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3 Healthy Foods with Scary Names

By Kim McDevitt, MPH RD on September 4, 2013, categorized in Plant-based Nutrition

3 Healthy Foods with Scary Names

As we go through the motions of our daily lives it’s easy to get stuck in an eating routine, always reaching for the same foods you know are both good for you and pleasing to your palate. But this week, why not be a little adventurous? There are lots of nutrient dense foods out there, so try shaking things up. Below are three foods that sound terrifying but offer both nutritional value and taste to a meal.

1. Kohlrabi

Don’t let the scary-looking exterior of this cruciferous vegetable turn you away. A member of the Brassica (mustard) family of plants (including Brussels sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli and mustards), kohlrabi is simply a cabbage/turnip hybrid whose leaves and enlarged bulb root can be eaten. Like others in the Brassica family of vegetables, kohlrabi is a good source of macronutrients, including potassium, vitamins A and C, and manganese, which all contribute to antioxidant production in the body.1

With minimal preparation and versatility, the entire kohlrabi plant can be enjoyed. Looking for a way to try?  Include kohlrabi in your next salad by shaving some thin slices on top. You can also sauté stovetop with onion or toss with some olive oil, fresh rosemary, salt and pepper and roast alongside carrots and beets for a tasty fall dish.

2. Kelp

While “eat your vegetables” is the mantra of the nutrition world, we typically don’t think of sea vegetables being included on the list. However, thanks to more people discovering the outstanding nutritional profile of sea vegetables, awareness is rising and it’s becoming increasingly easier to spot them in your local grocery store.

Sea vegetables—including kelp, seaweed, and algeas—offer valuable vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and trace elements, including B vitamins, iodine, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, and 21 amino acids. Iodine is required by your body for proper thyroid function; thanks to kelp’s rich iodine content, this sea vegetable has been reported quite beneficial in the support of thyroid health.2

Not sure how to start adding kelp to your daily meals? Kelp is commonly found in dried, granulated or powder form. Today, kelp granules are commonly sold in local stores and thanks to their unique texture, salty taste and nutrient density they are a tasty swap for table salt. Kelp noodles are also becoming a popular substitution for traditional pasta and rice. The best part about kelp noodles is they can be eaten as-is, making them a common ingredient in raw food recipes.

3. Sea Buckthorn

Not found in the sea, but actually found on sandy coasts of Europe and Asia, sea buckthorn is a fruit-producing plant. This plant has been a key component to Chinese Herbal Medicine for centuries, thanks to its medicinal and nutraceutical properties. It is most touted for its oil, which offer high levels of healthy fatty acids including Omega-3, Omega-6 and a rare Omega-7 as well.3 This berry also delivers antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, plus many vitamins and minerals, including 15 times the amount of vitamin C as an orange!

Today you can find sea buckthorn as oils, soft gels, juices and teas. That’s the easiest way to reap the nutritional benefits of sea buckthorn plant? In a smoothie, of course! Try blending your next Vega One smoothie with sea buckthorn juice, raspberries, frozen banana and ice!

This week try mixing things up in the kitchen and incorporate one or all three of these foods into a familiar meal. You’ll add exciting new texture and flavor to old favorites and provide your body with a solid nutritional boost! Bon appétit!

References:

  1. Podsedek, Anna. (2005). Natural antioxidants and antioxidant capacity of Brassica vegetables: A Review. Institute of Technical Biochemistry.
  2. Swanson, C.A., et. al. (2012) Summary of an NIH Workshop to Identify Research Needs to Improve the Monitoring of Iodine Status in the United States and to Inform the DRI. The Journal of Nutrition. 142(6): 1175s–1185s. Accessed 8/19/13 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3738225/
  3. Fatina, T., et.al. (2012) Fatty Acid Composition of Developing Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoidesL.) Berry and the Transcriptome of the Mature Seed. PLoS One.  7(4): e34099. Accessed 8/19/13 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3338740/