Some foods enjoy a great reputation. And they should! I love it when healthy foods are popular and flying off the shelf. But what about some less popular foods that still pack a nutritional punch? Let’s take a look at three different foods you might overlook but should consider throwing in your cart during this week’s grocery haul.
The poor potato is tainted with bad science and associated with fad diets that just aren’t good ideas. What’s a veggie to do? Fear not! The potato is actually packed with nutrients and is the perfect side dish for any meal, not just at Thanksgiving or Christmas.
First off, potatoes won’t derail your diet. A medium-sized baked potato contains only about 160 calories. Potatoes are naturally low in fat, cholesterol and sodium. Even better, a serving of potatoes contains nearly 5 grams of fiber, which is important for a healthy digestive system. Potatoes are also a great source of potassium, which is an important mineral for proper functioning cells, tissues, and organs. Potatoes are also high in vitamin B6, which research shows can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Don’t be so quick to dismiss this vegetable!
Fresh Fruit Alternatives
Fresh, whole fruits are often touted as superior to other forms of fruit. But fruit is a great source of healthful components, carotenoids, flavonoids, phenols, vitamins and minerals, whether they are fresh, canned, frozen, dried, puréed, or 100 percent fruit juice. A diet rich in fruits is associated with a reduced risk of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
Similar to other sweet foods like soda and desserts, the types of sugars found in fruit, 100 percent fruit juice, and fruit products are fructose and glucose. When eaten within recommended quantities, neither of the sugars found in fruit is better or worse for your health. Despite this, fructose is a target for its alleged role in obesity and other chronic diseases. However, research shows that there is no benefit to replacing fructose with glucose in the diet.
That being said, the amount of sugar (and calories) you consume from fruit juice can be different from the amount you get from a piece of fruit. Fruit juices can contain more sugars per serving than fruit, especially if the juice has added sugars. It’s important to keep consumption of this type of fruit product within your calorie budget. Unfortunately, most of us don’t get enough fruits or veggies. Aim to include a variety of fruits (1.5 to 2 servings/day) and veggies (2 to 3 servings/day) in your diet.
Whether it’s the misperception that corn isn’t easily digestible or doesn’t contain many nutrients, it is often the overlooked vegetable in the pantry or produce section. But in reality, corn has a ton of health benefits and is a great addition to any balanced diet.
Corn, whether it be fresh or dried (i.e., popcorn), is a rich source of fiber and serves as a prebiotic in your gut to help promote digestive health. Corn is also a rich source of carotenoids, such as lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants not only contribute to corn’s distinct yellow color but also provide a variety of health benefits such as eye health.
Do you also think that processing corn decreases its availability of nutrients? Turns out, cooking and heating actually increases accessibility of these antioxidants.
Beyond fiber and antioxidants, corn is also a great source of B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate), iron, and selenium. B vitamins are crucial for cellular metabolism, iron is important to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system, and selenium functions as an antioxidant to protect your cells from damage. Corn also provides protein, about 5 grams per cup, to promote lean muscle and weight management.
The next time you head to the store, give these misjudged foods a second chance to be a part of your balanced, healthful diet.
This post contains contributions from Megan Meyer, PhD.