Is it just me or did your parents also make smoothies out of apple, banana, bitter melon, kumquat, and bell pepper growing up? Really, just me? Oh okay.
When I was in middle school my parents discovered something revolutionary, a Vitamix blender. Thus began their journey of blending every single fruit and vegetable in sight. To this day, my dad still prides himself on his homemade smoothies that contain 20 different fruits and vegetables. During the beginning of their blending obsession, I was introduced to odd fruits and vegetables that I surprisingly enjoyed (granted, I preferred eating them whole). That’s probably the reason why I get excited about trying unique produce that looks strange at first glance.
Although carrots and apples are great, I want to expose you to foods that aren’t well known but packed with nutrition! Don’t worry, I won’t ask you to throw it all into a blender… all I ask is for you to be open-minded and give these yummy foods a try.
photo by Oprah
Adzuki beans are small red beans that are traditionally used in Chinese and Japanese cuisine. Although we often associate beans with savory flavors, Adzuki beans are often sweetened and used in desserts. In traditional Chinese medicine, this legume is used to support kidney, reproductive, and bladder function. Adzuki beans are high in:
Whew! These beans may be small but they’re definitely nutrition powerhouses.
Begin by washing your beans and soaking them overnight in water. If you don’t have time to soak the beans overnight, you can also use put them in a pressure cooker for 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and simmer the beans in water for an hour. Again, you can also use a pressure cooker by cooking the soaked beans in 2 cups of water for 5-9 minutes under high pressure.
Store the beans in a sealed container in a dark and cool environment. They will last 5 days refrigerated or 6 months in the freezer.
- Add to soups and stews
- Mash the beans and use for bean tacos with avocado, salsa, lettuce, etc.
- Pair with other beans to make a bean salad
photo by Nourished Kitchen
Dandelion greens are more than merely pesky weeds that have invaded your garden. It may surprise you to know that they help control inflammation in our bodies and have been shown to be beneficial as anti-cancer agents. On top of that, they are also high in:
- Vitamin A, E, and K
Use the leaves by:
- Tossing in salads along with your favorite leafy greens (spinach, kale, arugula, etc.)
- Blending with fruits to make a smoothie
- Chopping and adding them to grains such as brown or wild rice
Feeling adventurous? Try using other parts of the plant as well because the flower, leaves and root are all edible!
photo by The Kitchn
If the beautiful violet hue hasn’t convinced you to try these yet then the flavor definitely will. Lightly sweet, smooth and starchy, you’ll feel like you’re indulging when you take a bite into a purple yam. The great news is that yams are full of:
- Complex carbohydrates and fiber
- Vitamin C and B6
My favorite way to eat yams is to simply bake them. Wash thoroughly with water and pierce them a few times with a fork or knife. Place yams on a baking sheet or pan lined with foil. Bake at 425 degrees for approximately 1 hour, although the time will vary depending on the size of your yams. Remember to shake the pan occasionally while the yams are in the oven to ensure even cooking.
Baked yams make for a great snack, a quick breakfast on the go, or a healthy way to satisfy any sweet tooth!
photo by In Sonnet’s Kitchen
Can be eaten raw or cooked
- Vitamin C and B6
- Isothiocyanates, which are beneficial against certain cancers
- Dietary fiber
Try this! Revamp classic French fries by making kohlrabi fries. Begin by removing the stems and leaves from the bulb (you can save them and sauté it!). Next, peel the bulb and slice it into thick matchsticks. Drizzle the kohlrabi with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. You can also spice things up by adding chili powder or paprika. Spread out the fries on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes.
photo by Food Network
Wheat berries are whole wheat kernels that are commonly ground into whole wheat flour for baking. Because the kernel is left intact, it contains all of the health benefits associated with the bran, which include:
- Vitamin E
Add 1 cup of wheat berries and 3 cups of water to a pot. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer and cover the pot. At around 30 minutes check the berries to see if they’re done. Look for a texture that is chewy! Continue to check every 5 minutes until they’re ready. You can store the berries in the refrigerator for about one week after they are cool.
- Add to chili for a hearty texture
- Stir into cooked oats
- Toss with olive oil, corn, red onion, and arugula for a quick salad
- Pair with roasted fennel and bell peppers
Ask a Dietitian! We are compiling a list of nutrition-related questions readers have for a special post in September. Simply fill out your name, email, and question in the feedback form below.