|8 Healthy Foods You Can't Afford To Ignore!
Spring and summer marks the perfect opportunity to jump-start healthy eating patterns as the rising temperatures dampen appetite for rich, gravy-heavy meals. Adding a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains to your plate will not only boost overall nutrition in your diet, but also be kinder to your gut. Just don't get too caught up in trying to eat more of any one particular fruit or vegetable than another. Instead, work on expanding your taste by incorporating some foods you don't routinely eat. We, in Pakistan are very fortunate today to have such a variety of fruits and vegetables available year-round, so we should take advantage of that. Here's a fresh look at some healthy foods that you cannot afford to ignore. Keep in mind that this list is just a starting point to sharpen your appetite for further food exploration.
Whether canned or fresh, fish is an unassuming nutritional powerhouse. While meats tend to be high in saturated fats, which raise LDL (bad) cholesterol, fish are high in unsaturated fats making them a heart-healthy choice. They promote anti-inflammatory pathways, lower triglyceride levels and decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish especially fatty fish twice a week. Sardines in particular, provide protein, calcium and vitamin D. If you can't get sardines fresh, opt for mackerels. And don't just eat them fried or in curries, they can also be grilled and topped with lemon juice, a little salt and pepper for a simple, lip-smacking dish.
Barley is on par with oats as a great source of fibre and is also a good source of protein and B vitamins. It's rich in powerful antioxidants that help prevent heart disease and cancer. Whole hulled barley takes a lot more time to cook and may be somewhat coarse to the palate but pearl barley, the more processed form, is much easier to cook. Barley flakes can be used just as you might use oatmeal. Besides soups and stews, you can toss in handfuls of cooked pearl barley into salads and vegetable stir fry.
Yogurt has long been known as a source of bone-building calcium and protein. Additionally it offers gut-friendly bacteria that provide a range of health benefits such as protection against stomach infections, soothing irritable bowel syndrome, and more.
The creamier hung curd from which whey (watery part of dahi) has been removed also packs a nutritional punch offering extra protein compared to the regular yogurt. Whether plain, drizzled with honey, topped with nuts or flavoured with fruit, yogurt makes for a healthful and satisfying snack or breakfast option. Hung curd, with its dense consistency, is also an ideal stand-in for sour cream or cream cheese. Or try making a dip made by mixing hung curd with minced fresh or dried herbs. Don't throw away the whey, it contains essential amino acids. You can add it to soups or use it to make chapatti dough.
Fiery chillies still scare some people, but chillies (red or green) bring more to the table than just heat. The 'burn' comes from a compound called capsaicin, which bind with nervous-system receptors in the tongue and throat, triggering a sensation of heat. At high concentrations, the brain responds to this stimulus by releasing endorphins, which may explain some of the attraction for chilly-lovers. Chillies contain the majority of capsaicin in their seeds and white fleshy ribs, so removing these parts will tone down the spiciness. If you can stand the heat, however, capsaicin has been studied for medicinal properties including anti-coagulant effects. Besides heat, chillies contribute a broad range of flavours that can help you cut down on salt in dishes without making food bland.
These honey-sweet, smooth-textured tropical fruits may taste indulgent but are a healthful way to add variety to your fruit intake. Link most brightly coloured yellow and orange fruits, mangoes are high in beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A. Their natural sweetness makes them a fresh and nutritious way to satisfy your sweet-tooth. When selecting fresh mangoes, keep in mind that peel colour varies widely and isn't a good indicator of ripeness. Instead, look for fruits that are just slightly soft to the touch and have a fruity aroma. Besides eating plain as a snack or dessert, frozen mangoes can be blended into a smoothie and fresh diced mango can be added to a salad.
6. Fenugreek leaves
While the nutritional advantages of dark, leafy greens are widely known, not everybody loves spinach as much as Popeye. Branching out to try different types of greens may inspire a previously unrealised appreciation for the wide range of tastes, varieties and culinary potential within this group.
Fenugreek or methi leaves is one such leafy green. Dried or fresh its distinctive aroma elevates the humble potato side dish or the plain paratha to a new level.
Like other leafy greens, methi leaves are low in calories and high in fibre and micronutrients. In particular, dark greens like methi and drumstick leaves are rich in vitamin C, folate, vitamin K and beta-carotene. Fenugreek leaves are also a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that help preserve eye health in a aging.
One of the first food crops domesticated by humans, lentils continue to play an important role in the Asian diet. Available in green, yellow, red and brown varieties lentils are among the most versatile and economical pantry staples. They provide a satisfying base to any curry, soup or stew, or can simply be mixed in equal proportions with rice (as in khichdi) for a balanced meal.
Unlike most other legumes, dried lentils don't require presoaking and cook in under an hour, making them ideal for quick, nutritious meal. With eight grams of fibre and nine grams of protein in a cooked half-cup, lentils also provide folate, potassium, phosphorus, thiamine and vitamin B6. Plus lentils are one of the few plant-based sources of iron, providing 6.6 milligrams in one cooked cup.
Like lentils, chickpeas (black and Kabulichanna) have long been a part of the human diet and have been found in archaeological sites dating to the Neolithic period. Sometimes referred to as garbanzo beans, chickpeas have a buttery, nut-like flavour that combines well with most spices. For a quick, no-brainer source of daily protein, soak chickpeas over night and pressure cook a large batch in advance. Store in an airtight container the fridge and throw handfuls into salads, curries or soups as needed. Chickpeas can also be used as a healthier substitution in many recipes for white potatoes, as they have a similar starchy texture. You can even roast them with a little oil for a crunchy snack.