Superfoods like kale, blueberries and quinoa are as healthy as they are popular. But many kinds of superfoods are often overlooked in favor of trendy health foods.
For a healthier diet, try any of these three obscure but nutrient-dense superfoods:
Radicchio (Cichorium intybus var. foliosum)
Radicchio is a leafy vegetable that belongs to the chicory family. It generally resembles a cabbage or lettuce head, except for its spicy, purple-colored leaves that are typically used in salads.
Commonly referred to as Italian chicory, radicchio provides several nutrients and antioxidants, including fiber, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, B vitamins and vitamins A, C, E and K.
Given the high level of vitamin C in radicchio, it is thought to support the immune system by keeping unstable molecules called free radicals in check. Otherwise, free radicals can cause oxidative stress, which is associated with chronic diseases like diabetes and cancer.
Radicchio also contains high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, two powerful antioxidants that accumulate in the lens and retina of the human eye. There, lutein and zeaxanthin protect cells from harmful ultraviolet light.
Because it is rich in fiber, radicchio helps boost digestion and relieve digestive problems like constipation, bloating and flatulence. Fiber-rich foods like radicchio also sustain feelings of fullness for longer periods, thus discouraging overeating and snacking between meals. For this reason, radicchio is said to aid in weight loss.
Hemp hearts (Cannabis sativa)
Hemp hearts are the soft inner portion of hemp seeds, whose outer shells have been removed. They come from the C. sativa (hemp) plant, which contains negligible amounts of the psychoactive compound, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Hemp hearts provide high levels of several essential nutrients, such as magnesium, which aids in muscle contraction; folate, which supports neural development; and manganese, which aids in metabolism.
Hemp hearts also contain nutrients considered essential for bone health, including phosphorus, calcium, zinc, iron and potassium. Therefore, hemp hearts help maintain strong bones. (Related: Magnesium is an essential nutrient for bone health.)
Hemp hearts are also said to be beneficial for the heart because of the high amounts of unsaturated fatty acids they contain. In fact, just three tablespoons of hemp hearts provide 14.6 grams (g) of unsaturated fats, which help lower bad LDL cholesterol levels in the blood. This type of cholesterol can clog the arteries and raise the risk of stroke.
Also, hemp hearts contain a combination of nutrients and amino acids that can help the body relax and prepare for sleep. This combination features magnesium, vitamin B6, calcium, glycine and tryptophan.
Fish is an important part of a balanced diet, and cold-water fish are among the healthiest choices. That is because cold-water fish like wild salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna and trout are packed with healthy fats and B vitamins that lower cholesterol and support cardiovascular health.
Cold-water fish are also a healthier alternative to meat because they provide as much protein as beef and pork but without the extra calories and saturated fat.
Listed below are the healthiest kinds of cold-water fish:
- Salmon – Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a type of unsaturated fat that reduces inflammation in the heart, blood vessels and brain.
- Mackerel – Aside from omega-3 fatty acids, mackerel also provides high levels of vitamin D, a nutrient that aids in calcium absorption and promotes bone growth.
- Herring – Herring is an excellent source of vitamin B12, which supports red blood cell formation.
- Tuna – Tuna offers high amounts of protein, vitamin B12 and iron, one of the major components of red blood cells.
- Lake trout – This freshwater fish is low in calories but high in protein. It is also rich in iodine, which is needed by the thyroid gland to produce hormones necessary for growth, healing and metabolism.
Don’t miss out on the health benefits of these lesser-known superfoods. Incorporate them into a balanced diet to reap their nutritional benefits.
Learn more about foods that can boost your diet at Superfoods.news.