But while the popular options (avocado, kale, quinoa, etc.) continue to be worthy of inclusion on your shopping lists, there’s an array of overlooked counterparts that offer as many (if not more) health benefits.
By incorporating as many different beneficial foods into your diet as possible, you’ll get a varied spectrum of nutritional goodness.
Here are seven new powerhouses to add to your diet this year and beyond.
Picture a slightly longer, thinner, and lumpier blueberry with a zingy taste, and you’ve got yourself a haskap (also commonly known as fly honeysuckle or the honeyberry).
While their blueberry counterparts have been lauded for their impressive nutritional profile, the haskap packs an even bigger punch. “They have four times the amount of anthocyanins than blueberries — and that’s incredible!” says registered nutritionist Mays Al-Ali.
Anthocyanins are natural pigment that give blue, red, and purple fruits and veggies their vibrant color but, more importantly, are packed with antioxidants. They’re also vitamin-rich. Plus, Al-Ali explains, “Anthocyanins are great for cardiovascular health because they increase vasodilation, the widening of our blood vessels so blood can flow properly.”
Research also shows that they’re beneficial for recovery after exercise, thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties; preventing cognitive decline; improving insulin resistance, and nurturing a healthy gut microbiome. Berry nice, indeed.
Recommended eating method: In powder form, add it to smoothies, or stir into porridge.
It may sound like something the Wise Men offered as a gift, but this is actually an ancient grain that resembles quinoa and couscous. Along with being gluten-free, it’s comprised of a broad range of minerals; plus one study named them “a valuable source of antioxidants.”
It’s also rich in iron, phosphorus, and magnesium, all of which are vital in helping maintain good overall body function. As if that wasn’t enough, amaranth is high in fiber. And, as Al-Ali notes, “It’s also a good protein source, so great for vegans and veggies who aren’t getting nutrients through meat and fish.”
Recommended eating method: Serve alongside a rich Moroccan tagine in place of couscous.
Nori is the Japanese name for a type of red edible algae called Porphyra yezoensis, and there’s a myriad of reasons why this ingredient has been a staple in Asian diets for centuries.
Its main selling point is that it’s packed full of iodine, “which is essential for a healthy thyroid,” states Al-Ali. An off-kilter thyroid can lead to concerns like fatigue, depression, weight gain, anxiety, muscle weakness, and excessive sweating.
This is all great, but don’t feast on it every meal: depending on where it’s been sourced from, seaweed can contain high concentrations of toxic heavy metals. On the flip side, research suggests the amounts found don’t pose a serious health risk — so it’s all about being aware and enjoying in moderation.
Recommended eating method: In sushi, with ramen, or sprinkled on top of salads.
Pronounced “joo-joob,” this date-like fruit is already highly popular in Asia but, with an impressive nutritional profile and moreish sweet taste, is worthy of much greater recognition.
Jujube has long been used in traditional medicine for mental health, with studies finding its antioxidant enzymes work to protect neurons in the brain and even encourage improved memory. Now that’s food for thought.
Proceed with caution
Speak to your healthcare provider before eating jujube if you’re taking serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (typically used to treat depression and anxiety) or seizure medications, as studies indicate potential interaction.
Recommended eating method: Fresh or dried, as a sweet mid-afternoon pick-me-up.
Who needs run-of-the-mill chestnut and portobello mushrooms when you have a variety named as grandly as this? While we often rely on this veg to bulk up stews and soups, “many people don’t know about medicinal mushrooms, and there are so many different ones that are beneficial,” says Al-Ali. “Lion’s mane is amazing for cognition, memory, and brain health.”
But it doesn’t end there. Not only is Lion’s mane an excellent source of antioxidants, research suggests it could also be a valuable aid in treating heart disease, anxiety, depression, and even certain types of cancer. A definite king in the fungal jungle.
Recommended eating method: Fried, tossed with oil and garlic, and served atop crispy bruschetta.
“Rosehips are super high in vitamin C, which is a very powerful immune-supporting antioxidant,” notes Al-Ali.
This orange-red colored berry has been gaining popularity in topical skin care products thanks to its anti-aging benefits, including improving signs of wrinkles and elasticity (yes, please!). Additionally, numerous research reveals that rosehip can aid in reducing joint pain and inflammation, proving particularly beneficial for those with arthritis.
Although some berries are less commonly used due to their tart and off-putting taste, Al-Ali assures this isn’t the case with rosehip: “They’re very sweet and delicious.”
Recommended eating method: Stew the berries to make a fresh rosehip tea.
Last but not least, we’ve got teff — a teeny grain derived from a form of grass. Despite its size, it still packs a hearty nutritional punch; and, just like amaranth, it’s also gluten-free.
If you’re looking for a protein top-up, teff could be just the answer: with 10 grams of protein per cooked cup. You’ll also benefit from a decent amount of calcium and potassium — vital for good bone and nerve health respectively.
Indeed, it contains more fiber than popular grains such as corn, rice, and wheat. Plus, this nutrient really helps increase a healthy gut microbiome — super important for both physical and mental health.
Recommended eating method: Use it in flour form to make cookies and bread.
Taking steps to nurture our well-being should be a part of our daily routine. These little-known heroes are all definitely worth shouting about, thanks to their abundance of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
In the quest for an added dose of health TLC, all seven ingredients are just what Mother Nature prescribed.
Chantelle Pattemore is a writer and editor based in London, UK. She focuses on lifestyle, health, beauty, food, and fitness.