Some healthy foods seem to be everywhere. But there are some healthy foods that tend to get neglected – even by people who are trying to eat a healthy diet. Whether it’s because we don’t know how to cook them, or just because they’re somehow unglamorous, we tend to ignore some of the foods that pack the best nutritional punch.
Top 5 Healthy Foods You’re Probably Not Eating – But Should Be
- Dried Plums: This is one food that definitely suffers from an unglamorous reputation – especially when referred to by their more common name: prunes. But they have twice as much potassium as bananas and 38 percent more antioxidants than blueberries! Plus, they provide both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber – including pectin, a type of soluble fiber that may lower blood cholesterol levels.To get dried plums into your diet, throw a few in your purse for easy snacking, or add some to your child’s lunchbox.
- Beets: Beets contain fiber, iron, and Vitamin C. Plus, they contain betacyanin – a powerful cancer-fighting agent that has been shown to help prevent colon cancer in particular. Still not convinced? They also contain antioxidants that have been shown to lower total cholesterol while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol!To get beets into your diet, try marinating steamed beets in fresh lemon juice, olive oil, and fresh herbs; grate raw beets onto salads, soups, or any other dish; or simply add chunks of beet to your roasting pan when you cook up roasted veggies! (Don’t cook beets too long, since beets’ anti-cancer activity is diminished by heat.)
- Pumpkin: A serving of pumpkin has nearly 3 grams of fiber, and is packed with beta carotene – an antioxidant that can help improve immune function and reduce the risk for cancer and heart disease. Fresh pumpkin is only available in the fall and winter months, but canned pumpkin is just as healthy and available all year round.To get pumpkin into your diet, cut fresh peeled pumpkin into chunks and roast with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper; drop a generous scoop of canned pumpkin into plain pancake batter; make a soup from canned pumpkin, chicken broth, and fat free half and half; or make a traditional pumpkin pie.
- Eggplant: Eggplant is packed with fiber, and contains Vitamins B1, B3, and B6. Plus, it contains chlorogenic acid – one of the most potent free radical scavengers you can find in a vegetable, and nasunin – a powerfult antioxidant that has been shown to protect lipids in brain cells, prevent cellular damage that can lead to cancer, and help prevent rheumatoid arthritis.To get eggplant into your diet, purée roasted eggplant, garlic, tahini, lemon juice and olive oil to make home-made babaganoush that you can use in sandwiches or as a dip; add cubes eggplant to your next curry or stir-fry; or again, add to the trusty pan of roasted vegetables.
- Beans: Beans are another food with an unglamorous reputation, probably attributable to the old schoolyard rhyme about the magical fruit. But research has shown that beans pack big health benefits – they can do everything from help prevent cancer and heart disease to regulate blood sugar. Plus, they’re loaded with antioxidants, protein, and fiber. Dried beans are the cheapest, but canned beans work great if you’re short on time.To get beans into your diet, try a pasta salad with veggies and a can of rinsed chickpeas; use kidney beans to replace half the meat you would normally use in chili; or serve canned, diced tomatoes with onion, green pepper, and black eyed peas over rice.
The Bottom Line
There’s no reason you can’t work these Top 5 healthy foods you’re not eating into your daily diet. Try a few simple recipes, and you may find you have a new healthy family favorite!
- Olive Oil 101 – Podcast
- Eggplant: Health Benefits and How-To
- The Myth of Cholesterol – Seafood?
- Beets: Health Benefits and How-To
- Not All Fiber Is Good As It Seems – Podcast
Gloria Tsang is the author of 5 books and the founder of HealthCastle.com, the largest online nutrition network run by registered dietitians. Her work has appeared in major national publications, and she is a regularly featured nutrition expert for media outlets across the country. The Huffington Post named her one of its Top 20 Nutrition Experts on Twitter. Gloria’s articles have appeared on various media such as Reuters, NBC & ABC affiliates, The Chicago Sun-Times, Reader’s Digest Canada, iVillage and USA Today.