June 25

The Super Six: “Mighty Underdogs” of Real Food

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In the world of real food, the underdog is on top. Well, at least these guys are. We’re talking about the foods that don’t get the ‘gold medal,’ but only because they never got the chance.

There is indeed a world beyond kale and so-called superfoods, and we’re ready to give credit where credit is due.

These are the foods you should be eating, but may be putting on the back burner a bit too often. The truth is that a wide variety of foods in the diet is more important than eating the healthiest foods over and over, because most fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and sources of healthy fats are loaded with nutrients, whether or not they’re the most popular kid in school.

So, here are our favourite mighty underdogs that deserve the time of day. Eat up!

Beetroot

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Now, you either love ’em or hate ’em. Beets aren’t everyone’s favorite food, but they’re totally worth a second chance if it’s been a few years since you gave this veggie a shot.

While they’re often considered a fairly carb-heavy vegetable due to their ‘sweet’ flavor profile, don’t let that turn you off. Oh, and don’t skip out on the greens! This is where the true power lies.

The benefits:

  • Beet juice can lower blood pressure in record time. In about an hour, you can expect a swift drop, especially if it’s already high. This is due to the beet’s natural nitrates which helps to open up blood vessels in the body.
  • Speaking of those natural nitrates, they can help to boost endurance. Try beets before a workout to increase your body’s threshold for a high-intensity sweat sesh.
  • The unique pigment in beets (which lend this veggie their bright and messy red hue) is known to aid in detoxification, specifically in the liver and blood. Forget a juice cleanse.

Red leafy greens

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While the name itself seems like a bit of a contradiction, don’t be fooled – these are a thing, and they’re a very good thing! Think red lettuce like radicchio, red cabbage, and red kale.

Their green counterparts are highly nutritious, but we already know that! Simply put, kale’s ‘evil twin’ contains just as many nutrients.

The benefits:

  • Radicchio has a bitter component that gives it an upper-hand when it comes to nutrient-density. It comes from lactucopicrin which has an analgesic effect, making this the perfect contender for an ache-relieving salad.
  • Red leafy greens are different from green leafy greens in a few ways, namely, their vitamin A content. For example, red cabbage contains 10 times more than its cousin.
  • Having trouble getting cozy with kale? If the taste puts you off, red kale has a milder taste. It’s far less bitter with a touch more sweetness. Don’t miss out on all the vitamin A and K hiding out in this leafy green; perhaps, it’s just time to try out a different end of the rainbow.

Watercress

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These little leaves are tiny but mighty. While you may be familiar with their superfood status which isn’t so secret, they are seldom seen in recipes and often get overlooked in the kitchen.

If you’re out to get the most bang for your buck, watercress should be a garden staple from here on out.

The benefits:

  • On a scale of “frankenfood” to “perfect food,” watercress exceeds expectations. In fact, it has a perfect score. It sits at 100% nutrient-density according to this scale, which ranks foods in nutrient availability per 100 calories of the specified ingredient.
  • It has huge anti-cancer benefits proven in quite a few studies. In short, watercress reduces damage to DNA related to cancer risk. Vitamin C, folate and high antioxidant content all come into play.
  • Folate, found in abundance in watercress, is linked to better cognition making this green a fantastic choice for better brain health.

Chicory root

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Never heard of it? Here’s your chance to learn all about why you should include a bit of this root in your diet. While it’s not a food, you can drink it, which makes it the perfect tonic to cut back on caffeine with.

It even tastes a bit like coffee with some earthy, chocolate-y undertones.

The benefits:

  • Chicory contains antioxidants called polyphenols which are especially good at protecting the cardiovascular system. Supplementing with this root can significantly raise antioxidant levels in the body, helping you stay healthy.
  • Chicory can positively impact liver health. Ancient Egyptians and Romans were known to use this root in large doses to purify the liver and blood. Why’s that? It protects the liver and supports the breakdown of dietary fats.
  • Due to the inulin fibre found in chicory, you can keep your digestion healthy without having to take food-like supplements. Of all food products, it actually contains the most concentrated source of inulin. Beyond fibre, inulin is also a source of prebiotics which help the body properly utilise probiotics.

Turnips

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Like beets, the turnip’s true nutritional prowess lies in its most commonly wasted asset – the greens! Don’t be so quick to chop the top and toss it.

Regardless of which part you favor, this root is loaded with nutrition. Its spicy flavor might turn you off, but a quick roast can turn the bitterness down and make these a lovely addition to soups, stews, and root bakes.

The benefits:

  • Vitamin C, anybody? While juicing turnips might not be the tastiest use of this veggie, the liquid actually contains twice the amount of vitamin C as orange juice and far less sugar. If you’re fighting off a cold, you might consider this tidbit!
  • Turnip greens contain glucosinolate, a powerful antioxidant that help aid the production of healthy cells whilst killing off cancer cells. These properties are common amongst brassica – or cruciferous – vegetables in general.
  • One cup of turnip greens contain 600% of your daily vitamin K intake which is even more than the beloved kale can say. Vitamin K promotes optimal bone health as it helps calcium absorption and transportation within the body.

Mackerel

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Under the sea, mackerel hardly gets a second look. Salmon is king when it comes to nutrition, and we’re often told that sardines (if you can stomach them) are where you should go next.

So, why is nobody talking about mackerel? Well, we don’t know! We’re here to break the silence.

The benefits:

  • This fish contains plenty of omega-3’s, just like salmon and sardines. These are important for everything from a strong immune system to managing inflammation and enhanced memory and cognition overall. Fish = brain food!
  • Mackerel is a natural food-source of vitamin D which contributes to cancer-fighting properties. It also contains B vitamins, selenium, antioxidants and coenzyme Q10 which all help fight cancer cells.
  • This fish is budget-friendly, especially if you find it smoked or tinned. The best part about seafood is that wild-caught sources are highly nutritious in nearly all forms, even out of a can. How many “superfoods” can say the same?

What foods do you think are “underrated?” Show them some love and tell us your favorite choices below! Share this article to help show our underdogs some love.


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