Top 10 Green Vegetables by Nutrient Density

Written by Max Goldberg on April 16, 2012. Follow Max on Twitter: @livingmaxwell.

When you go into the produce section of Whole Foods, you’ll notice signs that say “ANDI Score” with a number associated with that respective food.

Created by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, ANDI stands for “Aggregate Nutrient Density Index” and ranks a food’s nutrient density on a scale from 1 to 1000.

The ANDI scores are calculated by evaluating an extensive range of micronutrients, including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidant capacities, and by dividing the nutrient level of a food by its caloric content (N/C).

As such, the motivation behind creating this index was to emphasize the importance of eating foods that are rich in nutrients on a per calorie basis.

For example, kale, a dark leafy green, scores 1000 while soda scores 1.

As provided by Whole Foods, here are the top 10 most nutrient-dense green vegetables and their respective ANDI scores.

1. Mustard/Turnip/Collard Greens – 1000

2. Kale - 1000

3. Watercress – 1000

4. Bok Choy/Baby Bok Choy – 824

5. Spinach – 739

6. Broccoli Rabe – 715

7. Chinese/Napa Cabbage – 704

8. Brussels Sprouts – 672

9. Swiss Chard – 670

10. Arugula – 559

MY TAKE

1) I think the ANDI scores are an excellent reference tool, especially when you are shopping and are not sure about which food to purchase.

That being said, it is just one assessment and it is not the only guide that a person should use when deciding which specific foods to eat.

Take walnuts, for example.

Regarded by many people as the best nut available, walnuts are amazing source of omega-3s, manganese and potassium. Furthermore, they have very strong anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, and contain a phytonutrient, the quinone juglone, that is not found in almost any other commonly-eaten foods.

Yet, walnuts only have an ANDI score of 34 and are rated as the 8th highest, nutrient-dense nut.

Another point to remember: Just because greens have the highest ANDI scores, this does not mean that greens should comprise one’s entire diet.

As legendary natural healer Dr. Bernard Jensen believed, the diet should consist of a rainbow of colors – meaning that we need foods that contain all of the colors.

2) When I went to go see Dr. Joel Furhman speak at the Whole Foods Wellness Club in Tribeca, he said that there was no distinction between the nutritional value of non-organic and organic foods.

I strongly, strongly disagree with him on this point for two reasons.

1) Recent research points to the contrary

A study completed at Washington State University regarding strawberries and the one at the University of Barcelona regarding tomatoes demonstrate the organic has higher levels of nutrients and antioxidants.

2) Common Sense

Putting empirical evidence aside, nutrition is all about soil quality.

If your soil is nutritious, vibrant, healthy and filled with vital micro-organisms, the plant will be nutritious. And vice-versa.

Conventional agriculture ravages the soil by spraying it with toxic pesticides, herbicides and insecticides, and practices monocropping, the practice of growing the same plant year-after-year on the same land, which kills the soil’s ecology.

From a purely intellectual perspective, I just don’t know how anyone can make the argument that the nutrition levels could be the same. In my mind, it just doesn’t hold at all.

The reason for Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s stance on this matter, however, may be for a specific reason.

Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s mission is to improve the health of the broad population by getting individuals to switch to a heavy plant-based diet.

And if pushing organic as well would dissuade people from eating more plant-based food because they can’t afford or don’t have access to organic, it is not helping achieve his overall mission.

While I incorporate many, many plant-based foods in my diet, my agenda is different. I promote organic. Why?

Unquestionably, it is the superior food on the planet and does not contain toxic chemicals, genetically-modified organisms, and artificial growth hormones.

And among other things, organic agriculture treats the soil with respect, which in turn provides us with the highest nutritional food possible.

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23 Comments

  1. Hello Max,

    I agree 100% with you.

    Thank you!

    All the best,
    stephanie

    Written by stephanie haughey on April 16, 2012 @ 1:51 pm
  2. Hi Stephanie,

    About which part? About why Dr. Fuhrman is not promoting organic?

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on April 17, 2012 @ 4:07 pm
  3. I can’t say I agree with you 100%. Even ‘organic’ or locally farmed ‘organic’ foods can be grown in poor soil or with poor soil management. I agree locally grown small farm organic foods are more than likely healthier than market ‘fresh’ produce from a local grocer, but I won’t agree that just because something is labeled ‘organic’ means that it’s healthier.

