The idea of superfoods is a tempting one: Get all your nutritious foods for one day by eating a spirulina acai kale smoothie. But nutrition works better when you’re eating a rounded diet with multiple nutrient-dense foods that work together. Scientists evaluated 1,000 different foods, assigning each food a score based on the likelihood that the food would meet, but not exceed, daily nutritional requirements when eaten in combination with other nutritious food.
The key, according to the list produced by BBC Future, is to balance these highly nutritional foods to create a healthy diet. And no matter your tastes, you can find something you’ll like on this list. Believe it or not, superfood and still trendy kale came in at #31 on the list of top 100 nutrient dense foods. Sweet potatoes are at #100 (though they’re still #1 in my heart and on my grocery list).
BBC Future lists the top 100 nutritious foods. Let’s look at the top 20 of the most nutritious foods.
20. Pacific Cod; Score: 64
The livers in this fish are a significant source of fish oil, which is rich in fatty acids and vitamin D.
19. Red Cabbage; Score: 65
Colorful food is almost always nutrient rich food (unicorn milkshakes and cupcakes are the exception here. Sorry.) and red cabbage is no different. It’s a good source of vitamins A, C and K, as well as potassium and manganese.
18. Green Onion; Score: 65
Also known as spring onions, this member of the allium family is a true vitamin powerhouse, rich in Vitamin K, C and A, as well as being high in copper, phosphorous and magnesium.
17. Alaska Pollock; Score: 65
This fish, also known as walleye pollock, has fat content of less than 1 percent.
16. Pike; Score: 65
A nutritious freshwater fish high in protein and potassium (good for all but pregnant women who should avoid due to mercury contamination).
15. Green Peas; Score: 67
Whether you like them mixed with other veggies or as mushy peas alongside your fish and chips, these tiny green spheres pack a lot of nutritional value. They are rich in fiber and B vitamins, and also contain phosphorous, magnesium, iron, zinc and copper.
14. Tangerines; Score: 67
We all know that citrus has many health benefits, especially during cold and flu season.
13. Watercress; Score: 68
This unique wild green has more vitamin C than oranges and more vitamin A than broccoli. Use it like you would any other green, in salads, sandwiches or gently cooked.
12. Celery Flakes; Score: 68
Celery that has been dried and flaked and is typically used as a condiment.
11. Dried Parsley; Score: 69
Dried herbs can be more nutritious than their fresh counterparts because the drying process stops the nutrients from breaking down. Parsley is high in boron, fluoride and calcium.
10. Snapper; Score: 69
A great source of protein, snapper is also rich in selenium, vitamin A, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids
9. Beet Greens; Score: 70
The leafy tops of beets, these greens are high in calcium, iron, vitamin K and B vitamins. The beets are pretty nutritious, too, even if they didn’t make the top 100 list.
8. Pork Fat; Score: 73
It’s important to point out that nutritious doesn’t always mean healthy, especially if eaten out of balance with other foods. In other words, this entry is not a directive to fry everything in bacon fat. However, pork fat is a good source of B vitamins and minerals, and is more unsaturated than lamb or beef fat.
7. Swiss Chard; Score: 78
Another super healthy leafy green high in essential nutrients like K, A, and C vitamins, plus magnesium, potassium, iron and fiber. This rainbow food is good for you.
6. Pumpkin Seeds; Score: 84
Like you needed another reason to roast your own pumpkin or squash seeds. Also known as pepitas, these are a great source of iron and manganese, plus super good on all sorts of savory and sweet foods.
5. Chia Seeds; Score: 85
Tiny black seeds that contain high amounts of dietary fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and calcium. Historically popular in Mexico and Central America, there powerhouse seeds are catching on here, especially for its potential help in weight loss.
4. Flatfish; Score: 88
Think sole and flounder. This fish is high in vitamin B1 and generally free from mercury.
3. Ocean Perch; Score: 89
A deep-water fish high in protein and low in saturated fats. It’s sometimes called rockfish.
2. Cherimoya; Score: 96
A tropical fruit, Cherimoya is sweet and rich in vitamins A, C, B1, B2 and potassium. It has the texture of a soft-ripe pear.
1. Almonds; Score: 97
This food might be the least surprising on the list, since almonds have been on superfood lists for some time. These nuts are rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids as well as being one of the best sources of vitamin E, copper, magnesium and protein.