40 of the Most Nutritious Foods (According to Science)

Updated on March 16, 2019
Kaitlyn Lo profile image

Kaitlyn has a background in psychology and writes articles that teach you how to lean on your body, mind, heart, and on those around you.

Fruits and veggies unsurprisingly dominate the list of most nutritious foods.
Fruits and veggies unsurprisingly dominate the list of most nutritious foods. | Source

Every few months, a new “superfood” floods the internet, and the world starts obsessing over it. Kale, avocado, and coconut oil are just a few examples. But what makes a food super? If it’s based on nutritional value, there are plenty of "superfoods" that you may already be eating but that have not been given their share of the hype.

To find out exactly which foods are the best for us, researchers tested 1,000 different raw foods and assigned each a nutritional score. The higher the score, the more effectively that food will help you meet your daily dietary needs.

Here are the 40 foods that scored highest.

40. Brussels Sprouts

Score: 50

Calories: 43 per 100g

A type of cabbage, Brussels sprouts are a rich source of vitamin C and vitamin K as well as antioxidants.

39. Arugula

Score: 55

Calories: 25 per 100g

A versatile leafy green, arugula is high in glucosinolates that may help protect you against cancer and heart disease.

38. Chives

Score: 55

Calories: 25 per 100g

This flavorful vegetable is chock full of vitamins A and K and contains an abundance of antioxidants that work to protect your body from free radicals.

37. Dried and Ground Paprika

Score: 55

Calories: 282 per 100g

Usually found as ground powder, paprika is made from a dried a capsicum annuum pepper species. This spice is high in the antioxidant ascorbic acid (vitamin C).

36. Red Tomatoes

Score: 56

Calories: 18 per 100g

This versatile fruit is surprisingly full of folate (vitamin B9), potassium, and vitamins A, C, and E.

35. Green Tomatoes

Score: 56

Calories: 23 per 100g

We don’t usually think to eat tomatoes before they turn a bright red, but green tomatoes can be eaten and are quite nutritious as well. Research has suggested that consuming green tomatoes may decrease your risk of prostate cancer.

34. Taro Leaves

Score: 56

Calories: 42 per 100g

Surprisingly, baby taro leaves are relatively high in protein for a vegetable, containing even more than the root.

33. Lima Beans

Score: 56

Calories: 106 per 100g

Lima beans are an excellent low-fat source of protein, carbs, manganese.

32. Eel

Score: 56

Calories: 184 per 100g

This fish is an excellent source of vitamin B2. However, it's wise to eat in moderation since its skin mucus can contain toxic marine contaminants (e.g. mercury).

31. Bluefin Tuna

Score: 56

Calories: 144 per 100g

Like salmon, tuna is high in omega-3s, but it often also contains mercury, so pregnant women should limit or avoid it all together.

Fresh tomatoes are a versatile and highly nutritious food.
Fresh tomatoes are a versatile and highly nutritious food. | Source

30. Navy Beans

Score: 57

Calories: 337 per 100g

Also known as pea beans, the fiber in these beans are associated with improving metabolic syndrome.

29. Plantain

Score: 57

Calories: 122 per 100g

A type of banana fruit, plantains contain a mix of antioxidants, are full of fiber, and can help you control your weight.

28. Podded Peas

Score: 58

Calories: 42 per 100g

Peas are high in protein, carbohydrates, fiber, minerals, and a variety of vitamins.

27. Walnuts

Score: 58

Calories: 619 per 100g

These nuts are chock full of α-linolenic acid, a kind of plant-derived omega-3 fatty acid associated with a decreased risk of health disease.

26. Fresh Spinach

Score: 59

Calories: 23 per 100g

Popeye may have been on to something because spinach contains more nutrients and minerals than most other leafy greens. Spinach is unusually high in vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus, and iron. However, fresh spinach can lose nutrients if stored at room temperature, so make sure to eat spinach as soon as you buy it. Frozen spinach is also a great option.

25. Parsley

Score: 59

Calories: 36 per 100g

Related to celery, parsley is packed with minerals. So adding a sprinkle of fresh parsley to any dish will help you reach your daily recommended nutrient intake.

24. Apricots

Score: 60

Calories: 48 per 100g

While this stone fruit has quite a high amount of sugar, it is also rich in phytoestrogens and antioxidants like carotenoid and beta-carotene.

23. Fish Roe

Score: 60

Calories: 134 and 100g

Fish roe, also known as fish eggs, are high in vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids.

22. Coriander

Score: 61

Calories: 23 per 100g

Rich in carotenoids, coriander is often used to treat digestive problems, chest pains, coughs, and fever.