    I do agree that Dr. Fuhrman is not about promoting healthy whole foods. His site even sells supplements that, in my opinion, is not any better than mega chain store bought goods.

    The ANDI is based on Dr. Fuhrman’s formula of nutritional density vs. fat content and nuts contain more fat. I’ve noticed that Dr. Fuhrman doesn’t always differentiate healthy fats vs. unhealthy fats, ie; his take on lauric acid. He suggests that this fatty acid is unhealthy because it is a saturated fatty acid and saturated fatty acids have a bum rap.

    Lauric acid is found in the highest concentrations in coconuts, coconut oil, and coconut palm oil. It has been shown to increase HDL (good cholesterol) and help decrease LDL (bad cholesterol). Oils are very low on the ANDI.

    I personally use the ANDI scores as a complement to other nutritional information available and not as a diet guide.

    I don’t equate ‘organic’ with healthy in the same way that I don’t find rattle snake poison healthy; remember: it’s natural, not healthy. I stand by “know your local farmers, know their farming practices; eat unrefined whole foods.” (again, I don’t say unprocessed because processing food does not necessarily remove or reduce a food to a few simple compounds, unlike refining, because each piece retains the nutrients of the whole).

    Written by Scott on May 16, 2012 @ 11:13 pm
  4. Hi Scott,

    A very articulate and thoughtful comment.

    Yes, some organic soil that has been mismanaged may not be ideal but in the overall scheme, organic foods is going to be superior.

    Another person who advocated against all fats was Dr. Max Gerson, who started treating cancer patients in the 1940s through organic raw and cooked foods, pressed organic juices, and coffee enemas. He was against all fats, including avocados and nuts, for his cancer patients.

    In my view, Max Gerson MD may be the preeminent doctor in the last few centuries. I’ll be writing about this very soon and I think you’ll really appreciate it. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1575666286/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=livingmaxwell-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1575666286

    That being said, I eat fats and don’t worry too much about it.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on May 17, 2012 @ 2:33 pm
  5. Thank you for the reply Max.

    I’ll be looking forward to the article. Max Gerson is a new name to me, I’ll have to check him out.

    My take on fat intake is it depends on our diet goals. Want lean, eat lean, and vice versa. My problem with fats is that they taste so good ;-)

    Thanks,
    Scott

    Written by Scott on May 17, 2012 @ 9:42 pm
  6. Hi Scott,

    Yes, I agree.

    Definitely do some research on Max Gerson MD. In my view, he is the tops.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on May 19, 2012 @ 2:25 pm
  7. ANDI score is flawed. It’s based on nutrients per calorie, i.e. it’s based on the flawed concept that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. The ANDI score of coconut oil will be very low as well based on the misconception.

    Written by Nikolay Kolev on August 6, 2012 @ 3:19 pm
  8. BTW, wasn’t Gerson’s Therapy the one that “saved” Steve Jobs?

    Written by Nikolay Kolev on August 6, 2012 @ 3:52 pm
  9. Hi Nikolay,

    Correct – the ANDI score does not take into account fats – and it is just one metric. Coconut oil and olive oil would score very, very low.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on August 7, 2012 @ 9:58 am
  10. Hi Nikolay,

    I don’t know if Jobs followed Gerson’s protocol or not.

    However, I find it laughable that you mock Max Gerson. He started successfully curing cancer via his method beginning in the 1940s and testified in front of Congress with his results.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on August 7, 2012 @ 10:19 am
  11. Hi Max,

    I have a big problem with the ANDI scoring system. It may have been developed with high ideals but it is based on a lie. The lie is that all food is the same. In other words an apple is an apple is an apple according to the USDA database. The ANDI score is based on the nutrient tables published by the USDA. This is patently false. It depends on the soil environment that the crop was grown in.

    Let’s take Dr. Fuhrman’s wonderfood kale. I have personally seen kale range from 5 brix to 18 brix. I can assure you the 5 brix kale, organic or not, is unfit to eat if you wish to build health. Dr. Fuhrman does not approach food from a soil perspective thus he is forced to accept the USDA data as truth which it is not. The truth is that the USDA data does reflect the average of what is currently in the market place. In other words it accurately answers the question “What nutrients are typically found in this produce?”

    My question is more pertinent: ” How much nutrition should such and such a food contian to be considered nutrient dense?”

