By Kristin Sidorov
Looking to renew your commitment to healthy eating, but less than enthusiastic about munching on the same humdrum diet foods? Shake things up with some of these exciting, not-so-average foods packed with health benefits and flavor. Here are 5 delicious items to add to your diet for a healthier, more adventurous you.
Jícama is a crisp, slightly sweet and starchy root vegetable native to Mexico and South America. It has tons of fiber, vitamins A and C, and inulin, a probiotic that helps stimulate good bacteria growth in the stomach. While it's similar to a potato, jícama doesn't raise blood sugar quite as much, making it a delicious and healthy alternative for diabetics. It's low in calories and fat, and satisfies that "crunch" craving when you find yourself reaching for less healthy options, like chips or crackers.
Raw jícama can be sliced and eaten plain as a snack, and is a great addition to vegetable and fruit salads, slaws, and salsas. Try sauteing or roasting it with other vegetables, or tossing it in to soups and stews for a nutrition and flavor boost.
This sushi staple packs a huge punch of fiery flavor, but it's good for you, too. Wasabi is packed with powerful antioxidants, potassium, and calcium, contains antimicrobial properties, and has been shown to help prevent ulcers and cancer. Just make sure you get the real stuff-imitation wasabi is increasingly popular in the U.S., and it doesn't have the same benefits.
Wasabi belongs in the same family of foods as horseradish, so try using it in the same way: Spice up homemade salad dressings, marinades, and sauces, or add it to mashed potatoes and dips for a zippy twist.
A great source of omega-3s, antioxidants, fiber, and protein, chia seeds have it all. They're a great source of healthy, sustained energy and are an incredibly versatile addition to many foods you already eat.
Try mixing chia seeds into your morning cereal or yogurt, using them to top your salads or warps, tossing them into smoothies, muffins, and breads, or just eating them raw as a healthy snack. When soaked for 30 minutes or more, they soften. Add water, a little sugar, and lime or lemon juice for a classic "chia fresca," or let them soak in chocolate almond milk for a sweet treat. Softened chia seeds can also be added to rice dishes or used to thicken soups and stews.
A staple of Asian cuisine, sea veggies are becoming increasingly popular in America, and for good reason. They're low in calories and chock-full of fiber, protein, and tons of vitamins and minerals naturally found in the ocean, such as potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron. Studies have shown that they may help reduce breast cancer, too.
There's a growing variety of sea vegetables available, and depending on what you get, they can be added to almost anything. Arame is perfect in quiches, omelets, and salads, while wakame is a great addition to soups, stir fries, or as a yummy raw snack.
This strange-looking veggie is a cousin to cabbage and broccoli, and like jícama, it has a crisp radish-y, apple-y flavor. It has beneficial nutrients like fiber, vitamins C and B6, and potassium, and cancer-fighting phytochemicals. It can be grown almost anywhere and is low in calories.
Kohlrabi is a delicious raw snack and a great addition to salads. Or try adding it to a spicy stir-fry, roasting it with a little salt and Parmesan, pureed for soup or as a delicious alternative to mashed potatoes.
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