We all know that it’s important to eat our fruits and vegetables and consume heart-healthy whole grains. What you may not know is there are a number of options for getting the nutrients you need while adding new variety and flavor to some of your favorite meals, all while keeping your diet on track. Check out these five foods that you may not be eating yet, and learn from our nutrition experts some simple ways you can enjoy these healthy options.
It's not just for Halloween! While fresh pumpkin is typically a classic fall favorite, the canned variety is a great option all year round, as it is a delicious nutrient powerhouse. "At only 40 calories per half cup, canned pumpkin is packed with 4 grams of fiber per serving, has 300% of the daily value for Vitamin A, and also contains Vitamin C, potassium and riboflavin," say registered dietitians and sisters Tammy Lakatos Shames, RD, and Lyssie Lakatos, RD, also known as the The Nutrition Twins®.
The Nopal Cactus, also known as the prickly pear, may be a plant that is native to Mexico, but it's an option that can be enjoyed on either side of the border and beyond! Gina Crome, MS, MPH, RD, says nopales is a great antioxidant-rich option that's loaded with vitamins A, B and C, as well as fiber.
Looking for an alternative to milk (or opting to skip dairy all together)? Hemp milk is a great dairy-free alternative for vegans and non-vegans alike! With most versions fortified with vitamin D and B12, 1 cup of this unsweetened treat is just 70 calories, with 3g of carbohydrates, 3g of protein, 6g of healthy fat and 0g of sugar. So why has hemp milk become so popular in recent years? Kristen Carlucci, a registered dietician and nutrition expert for Pitney Bowes Inc., shares the facts about this superfood, made from ground hemp seeds. "It contains 10 essential amino acids, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, iron, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, beta carotene, potassium, B vitamins and the list simply goes on and on," she said.
Its true – big things do come in small packages. Chia seeds are edible seeds rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3s that contain 2.6 g of ALA (alpha-linolenicacid) in only 1/2 a tablespoon. As if that that wasn't enough, Tiffani Bachus, RD, creator of Total Balanced Body, LLC, shares that they're a great source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which helps support digestive function and acts as a natural detoxifying agent. Talk about packing a punch!
Don't let the name deter you! Pronounced "keen-wah," this whole grain is native to South America and its benefits are quite unique. Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD, of the Washington, D.C. area shares that although quinoa is a plant food, it's actually a complete protein, which means it supplies all nine essential amino acids. "It's also a good source of the minerals manganese and magnesium, and folate, a B vitamin that's especially important for pregnant women and women of child-bearing age," says Miller. Quinoa, like many other whole grains, also helps protect against heart disease.
For more great healthy meal ideas using unique ingredients, check out this helpful guide, jam-packed with 300 simple, yet mouth-watering recipes!
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