    In your article you wrote: While I incorporate many, many plant-based foods in my diet, my agenda is different. I promote organic. Why?

    Unquestionably, it is the superior food on the planet and does not contain toxic chemicals, genetically-modified organisms, and artificial growth hormones.

    And among other things, organic agriculture treats the soil with respect, which in turn provides us with the highest nutritional food possible.

    I have to disagree. Organic can be great, pathetic, or somewhere in between. Same for commercially grown produce. What matters is the mineral nutrition it contains and not containing chemical residues.

    This year I sponsored a nutrient density competition for butternut squash. Data will be released shortly. Most of the organic samples were on the low end for the amount of sugars and minerals present. I need to verify this but it appears the squash with the highest nutrient density score was grown organically. Organic is nothing compared to soil stewardship when it comes to growing nutrient dense foods.

    Jon C. Frank
    International Ag Labs

    Written by Jon Frank on December 1, 2012 @ 9:29 pm
  12. Hi Jon,

    99.9% of the population does not test their food’s soil quality and make food choices based on this. Organic standards are the best standards that we have, on a national level, for making sure that the soil is “clean”, at least for the last three years on a farm. Therefore, I stand by what I said in my post.

    Clearly, nutrition is incredibly dependent on soil quality – I completely agree with you. And not all soil on organic farms is the same.

    Thanks for your comment.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on December 2, 2012 @ 2:47 pm
  13. Crazy you would even need to write an article on the two. How did it get to this point? Mass production? Could there be blame for that? I thank you for your passion.

    Written by Tina on January 29, 2013 @ 5:51 pm
  14. Hi Tina,

    Unfortunately, we have an industrialized food system where faster and cheaper are of paramount importance. Thanks for your kind words!!!

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on January 30, 2013 @ 12:58 pm
  15. I strongly believe that produce and meat need to be organic. Yes it doesn’t guarantee excellent soil quality but it does ensure that certain things like chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, irradiation, GMOs, and sewage sludge were not used. This alone takes A LOT of that nasties out of the equation.

    When one is ill (I’ve been recovering from a chronic condition) getting rid of toxins are SO IMPORTANT.

    I respect Dr. Gerson a lot and have used some of his approaches… I do however believe that FATS are ideal to life. Perhaps when he had his cancer patients on a no-fat diet and juicing and coffee enemas it was a temporary thing. Juicing, greens, etc. are great detoxifiers… however many health folks believe that once the body is more stablized then one can revert back to animal meats and healthy fats.

    Written by JasonMChicago on March 7, 2013 @ 5:28 pm
  16. Lalanne lived to be 96, I think his take on organic is interesting.
    For many families they cannot go 100% organic because of cost. In general I try to go buy the dirty dozen rule or purchase at Farmers Markets.

    Share Guide: How do you feel about organic foods?

    Jack LaLanne: It’s a bunch of bull. How do you know what’s really organic? Today, there’s all these impurities in the water and the air. The water for the fruits and vegetables has junk in it. If you get enough vitamins and minerals out of normal food and whole grains, and you get enough proteins and exercise (that’s the key) then nature builds up a tolerance to all of these things. It’s survival of the fittest. You can’t have everything perfect, that’s impossible, but the fit survive. The fit can handle the impurities in the air and in the water, but the poor people who are sick, it really affects them more.

    Share Guide: So you’re saying that people will have more resistance to toxins if they exercise.

    Jack LaLanne: Absolutely, that’s the key. If you want to eat more organic that’s fine, but I don’t go out of the way to get to organic vegetables. The way I eat, I am really high on vegetable juice.

    Written by Cricket on May 2, 2013 @ 4:17 pm
  17. Hi Cricket,

    I agree with him in that there are impurities in the air and water but we know for a fact that there is a serious amount of toxic pesticides on many fruits and vegetables. Why would anyone willingly want to ingest these chemicals if you can avoid them?? Even the President’s Cancer Panel says to avoid them. I think he is way, way off base on this one.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on May 3, 2013 @ 8:15 am
  18. Consumption and the physiology that results is a complicated thing. Jack LaLanne lived as long as he die due to genetics as well as nutrition, so we don’t know the influence of one versus the other. I think we can all agree that for a given vegetable, more nutrients and less parasitic chemicals (pesticides) is best. Taking in enough fat (of whatever type you care to promote) seems to me like worrying that you might not have enough gravity today…for most people it takes effort NOT to take in too many fats in the US culture.

