Sick of kale salad? OD’d on poached salmon? Had your last blueberry smoothie? Try these other nutrient-packed, disease-fighting grains, vegetables, seeds, and legumes to boost your health, keep your weight in check, and delight your palate.
By Lesley Rotchford
Like quinoa, teff is a trendy gluten-free grain. “But it’s nutritionally superior to quinoa because it’s higher in calcium, vitamin K, zinc, and copper—and provides all eight vital amino acids,” says Tanya Zuckerbrot, a nutritionist in New York City and the author of The Miracle Carb Diet(Hyperion). Try to eat a half cup three or four times a week. Zuckerbrot recommends toasting teff in a skillet for two minutes to enhance the nutty flavor or simmering it with water in a covered saucepan for 10 to 15 minutes to make a creamy breakfast cereal.
If your pumpkin consumption is limited to spiced lattes, you’re missing out on the most important part of this orange fruit (yep, it’s technically a fruit). “A quarter cup of seeds gives you 45 percent of your day’s magnesium, a nutrient that supports muscle and nerve function, and 47 percent of your daily iron quota,” says Janis Jibrin, a nutritionist in Washington, D.C., and the author of The Pescetarian Plan (Ballantine Books).
Wheat berries are full of vitamin E, selenium, and B vitamins (which aid in the formation of red blood cells and help your body make energy from food). These wheat kernels have been coarsely chopped instead of pulverized. “This keeps the glycemic index down, which is important for weight control and can help ward off diabetes,” says Jibrin. Add a half cup a day to your diet in place of another starch. Wheat berries are especially delicious when boiled and tossed with sautéed onions, scallions, red peppers, carrots, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.
This Chinese cabbage, often used in stir-fries, has lots of calcium, fiber, folate (a B vitamin), and vitamins A and C. “Its crunchiness is satisfying, and you don’t need tons of oil to make it taste good, so it’s a great choice,” says Lisa Young, an adjunct professor in the department of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University and the author of The Portion Teller Plan(Random House), who suggests eating two to three servings a week.
We don’t advocate sun exposure—except in the case of these meaty mushrooms. All mushrooms produce vitamin D2 when exposed to UVB rays. “But shiitakes’ transparent white gills allow greater UVB contact, which makes them higher in vitamin D,” says Zuckerbrot. What’s more, they contain a compound called lentinan, which may slow tumor growth, and 1,3-beta-glucan, which stimulates the immune system. Eat three and a half to five cups of cooked shiitakes a week.
From the same plant as marijuana—but minus the mood-altering THC chemical—these nutty seeds are high in fiber, omega-3s (which aid in the prevention of heart disease), and vitamin E (a powerful antioxidant that promotes muscle function, bolsters the immune system, and protects against free radical damage). They also have more digestible protein than red meat, eggs, cheese, or cow’s milk. “Sixty-five percent of the protein in hemp seeds is in the form of globulin edestin, which is very similar to human blood plasma and hence easily digestible,” says Zuckerbrot. To get all the benefits, eat two tablespoons a day.
Black cod, also known as sablefish, has been popular with foodies since Nobu put its famous miso-glazed black cod on the menu. The buttery white fish rivals salmon in the omega-3 department, and its milder flavor makes it more versatile for cooking, says Young. For optimum results, aim to eat two to three servings a week.
With the sweetness of Skittles and the nutritional profile of a health food (they’re rich in antioxidants and fiber and low in calories), pomegranate seeds are truly nature’s candy. “Sprinkle a quarter cup over salad every day,” suggests Young.
Nuts are more than just a low-carb snack: They contain heart-healthy fats and vitamin E. Brazils are also packed with selenium, a mineral that may help prevent certain forms of cancer. “Just one provides more than 100 percent of your daily dose,” says Jibrin.
They may lack the exotic pedigree of teff or shiitakes, but these down-to-earth legumes have an impressive nutritional résumé. “Two thirds a cup of kidney beans contains nearly every vitamin and mineral,” says Jibrin. Some highlights: They have 38 percent of your daily value of folate, 28 percent of copper, 24 percent of iron, and 23 percent of manganese, a mineral that’s part of our body’s own antioxidant system. Plus, kidney beans are rich in fiber and phytonutrients (natural chemicals found in plant foods that protect the plant from germs and other threats), especially phenolic compounds, which can help keep LDL (bad cholesterol) in check.
More from Allure:
photo: Getty Images