Let’s face it: as much as we love a hearty bowl of oatmeal each and every morning, or look forward to our nightly portion of salmon and spinach, keeping a diet both healthy and interesting can get to be a challenge. And when our diets become boring, we are way more likely to take a tumble off the health-food bandwagon. Quinoa and wheatgrass are old news, so let’s get to some of the truly obscure, unsung heroes of the food world.
Whether you need to spice up your diet, are looking for a cooking challenge, or simply want to learn about some weird, healthy foods, read on! You can find these items at supermarkets like Whole Foods, or at specialty food stores.
One of my favorites, the kumquat looks like a very tiny orange. And it’s completely edible–peel and all! Pop a few of these deliciously tart fruits for a burst of vitamin C throughout the day.
This dark, leafy green is also known as Chinese broccoli. It’s similar to kale, but much less bitter, while still offering high amounts of vitamins A, C, and potassium. Try boiling, steaming, or stir-frying these greens into a fish meal or with some soup.
We usually see nori, the dried seaweed paper, on our sushi rolls. Nori and other forms of seaweed are a great source of iodine, vitamin K, B-vitamins, magnesium, iron, and calcium, and beneficial for bone health. You can wrap nori around anything, really, so feel free to take some leftover quinoa salad or stir-fry and make some rolls with it! Alicia Silverstone, longtime vegan and recent book author, claims that nori strengthens her hair and evens her skintone.
Another type of seaweed, wakame, is more obscure, but packs a huge nutritional punch. If you’ve had miso soup, the slippery pieces of seaweed inside are wakame. Some recent studies have found that wakame contains a compound which can help to burn fatty tissue. It is high in sodium, but also high in iodine, magnesium, calcium, and iron, as well as vitamins A, C, E, and K. Another benefit? Some researchers have conducted preliminary studies showing that the lignans in wakame prevent and suppress the growth of tumors in rats. Try adding wakame to a soup or salad!
Hey, that sounds familiar…wait, get your head out of the 90s! Chia seeds are good for more than just growing botanical shapes. The Native Americans and Aztec warriors used to munch on these seeds for longlasting energy during hunting and gathering trips. Chia seeds contain all the essential amino acids, which make them comparable to quinoa, another complete protein. Additionally, digesting the seeds creates a gel-like substance in our digestive tract, which slows digestion and can help to balance blood sugar levels, preventing diabetes. Chia seeds also contain a high amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, like those found in salmon. The best way to incorporate chia seeds into your diet would be to make a smoothie with a tablespoon of the seeds, or simply add them to oatmeal or a glass of water or juice.
Beets seem to be an unspoken hero of the vegetable world. Its natural counterpart, beet juice, provides a host of benefits to our bodies. Research has demonstrated that beet juice significantly lowers high blood pressure, and it is traditionally regarded as a “blood purifier.” This means that it helps to increase production of red blood cells, helping our bodies function more efficiently. Research has also found that ingesting beets increases the body’s production of glutathione, which aids the body in detoxing from cancer-causing substances which accumulate in our systems. It also ups the production of CD8 cells in the colon, which cause colon cancer. Any runners out there? Research shows that drinking beet juice ups cardio stamina. Try juicing up some beets and aim to drink one glass a day. You can add carrots or other vegetables to the juice for taste.
Although some of these foods may look weird, try to give them a chance and don’t judge a book by its cover. You may find that you can’t imagine a day without a glass of beet juice, or that chia seeds make the perfect mid-day snack! As always, keep an open mind and stay healthy.
love and food, gemma
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