    As for a fit body building up immunity to pesticides, LaLanne is not a scientist…no data suggests his assertion is true. Though he IS correct in that being physically active and fit has been shown to increase the effectiveness of the immune system. Also, LaLanne did resistance training (weights) to build muscle advising high repetitions. Check out Static Contraction Training, and you’ll see what we can discover if we use a scientific approach using empirical data instead of a rationalist approach.

    Incidentally, whenever you hear the term ‘common sense’, translate it to ‘I never took (or paid attention in) physics and biology’. It’s a lazy misconception. The scientific method RULES for discovering how our world works…and in areas where we haven’t done the work yet…and the picture is still hazy…admitting ‘I don’t know’ is a fine way to begin. =)

    Written by Nick on May 3, 2013 @ 11:03 pm
  19. Great comment, thanks Nick!

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on May 5, 2013 @ 3:32 pm
  20. WHat do you think about Farmers who grow their plants pesticide free, basically organically, but are not certified and sell these produce at the Farmer’s Market?

    I think if I see that living organisms such as worms holes etc, then it is good to eat (after I put the worms outside and soak them in vinegar, that is)… Do you think this is a good criteria?

    Written by Racqy Nadhiri on September 29, 2013 @ 9:24 pm
  21. Very interesting discussion but it circles in place. For the average Joe/Jane it’s almost impossible to eat organic and particularly from local farms. Most of us make a living in a non health/food/exercise based industry. We have to rely in available resources to shop for our food. I tried for example to find local grass fed meat and just can’t get it locally unless i “subscribe” to a co-op of sorts. Same thing with local veggie farms; they want you to subscribe to weekly/bi-weekly deliveries of random fruits and veggies of their choice. I have no way of knowing how long this “fresh’ product has been stored,etc.I do have options of going to few local farms and buy food directly but this is not exactly convenient (long commute). In other words it’s a hurdle. Shopping in Wholefoods? I would go broke and we are close to retirement – gotta watch that dollar. We do grow our own seasonal veggies but we have quite a competition for the harvest: deer, bunnies, raccoons, squirrels – you name it, they almost always beat us to it,hahaha. Never the less, we do grow it and share it with them :) As for the nutrition value of organic v/c industrial mega farms I agree (we all do) that organic does have less contaminants but it will never be free of it; bees alone, however minimal, transfer contaminants from one plant to another – wind, rain, etc do the same. As a family we do try to eat as healthy as we can but I can’t make this into a full time job. The fact that I follow your blog and face book proves that I do spend time for research and educate myself as much as possible. At times I’m frustrated; there is so much conflicting information out there. In my view the general nutritional density of our food, be it organic or not, decreased over the decades due to soil exploitation. Buying from local farm stands does not mean food is clean from chemicals, there is no way of knowing unless it’s organically certified and even then….organic dos not mean it’s non GMO, there are no regulations regarding using or not using GMO free seeds on organic farms. The good news is that the “organic movement” is spreading and hopefully we pave the road for next generation to go back to our parents way of eating; fresh from the scratch as much as possible. And most of all that organic will not break your bank.

    Respectfully,

    Inka.

    Written by Inka Savas on January 21, 2014 @ 2:07 pm
  22. Do you know anything about nutritional typing, as in, finding out which fruits/veggies are right for your specific body type? I’ve seen several comments on this lately from natural doctors and other health professionals, but I’m wondering how important it really is. What’s your take?
    Thanks,
    Monica

    Written by Monica Sawall on January 21, 2014 @ 9:44 pm
  23. In reading Dr Fuhrman I under stand that ahe ANDI scores based a group of micronutrients / calorie. Micronutrients are often lacking in processed food. But he also has his top 30 super foods which includes nuts (Brazil and Walnut), as well as seeds (flax, sunflower, etc). These have lower ANDI scores but Dr Fuhrman explains you need some fat in your diet and only eating the highest ANDI scoring foods is not what he recommends, since they are so low in calories and would not provide a balance diet. He has stated that greens need some fat with them to be properly by the body. So I think there is a lot of misunderstanding on what the purpose if the ANDI represents and how to use it. Including foods from the Top Thirty is what is recommended

    Written by bruce layman on March 26, 2014 @ 6:22 pm

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