benefits Research†. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 58(7), 3869-3870.
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