The word “superfood” tends to be associated with exotic-sounding berries and seeds—but what about the nutrient-dense, disease-fighting foods that we already know and love?
Here are five overlooked superfoods that deserve some space on our plates, too. In fact, you likely have at least a couple of them in your pantry and fridge right now.
Far from boring, oats are a fiber-filled whole grain that may help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol. Plus, they possess unique antioxidants that are thought to have anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties.
Try them in: Beyond oatmeal, oats are also wonderful in cookies, smoothies and even salads.
Kale is the latest, greatest green of choice, but that’s no reason to ditch spinach. True to its reputation as Popeye’s muscle-enhancing snack, spinach is rich in antioxidants that may help our muscles recover after exercise.
This leafy green is also packed with essential nutrients like folate, iron, calcium, potassium and manganese, as well as vitamins A, C and K.
Try it in: If salads aren’t your thing, add a handful of spinach to your favorite fruit smoothie. It’s also great in dips, or sautéed with garlic.
Sugar? Pshaw. There’s no need for artificial sweeteners or added sugars when we use moist, sweet dates in our baked goods and smoothies. Despite their caramel-like taste, dates are actually a low-glycemic index food that won’t significantly raise blood sugar levels. When baking with dates, use the soft, sticky medjool variety for best results.
Try them in: In addition to being a yummy snack, dates excel in baking; salads; smoothies; and homemade granola, oatmeal and energy bars.
When it comes to the health benefits of fish, salmon seems to be the catch of the day. But sardines have a boatload of merits, too. These tiny fish are a sustainable source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, as well as calcium, protein, vitamin D and vitamin B12. Sardines are inexpensive and come in canned, smoked or frozen varieties, so it’s easy to get hooked on this super seafood.
Try them in: Sardines are delicious pan fried or in pasta, but are equally stunning as a cheap and cheerful weeknight dinner on toast.
5. Brown rice
With quinoa and ancient grains like amaranth gaining popularity, boring brown rice has become the peasant of the grain family. This is a shame, because brown rice has a kingly nutritional profile—especially compared to white rice. One study showed that, while eating five or more servings of white rice per week may increase our risk of type 2 diabetes, two servings of brown rice can lower our diabetes risk by 16 percent.
Try it in: Try brown rice in your next rice bowl or fried rice dish for a nuttier flavor, or add it to salad, soup and stews.