Boost your overall health by eating more of these unique and nutritious superfoods
01/05/2021 / By Joanne Washburn / Comments
Boost your overall health by eating more of these unique and nutritious superfoods

No talk about health and nutrition is complete without mentioning the latest and greatest superfoods like kale and quinoa. But while these superfoods might sound more familiar to you, there are tons of lesser-known nutritional powerhouses that deserve just as much recognition, as well as a spot on your dinner table.

Start the year right and kick your diet up a notch by adding these 18 unique and phenomenally nutrient-dense superfoods to your weekly meal plan:

1. Daikon

Daikon is a kind of mild-flavored winter radish sporting a large and slender white root. Often featured in both Japanese and Chinese cooking, daikon is cooked much like a carrot. You can steam, blanch, boil, braise or stir-fry a carrot, and the mighty daikon takes to these preparations as well.

Daikon offers just 25 calories per one-cup serving. This makes it a great food for weight loss. Daikon gives you ample amounts of important nutrients as well, including vitamin C, copper, potassium and folate.

2. Taro root

Taro root is the thick, starch-rich tuber stalk of the taro plant. It’s an important source of carbs for Asians and Africans. When cooked, taro root has a mild, almost sweet flavor and a texture similar to cooked potatoes.

Like other starchy vegetables, taro root is naturally rich in fiber. Fiber keeps food moving along your intestine so that you’re less likely to experience bloating or constipation.

3. Delicata squash

The delicata squash is a kind of winter squash that gets its name from its unusually delicate skin. You can peel off its skin easily enough before eating. But you can also eat it as-is if the squash has been roasted until tender. Low in both calories and carbs, the delicata squash makes for an indispensable addition to a healthy diet.

4. Sunchokes

Sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes, are a kind of sunflower grown for their edible tubers. They’re neither related to artichokes nor from Israel and have a nutty flavor with sweet undertones.

Sunchokes are particularly rich in iron, an essential mineral for red blood cell production. They also offer high levels of inulin, a type of fiber that supports digestion and helps control blood sugar levels.

5. Chayote squash

Green, firm and bumpy, chayote belongs to the same family as pumpkins and zucchini. While their flavor isn’t remarkable, chayotes are hailed for their impressive folate content. Folate is a B vitamin involved in DNA synthesis. Enjoying a one-cup serving of chayote gives you 30 percent of the daily value for folate.

6. Dandelion greens

Though considered a weed, dandelions have a lot going for them when it comes to nutrition. The leaves of this plant, also known as dandelion greens, are packed with vitamin K, iron and powerful antioxidants. Studies even suggest that dandelion greens support heart health by reducing cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

7. Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads or fiddlehead greens are the shoots of young ferns. They look a lot like tiny scrolls popping out of the dirt. Rich in provitamin A, lutein and beta-carotene, fiddleheads help keep your eyes healthy and your vision clear. You can easily incorporate fiddleheads into your favorite pasta dishes or soup recipes.

8. Jicama

Sweet, turnip-like jicama is an edible root packed with vitamin C. This water-soluble micronutrient is popular for its beneficial effects on the immune system. Jicama also supports gut health because it is rich in inulin.

9. Cassava

Cassava is a long, starchy root vegetable that’s naturally rich in magnesium, potassium, copper, vitamin C and several B vitamins. Its flavor is only slightly nuttier than that of a sweet potato.

Before eating cassava, make sure that the root is well-cooked. Cassava has natural plant toxins that may affect your thyroid function. Frying, roasting or mashing the root helps remove these toxins.

10. Celeriac

What it lacks for aesthetics, this root vegetable makes up for with its high levels of bone-building vitamin K. It is also an excellent source of vitamin C, phosphorus and potassium. To enjoy celeriac, add it to soups with other root vegetables, shred it raw into coleslaw or boil and mash it like you would regular potatoes.

11. Rutabaga

Rutabagas are said to be a cross between a turnip and a cabbage. Classified under the Brassica genus of plants, rutabagas are low in calories but high in fiber and essential minerals like potassium, phosphorus and magnesium. Additionally, rutabagas are an excellent source of immune-boosting vitamin C.

12. Romanesco

Romanesco, arguably the least familiar name of the bunch, is a funky-looking cruciferous vegetable that tastes a lot like broccoli. Like its cruciferous cousins, romanesco contains powerful antioxidants that have been studied for their promising anti-cancer activities and immune-boosting effects.

13. Bitter melon

Despite its off-putting name, bitter melon touts some incredible health benefits because of its antioxidants. In fact, natural healers have used bitter melon to treat all sorts of conditions, including diabetes, pneumonia and kidney disease.

Many varieties of bitter melon exist, though they all taste extremely bitter. Cooks find that you can reduce this intensely bitter flavor by adding bitter melon to curries, hearty soups and stir-fries.

14. Purslane

Purslane, an edible weed often featured in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines, is loaded with several powerful antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C and E, and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. To reap the nutritional benefits of this amazing weed, add purslane to your classic green salads or sandwiches.

15. Mashua

Mashua is a flowering plant that produces a tuber somewhat similar to turnip in both flavor and texture. Rich in plant pigments that double as antioxidants, mashua may help fight inflammation and prevent bacterial infections, as evidenced by test-tube and animal studies. Mashua leaves and flowers can also be eaten.

16. Tomatillos

Green, tart and with a unique papery husk, tomatillos aren’t quite the “small tomatoes” that their name might suggest. Still, tomatillos are popular in Mexican cuisine, often serving as the primary ingredient in salsas. The acidic green fruits are also packed with vitamin C. Just one cup of tomatillos provides 17 percent of your daily vitamin C needs.

17. Ramps

Ramps look a lot like scallions but taste like a cross between leeks and garlic. Like most bulb vegetables, these wild onions are pungent, to say the least. Still, ramps are sought after in spring when they are in season. They are typically cooked with other greens or used as a substitute for onions in practically any recipe.

On top of the powerful antioxidants that give them their pungent aroma, ramps are rich in vitamin C. As such, eating your fill of ramps may help strengthen your immune system and boost iron absorption.

18. Salsify

Salsify is an ancient root vegetable with two main varieties: black and white. Black salsify sports a mild, oyster-like flavor, earning it the nickname “vegetable oyster.” Meanwhile, white salsify tastes like artichoke hearts.

Regardless of variety, salsify makes a nutritious substitute for other starchy root vegetables because of its high amounts of nutrients, including fiber, potassium, vitamin C and B vitamins.

There are tons of lesser-known superfoods that deserve special recognition. They give you plenty of important nutrients that support your overall health and protect you from diseases. To elevate your meals and reap the many nutritional benefits of these unique superfoods, use them in your go-to recipes and favorite dishes.


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