Power up your diet by expanding your menu with these six stealth foods
SOME FOODS JUST AREN’T TAKEN seriously. Consider celery, for example. Forever the garnish, never the main meal. You might even downgrade it to bar fare, since the only stalks guys eat are served immersed in Bloddy Marys.
All of which is a shame, really. Besides being a perfect vehicle for peanut butter, this vegetable contains bone-beneficial acids. And those aren’t even what makes celery so good for you. You see, celery is just one of six underappreciated and under-eaten foods that can instantly improve your diet. Make a place for them on your plate, and you’ll gain a new respect for the health benefits they bestow, from lowering blood pressure to fighting belly fat. And the best part? You’ll discover just how delicious healthy food can be.
This water-loaded vegetables has a rep for being all crunch and no nutrition. But ditch that mindset: celery contains stealth nutrients that heal.
Why it’s healthy “Celery helps in reducing blood pressure. A compound called phthalides in it helps relax the muscle around arteries, diluting the vessels and allowing blood to flow normally. Even individuals who are salt-sensitive can safely take the sodium in celery, unlike table salt (iodised sodium) which is harmful for those with high blood pressure,” says Dr Sunita Ray Chaudhary, a dietician, at Delhi’s Rockland Hospital. And beyond the benefits to your blood pressure, celery also has anti-cancer compounds like acetylenics that stop the growth of tumour.
How to eat it You can try this low carbohydrate, protein-packed recipe for a perfect snack any time of the day.
While this salt-water-dwelling marine algae is a popular health food in Japan and internationally, it rarely makes it onto Indian dinner tables.
Why it’s healthy There are four classes of seaweed-green, brown, red and blue-green – and they’re all packed with healthy nutrients. “Seaweed is a great source of plain calcium,” says Megan Pentz-Kluyts, registered dietician and BStylish Fitness nutrition expert. It is also loaded with potassium, which is essential for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels. “Taking in too little potassium – due to a diet low in plant foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and unrefined grains – and too much sodium can cause high blood pressure,” says Pentz – Kluyts. “Most people know to keep their sodium intake to a minimum, but another way to handle the problem is to simultaneously take in more potassium.” Recent studies have shown that the fibre in seaweed may help prevent fat absorption due to the polysaccharide, a;ginate.
How to eat it “It can be included in the daily diet as salad with ginger, garlic, sesame seeds in sesame oil and sugar in rice vinegar. Dried and powdered seaweed can be used as a healthy salt substitute,” says Dr Chaudhury.
It’s easy to take the humble onion for granted, but this ubiquitous bulb really is the power ingredient.
Why they are healthy Onions are rich in the flavonoid quercetin, known as an anti-inflammatory and inhibitor of cancer, prostatitis, heart disease and allergies. Onions also improve your blood-fat profile, reducing cholesterol while hindering the clumping of blood platelets and speeding up clot-dissolving activity. “The phytochemicals in onions improve the working of Vitamin C in the body, thus immunity. Onions are also known to scavenge free radicals, thereby reducing your risk of developing gastric ulcers.” says Dr Chaudhury.
How to eat them: Red onions are higher in quercetin than brown onions, although both are good sources. You can eat them raw (think salads and sandwiches) or fried (think stir-fries and curries) although boiling reduces the quercetin content.
4. CANOLA OIL
You’ve been trained to spurn butter in favour of olive oil for so long that you’ve completely forgotten that there are other heart-healthy vegetable oils (like canola) out there. Fun fact; the name canola was out there. Fun fact: the name canola was derived from “Canadian oil, low acid” back in 1978. But don’t let that put our shelves grown and pressed from canola plants right here in India.
Why it’s healthy Like olive oil, canola oil is low in naughty saturated fats and high in heart-healthy unsaturated fats. It is also loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, known for their cancer-fighting, immunity-boosting cardiac-supporting properties. When added to any meal, canola oil will also help you feel full for longer. “Research shows that eating a small amount of unsaturated fat- in the form of a canola oil salad dressing, for example – can increase the satiety hormone cholecystokinin, which helps you feel fuller for longer,” explains Pentz-Kluyts. Canola oil has the highest smoke point and so it is also and ideal choice for deep frying because it can be heated to a higher temperature (smoke point -232 °C). This results in lower oil retention in the fried foods,” adds Dr Chaudhury.
How to eat it: Just enjoy, but be conscious of how much you use. No matter which way you shake it up, canola oil – like olive oil and any other vegetable oil you can think of – is 100 percent pure fat, containing more than double the kilojoules found in carbs and proteins. A good rule of thumb: limit the number of kilojoules from unsaturated fats to no more than 20 percent of the total kilojoules in any meal. “That will give you about two or three teaspoon of oil in a 2,500kJ meal, such as a light lunch for the average guy,” says Pentz-Kluyts.
Perhaps these mollusks are considered guilty by association, since they often appear in decadent restaurant meals that are overloaded with kilojoules. But then again, so does asparagus.
Why they’re healthy: Scallops are more than 80 percent protein. “One 85gm serving gives you 20gm of protein for just 400kJ of energy, “ says Pentz-Kluyts. They’re also a good source of both magnesium and potassium. Clams and oysters provide similar benefits.
How to eat them: Searing is a fast and easy way to prepare scallops. Buy fresh, dry-packed scallops (not the “wet-packed” kind).
Just by looking at them, it’s no surprise that these hearty legumes are good for you. But when was the last time you ate any?
Why they’re healthy: Boiled lentils have about 16gm of belly-filling fibre in every cup. Not only do they help lower cholesterol, they also help manage blood – sugar disorders since their high fibre content prevents blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal, says Dr Chaudhury.
How to eat them Use lentils as a bed for chicken or fish – they make a great substitute for rice or pasta.