21. Romaine Lettuce

Score: 61

Calories: 17 per 100g

This versatile leafy salad green is rich in folate, vitamin C, K, and beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the body.

Include baby spinach easily into your diet by tossing them with some grilled chicken breast for a filling and delicious lunch. Photo by Kaboonpics .com. CC0 Creative Commons
Include baby spinach easily into your diet by tossing them with some grilled chicken breast for a filling and delicious lunch. Photo by Kaboonpics .com. CC0 Creative Commons | Source

20. Mustard Leaves

Score: 61
Calories: 27 per 100g

High in sinigrin, these leaves can help protect your body against inflammation.

19. Kale

Score: 62
Calories: 49 per 100g

This leafy plant is loaded with minerals like phosphorous, iron, and calcium. It’s also high in vitamins C and A.

18. Chili Peppers

Score: 62
Calories: 324 per 100g

This hot spice has high levels of potent antioxidants like capsaicinoid, ascorbic acid, and carotenoids.

17. Clams

Score: 62
Calories: 86g per 100g

A low-calorie, low-fat shellfish that’s also high in protein.

16. Basil

Score: 63
Calories: 23 per 100g

This flavorful herb is historically used to protect the heart and has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.

15. Chili Powder

Score: 63
Calories: 282 per 100g

This spice is rich in vitamins C, A, and E. It’s also rich in phenolic compounds, and carotenoids.

14. Pink Grapefruit

Calories: 42 per 100g

High in vitamins C and A, this fruit is also a good source of minerals like manganese and calcium.

13. Scallops

Score: 64
Calories: 69 per 100g

This delicious low-fat, high-protein shellfish is rich in potassium and fatty acids.

12. Pacific Cod

Score: 64
Calories: 72 per 100g

This saltwater fish is a wonderful source of fatty acids and vitamin D.

11. Red Cabbage

Score: 65
Calories: 31 per 100g

Rich in vitamins A, B6, and C, this vegetable is a delicious addition to any salad.

Sweet and refreshingly tart at the same time, pink grapefruit is a delicious and nutritious option to get your daily dose of vitamin C and essential minerals.
Sweet and refreshingly tart at the same time, pink grapefruit is a delicious and nutritious option to get your daily dose of vitamin C and essential minerals. | Source

10. Green Onions

Score: 65

Calories: 27 per 100g

Also known as spring onions, this vegetable is rich in phosphorous, copper, magnesium. It is also one of the best sources of vitamin K.

9. Green Beans

Score: 67

Calories: 77 per 100g

Green beans are high in dietary fiber and minerals like magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, and phosphorous.

8. Tangerines

Score: 67

Calories: 53 per 100g

Though high in sugar, this fruit is also a rich source of the carotenoid cryptoxanthin, which is a compound that is converted by the body into vitamin A.

7. Watercress

Score: 68

Calories: 11 per 100g

Watercress is known for its high vitamin A and vitamin C content, but it is also commonly eaten to treat mineral deficiencies because it is rich in magnesium and potassium.

6. Dried Parsley

Score 69

Calories: 292 per 100g

Parsley is rich in fluoride, calcium, and boron, all nutrients that are essential for healthy teeth and bones.

5. Beet Greens

Score: 70

Calories: 22 per 100g

These leaves of the beetroot vegetable are rich in iron, calcium, B vitamins, and vitamin K.

4. Swiss Chard

Score: 78

Calories: 19 per 100g

This vegetable is a rare source of betalains, a type of antioxidant. It is also a vibrant source of vitamin A, providing 122% of your daily recommended amount in just 100 grams.

3. Pumpkin Seeds

Score: 84

Calories: 559 per 100g

Pumpkin seeds are one of the richest vegan sources of manganese and iron.

2. Chia Seeds

Score: 85

Calories: 486 per 100g

Deceptively small, these seeds are packed with dietary fiber, protein, phenolic acid, α-linolenic acid, and a variety of vitamins.

1. Almonds

Score: 97

Calories: 579 per 100g

These nuts are rich in protein and monounsaturated fats. They can help keep your heart healthy and may help improve diabetes.

Additional Reading and References:

United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Library. https://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/food-composition

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2018 KV Lo


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    • profile image

      helen neale 

      16 months ago

      This is a lot of information . interesting article I learned a lot

    • Kaitlyn Lo profile imageAUTHOR

      KV Lo 

      21 months ago

      @Poppy: For sure! I dump a bunch of herbs in every recipe and now I know that I'm doing something right! Thanks for reading. :)

    • poppyr profile image


      21 months ago from Enoshima, Japan

      Reading this got me hungry! I knew it was a good idea to put basil and chili powder in everything! Yum yum.


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