RESEARCH. OUTREACH.

Some foods are so healthy they star on every nutrition expert’s list of super foods. But often missing on those lists are some underrated gems that can definitely upgrade your diet.  Here are six whole foods that are familiar, widely available, affordable, and nutrient-rich — and that taste great.

Beans and Lentils

Beans and lentils really are nutrition superstars — rich in protein, fiber, complex carbs, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.  Beans are versatile and easy on your wallet.  You can lower the sodium in canned beans by approximately 40% by thoroughly rinsing the beans in water.  Eating a diet rich in legumes can help promote weight loss and has been shown to lower LDL [low-density — “bad” — cholesterol] and raise HDL [high-density — “good” — cholesterol].

Watermelon

Watermelon is everyone’s favorite summertime fruit. But because it is so naturally sweet, some people avoid it because they think it’s high in sugar.  Watermelon should be a staple in everyone’s diet.  It is fun to eat, sweet, juicy, low in calories, and full of vitamins C and A, potassium, and lycopene.  It is also high in water,  so it helps meet fluid needs.  A bonus is that the thick peel keeps pesticides far from the tasty inside!

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are often thought of as high in calories and carbs because they are so naturally sweet. But don’t let that fool you.  Sweet potatoes are nutritional all-stars and one of the best vegetables you can eat. Not only are they a great source of beta carotene, vitamin C, fiber, and potassium, but this highly underrated vegetable is so versatile it can be enjoyed with very few extra calories or embellishment.

Red Cabbage

Red Cabbage is a great source of fiber; vitamins A, D, and K; folate; and lots of trace minerals with only 22 calories in one cup chopped.  Rich in antioxidants, this veggie can boost cancer-fighting enzymes. You can eat it raw, cooked, sweet, savory, stand-alone in a dish like coleslaw, or added to almost anything from soups, to salads, casseroles, sandwiches, burgers, and more.

Canned Tomatoes

Everyone thinks fresh is best but cooking tomatoes helps release some of the disease-fighting lycopene so it is better absorbed.  A study in the 2009 Journal of Clinical Oncology shows that a diet rich in tomatoes may help prevent prostate cancer and that lycopene, a strong antioxidant, may also help prevent other types of cancer. Of course, many other lifestyle and genetic factors also affect cancer risk.  Stock your pantry with canned tomatoes for pizza, spaghetti sauce, and home-made salsa, or toss a can into soups, stews, casseroles, greens, or pasta dishes.

Plain, Nonfat Greek Yogurt

There are many yogurts on the market, and plain, nonfat Greek yogurt is a standout.  All yogurts are excellent sources of calcium, potassium, protein, zinc, and vitamins B6 and B12. What distinguishes Greek yogurt is its thicker, creamier texture because the liquid whey is strained out. Also, it contains probiotic cultures and is lower in lactose and has twice the protein content of regular yogurts.  Skip the extra sugar calories found in most yogurts and pump up the protein by choosing Greek yogurt.  Greek yogurt contains twice as much protein, which is great for weight control because it keeps you feeling full longer.

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