The CDC's Healthiest Fruits & Veggies Rankings Might Surprise You - Episode 23

We’ve all heard it: "Eat your fruits and veggies!" Yet, in the overwhelming sea of choices at the grocery store, which ones truly pack the biggest nutritional punch? Well, brace yourself for a surprise, because according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of the healthiest veggies isn't a leafy green, but rather, it's watercress, boasting a perfect score of 100 on the nutrition-density scale.

While vegetables, in general, dominate the top of this list, the shocker comes when we talk about fruit. Drumroll, please... the tomato takes the crown as the healthiest fruit, ranking at 20 on the CDC's scale. Now, you might be wondering, "Why tomatoes?" Here's the juicy scoop.

The Power of Tomatoes

Tomatoes are brimming with antioxidants, those little superheroes that combat free radicals and help safeguard against conditions like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. These crimson gems are also loaded with lycopene, the compound responsible for their vibrant color.

Tomatoes are unique because they straddle the line between fruit and vegetable, offering a low-calorie option akin to a vegetable's nutritional profile. A mere 60-gram plum tomato contains just 12 calories and less than three grams of carbohydrates.

Beyond lycopene, tomatoes are rich in vitamins A and C. Vitamin C, in particular, is crucial for warding off inflammation, while vitamin A plays a role in maintaining eye health and supporting growth and development.

Making the Most of Your Tomatoes

To maximize the nutritional benefits of tomatoes, go for fully ripe ones, as their lycopene content peaks as they mature. Also, “For the most flavorful tomatoes, it’s best to buy them locally and keep them on your countertop,” Sherri Berger, a registered dietician (RDN) says. “Locally grown tomatoes are allowed to ripen naturally and do not undergo ethylene gas treatments which promotes artificial ripening.” Cooking tomatoes can also enhance lycopene absorption, so don't hesitate to whip up tomato-based sauces or stews.

For an extra boost in lycopene absorption, pair tomatoes with healthy fats like olive oil. This simple tweak can help amplify the health benefits of your tomato-rich dishes.

The Fab Five Fruits

Apart from tomatoes, the CDC's index designates five more fruits as nutrient-dense powerhouses:

Lemons: Bursting with vitamin C, lemons play a pivotal role in reducing the risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, and cataracts. Use lemon juice for flavor in cooking and beverages but avoid consuming excessive undiluted lemon juice to protect your teeth and stomach.

Oranges: High in vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, and calcium, oranges support brain health, kidney function, heart health, and bone strength. Opt for whole oranges to benefit from their fiber content.

Strawberries: These red jewels contain not only vitamin C but also anthocyanin, an antioxidant that supports brain health and may delay Alzheimer's disease. Opt for organic strawberries to minimize pesticide exposure.

Limes: Like all citrus fruits, limes are vitamin C powerhouses. Use them in various culinary applications but consume them in moderation due to their acidity.

Grapefruits: Rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, and folate, grapefruits promote healthy cell growth and offer soluble fiber that aids blood sugar, cholesterol, and digestive health. However, consult your doctor before adding grapefruits to your diet if you're on certain medications.

Consuming a diversity of fruits and vegetables is key. Each color group offers distinct nutrients, so aim to eat the rainbow for a well-rounded and nutritious diet, as recommended by dietitians. Try some new fruits & veggies, savor those tomatoes, and explore the world of nutrient-dense foods for a healthier you!


Anas, B. (2023). Experts Say Tomatoes Are The Healthiest Fruit On Earth. Retrieved from

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