5 Totally Underrated Health Foods
In this short article I am going to point out 5 amazing foods, which often do not get the same publicity as other health foods. These foods are nutritious and offer countless health benefits, and they may offer a welcomed change of pace in your diet.
Now, please keep in mind that how underrated these foods are will vary depending on where in the world you may be — some areas of the world are very familiar with foods that may be rare in other places. Also, if there is a great food that you feel should have made the list, please do mention it in the comments (as soon as our comment system comes online in the very near future) — I may well use these in future articles. Please do keep in mind that I have purposefully stayed away from well-known health powerhouses like tomatoes, blueberries, leafy greens, beans, etc.
So without further ado, here goes (in reverse order):
Sure, everyone knows about onions, but few of us regard it as a top notch health food. And yet, onions can hold their own against the best. They are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and organosulphur compounds, which lower your chances of getting certain cancers, lower "bad" cholesterol, raise "good" cholesterol, and have anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. Onions are a great source of vitamin C and they contain chromium, which has numerous health benefits including to help regulate blood sugar.
Oats are probably my favorite carb. They are high in fiber, which helps prevent heart disease, keeps your digestive system healthy, has a positive effect on cholesterol, and may reduce certain cancers. Oats are one of the best sources of manganese, a mineral that helps in bone production, blood sugar control, etc. They are also a good source of chromium (see above) and magnesium — a mineral that we often do not get enough of and which reduces the risk of hypertension, lowers risk of diabetes, may increase bone density, etc.
On top of everything, oats are higher in protein than other carbs (like potatoes, rice, bread, or corn) and they are very filling having ranked no.1 in the satiety index for breakfast foods and 3rd overall (Holt et al., 1995). This makes them great for weight loss.
In the world of fruits and vegetables, there are many other foods that enjoy more fame as a health food than the watermelon. Yet increasingly, this big juicy fruit is showing impressive results in studies.
Apart from being a good source of vitamins A and C, watermelons are rich in antioxidants and anti inflammatory nutrients. In particular, watermelons are very rich in lycopene, which is beneficial for our cardiovascular health, is an antioxidant, and may also contribute to bone health. Watermelon is also a good source of beta carotene (an antioxidant) and citrulline (which improves cardiovascular health).
Moreover, all parts of the watermelon are edible (including the rind) and they are all highly nutritious. Even the seeds, which are a common snack in some places, can provide small quantities of iron, zinc, and protein.
And to top it all off, the watermelon is low in calories and extremely high in water content — a great way to stay hydrated while enjoying an extremely nutritious snack.
To begin with walnuts are a great source of heart-healthy unsaturated fats and one of the best sources of omega 3 content. Omega 3 is an essential amino acid that is very often lacking in the western diet. Omega 3 in the right ratio improves cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of heart disease, it has anti-inflammatory properties, increase good cholesterol, and has been associated with numerous other benefits (including preventing hypertension, reducing the risk of stroke in men, decreasing the risk of sudden death, etc.).
To illustrate just how beneficial walnuts can be for your cardiovascular system, check out this excerpt from http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=99 (accessed February 18, 2014):
"In order to respond to different stimuli in a healthy way, many aspects of our cardiovascular system must be functioning optimally. These aspects include: ample presence of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, proper blood composition, correct balance in inflammation-regulating molecules, and proper composition and flexibility in our blood vessel walls. Researchers have determined the ability of walnuts to have a favorable impact on all of these aspects."
In addition, walnuts also help prevent certain cancers (including prostate cancer), help prevent obesity, help improve bone strength, and may even improve our cognitive functions.
The quince is a fruit that is largely unknown in parts of the world and quite appreciated in a few areas. In the western world, it is not the first thing that springs to mind when one thinks of health food. Yet the quince is a great addition to your diet.
Like its cousins, the apple and pear, the quince is a good source of dietary fiber — which is sorely missing in most western diets. As mentioned under oats, dietary fiber helps prevent heart disease, keeps your digestive system healthy, has a positive effect on cholesterol, and may reduce certain cancers.
Quince also improves digestion and helps against gastric ulcers. It has high anti-oxidant content, fending off certain cancers. To top it all off it is a great source of vitamin C and A, it is low in calories, and has a positive effect on cholesterol.
Just remember, eating quince raw is not for everyone (and no one should eat the seeds as they are toxic). The fruit is very hard and tart and it actually makes you feel like your mouth shrinks when you eat it. I for one love them raw, as do many others, but for some people the only way to enjoy a quince is to cook it. There are countless ways to incorporate quince into your diet — both savory and sweet. So keep an eye out for this somewhat rare and extremely under-appreciated fruit the next time you are out shopping.
Holt SH, Miller JC, Petocz P, Farmakalidis E., "A satiety index of common foods", accessed February 12, 2014 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7498104
The World's Healthiest Foods, http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=54
Magnesium: Fact Sheet for Professionals, National Institutes of Health, accessed February 12, 2014 from: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/
Zelman K.M., "Dietary Fiber: Insoluble vs. Soluble", accessed February 10, 2014 from: http://www.webmd.com/diet/fiber-health-benefits-11/insoluble-soluble-fiber