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Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

Which fruits, veggies are in your produce bin?

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Greg Peck
Tuesday, June 10, 2014

I can quickly name the most frequent vegetables my wife, Cheryl, and I eat year-round. They are spinach, broccoli and carrots. Rarely do we not have these in the house.

Don't stick up your nose. We seldom buy iceberg lettuce. I've been arguing that it lacks nutritional value. A colleague tried sticking up for iceberg when we briefly discussed this Monday. She pointed out that it has water and most of us don't get enough water.

Fine, I replied. Go to the sink and get a glass—it's virtually free.

When Cheryl and I have salads at home, as we do two or even three times a week, we start with beds of fresh spinach. We'll likely cut up carrots and chunks of yellow bell pepper, among other toppings.

We often eat cooked broccoli as either a vegetable with a main entrée or add it to a casserole-type dish. Cheryl makes a tasty relish dip, and broccoli is my favorite with that.

In a new study, however, broccoli doesn't make the top 10 of nutritional “powerhouse” produce. I can hear children cheering all over Rock County.

Watercress won the top spot with a perfect score of 100 percent. I've never bought this at a grocery store. I might have eaten it unknowingly at a restaurant. The other top 10 powerhouse spots went to Chinese cabbage, chard, beet greens, spinach (yes!), chicory, leaf lettuce, parsley, romaine lettuce and collard greens.

I've never grabbed Chinese cabbage, chard or beet greens at the grocery, either.

The study, published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, used the “powerhouses” label to describe foods most strongly linked with reducing risks of chronic disease. It classified 47 fruits and vegetables by calculating a score for each food based on its health benefits.

Only six of the 47 fruits and vegetables—blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, tangerines, garlic and onions—failed to meet the “powerhouse” criterion. Darn, and I just had blueberries on my cereal this morning! And I like raspberries and cranberries, too!

Oh, and broccoli? It ranked 19th. Those dandelions in your lawn that you attack with weed killer? Their greens ranked 16th. Carrots were 26th, just ahead of tomatoes, which Cheryl and I also love in season.

We often enjoy sweet potatoes, but those finished a pitiful 40th.

Even iceberg lettuce ranked 29th, one spot ahead of strawberries. Egad, and strawberry season is dead ahead! I don't think that will stop me from stocking up on those luscious red berries!

The second study suggests eating seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day reduces your risk of dying. Well, maybe dying prematurely, that is. I believe we're all at 100 percent risk of dying.

But seven servings? I'm lucky if I average more than three per day.

Maybe, however, we can heed these two studies to increase our odds of staying a little healthier a little longer.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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