From Pumpkin to Popcorn, These Are The Next Foods to Incorporate Into Your Diet

With so many options on the grocery store shelves and health gurus constantly recommending a variety of products, it can be easy to gravitate towards the foods that you know are healthy for you. 

However, not only is it great to try new foods, but also ones that provide you with a variety of health benefits you may not be getting in your current diet. Not to mention, a few of these double as a sweet treat!

1. White Produce

When most people think of healthy vegetables, they inherently focus on green produce (broccoli, spinach, kale, green beans, etc.). However, it is important to incorporate a variety of colored fruits and vegetables for a balanced diet. One category that is often forgotten is white produce such as onions, garlic, and cauliflower.

Generally, cauliflower is mistaken as a vegetable lacking in nutrients due to its white coloring and slightly bland flavor. However, these attributes don’t appropriately reflect its true powers as a superfood. Cauliflower is high in vitamin C and a good source of folate. For reference, folate is a B-vitamin that your body needs to make DNA, other genetic material, and cell division. 

Additionally, cauliflower is: 

  • Fat-Free
  • Cholesterol Free
  • Low in Sodium 
  • 25 Calories Per Head 

Similarly, onions and garlic are often considered additions to meals or components to enhance flavor. While they do a great job for that, they also contain compounds like allicin and quercetin which may help protect against certain types of cancer. This is an attribute cauliflower also possesses. 

2. Tart Cherries

Did you know the red color of cherries actually indicates a food with high health benefits? Antioxidant anthocyanin is what gives cherries their hue and this nutrient-pigment compound can help reduce the aches and pains associated with arthritis as well as help protect your heart and surrounding tissues.

For athletes or anyone who is routinely active, research has shown that tart cherry juice helps speed up recovery time and decreases muscle pain. Additionally, cherries are high in melatonin which is a phytochemical that helps regulate your sleep cycle. Eating half a cup before going to bed can help improve the quality and duration of your sleep. 

3. Maple Syrup 

While maple syrup definitely seems like more of a sweet indulgence than a healthy supplement, research says otherwise. 

It is a natural sweetener that is high in antioxidants and nutrients like riboflavin, zinc, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. Specifically, the antioxidant compounds in maple syrup have been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

Many people often gravitate towards honey as their healthy sweetener, but maple syrup has a higher concentration of minerals and antioxidants, plus fewer calories. It also contains diverse phytochemicals that reduce oxidative damage thus aiding to prevent certain diseases. 

When choosing a maple syrup to use, avoid ones that are caramel-colored being that some can contain 4-Mel which is a chemical that has been shown to potentially cause cancer. Instead, aim for the darker-colored options because they contain more antioxidants. That being said, this sweet topping is still a form of sugar so practice portion control

4. Dark Chocolate 

You can celebrate; dark chocolate has many surprising health benefits! Not only that, it is one of the few treats that is okay to eat as a late-night snack and won’t ruin your day of healthy eating. However, if you eat too much, the caffeine in chocolate can disrupt your sleep, so make sure to exercise portion control.

The main benefit of dark chocolate is heart health! Studies show that the rich flavanol content of chocolate may help with vascular protection. 

Here are some additional benefits:

  • The cocoa polyphenols in chocolate have been shown to boost positive mood states.
  • Lowers cholesterol levels.
  • Reduces the risk of heart disease or stroke.
  • Helps prevent memory decline.
  • Contains more antioxidants than blueberries and acai. 

As a quick reminder, these health benefits of chocolate are only true for high-quality dark chocolate that contains a high percentage of cocoa. 

5. Lean Beef

You don’t often see meat that’s not fish included in a list of healthy foods. However, when looking at the research, there’s no denying that grass-fed beef in small quantities contains some surprising health benefits. 

A lean cut of beef contains high levels of iron and vitamin B12 which can help prevent anemia. It’s also loaded with an antioxidant called Coenzyme Q10 that protects cells, membranes, and DNA from damage by free radicals which are unstable atoms in your body. 

For many years, it was known that red meat contained high saturated fat content that could add to heart and health issues. That changed when recent studies showed that lean cuts could be as healthy for you as white meat. 

6. Popcorn

While movie theatre popcorn soaked in butter definitely isn’t healthy for you, the plain kind you make at home actually provides some great health benefits!

Popcorn is loaded with healthy whole grains, antioxidants, and high levels of polyphenols. Specifically, the latter can help prevent degenerative diseases such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

On top of that, it is considered one of the best sources of fiber!

7. Pumpkin 

Not just an ingredient for pie or something to enjoy in the fall, pumpkin surprisingly can help sharpen your vision and boost your immune system. 

Pumpkin has a high amount of beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is essential for good eye health and helps your retina absorb and process light. Incorporating pumpkin into your diet is a great way to help improve optical health since one cup contains 200 percent more vitamin A than the recommended daily amount. Additionally, pumpkin contains antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin that are believed to help prevent cataracts and slow the development of macular degeneration.

The large dose of vitamin A that pumpkin provides also helps your body fight infections and viruses. On top of that, pumpkin is packed with 20 percent of your daily vitamin C which may help you recover from illnesses. 

For more, check out our immune-boosting seasonal foods blog. 

The Beauty of Surprising Healthy Foods (+ Recipes!)

If these foods aren’t currently a part of your diet, this is a great opportunity to try something new, now that you know what to look for. 

Additionally, incorporating a new variety of food offers you nutrients and health benefits you’re not currently getting from the foods you eat. That’s why a balanced diet is always recommended!

Want some healthy recipes that feature some of these ingredients to get you started? Download your free recipe book!

7 Foods With Surprising Health Benefits