Something that my late father used to say all of the time that used to tickle me is, "When someone invents new letters in the alphabet, I'll talk more. The first 26 bore me." If you substitute letters (or words) for foods, that's how I feel. As someone who enjoys cooking, I'm pretty intentional about looking for foods that aren't the most common; you know, ones that I can put into my recipes in order to add a bit of unexpected "umph" to them.
If you are similar to how I am, or you're simply someone who likes to learn about new things, I've got a list of 10 foods that definitely do not come up in daily conversation but, at the same time, could breathe new life into your palate if you're willing to give them a shot this spring season.
1. Dashi Broth
Bone broth is basically when you use the brewed bones and connective tissues of cows, chicken or even fish to create a broth that is able to do everything from remineralize teeth and reduce body inflammation to boost your collagen levels and support your joints. However, if you want to go with an alternative to bone broth, dashi broth is the route to take. It basically consists of kombu (a brown seaweed) and bonito flakes (which are dried and fermented tuna flakes). The kombu is high in protein, potassium, magnesium, vitamins B, C, D and E and amino acids. Meanwhile, tuna has the ability to lower your blood pressure and improve your immunity. Plus, if you make the broth and freeze it, it will keep for as long as a month. Another cool thing about dashi broth is it isn't super difficult to make. If you want to take a stab at it, you can get some step-by step instructions here.
2. Mung Beans
If you're looking for the kind of food that is high in protein, fiber and anti-inflammatory properties, mung beans have totally got your back. To make them even better, they are also basically a B-complex vitamin combined with other nutrients like folate, manganese, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc.
Mung beans are good for your system because they are high in antioxidants (they are even contributed to reducing the risk of heat stroke) and, due to all of the folate that is in them (one cup equates to 80 percent of our RDI), they are a great food for pregnant women. Stores like Whole Foods usually have some mung beans on tap.
3. Cuke Juice
What the heck is cuke juice? It's just a cute name for cucumber water. Aside from the fact that cucumbers are made up of 95 percent water (which means that cuke juice can keep you super hydrated), if you drink it on a consistent basis, it's the kind of juice that will detox your system, relieve you of constipation, boost your immunity, lower your blood pressure, improve your eyesight, reduce dark eye circles (thanks to the silica that's in it), and also give you a good night's rest. All pretty solid reasons to take a crack at making some homemade cuke juice, if you ask me. (If you'd prefer to go with cuke lemonade, go here.)
Boy, if there is one thing that I wish more people understood, it's that yams and sweet potatoes are not the same thing. Yes, they are both tuberous root vegetables; however, yams are starchier, drier and actually harder to find in grocery stores than sweet potatoes are. Also, while sweet potatoes are typically orange, white or even purple-ish on the inside, yams are a bland yellow. The reason why I felt that was important to mention is because yacons are another veggie that looks like a sweet potato, even though it isn't. Yacons are good for you because they consist of good carbohydrates known as fructoogliosaccharides (FOS). Yacons also have potassium which is good for maintaining your blood pressure. They also contain prebiotics to improve digestion, antifungal properties to fight ringworm and athlete's foot and even properties that fight cancer. Another awesome thing about yacons is they're a low glycemic natural sweetener; this means that they taste really sweet, but they don't spike up your blood sugar when you consume it. If you want to try yacon sweetener, a favorite brand is found here.
At first glance, a pomelo looks a lot like a grapefruit (yes, they are related). The main differences are it's shaped like a teardrop, it can get as big as a cantaloupe and it has green or yellow flesh. As far as its health benefits go, pomelo contains a good amount of fiber, vitamin C, copper, potassium and thiamine. Not only that but it reduces cholesterol levels, contains anti-aging properties and helps to promote weight loss as well. And just where do you find pomelos? Asian markets. Or, you can get some dried ones online.
6. Black Garlic
Whaaat? You've never heard of black garlic before? Basically, it's what happens when white garlic is exposed to humidity and left to age for about a month or so. The end result is black garlic, the kind of garlic that is insurmountably more nutritious than white garlic is.
For starters, black garlic contains twice the antioxidants of white garlic. Black garlic also has more protein and calcium. Plus, it contains a higher amount of antifungal, antimicrobial and antibiotic agents which makes it a powerhouse at fighting off infection. Just be prepared for the fact that while it does resemble white garlic, black garlic has a different texture and taste.
You can read more about the best brands to buy here.
7. Camu Camu
If you're someone who likes the taste of fresh cranberries, you'll probably also enjoy Amazon rainforest berries known as camu camu. They are tart, high in vitamin C and are loaded with antioxidants to fight off free radicals. Some other benefits include the fact that these berries are able to fight inflammation, improve blood sugar levels, reduce high blood pressure, and they contain the amino acid valine. What's awesome about that is valine is able to strengthen your nervous system and prevent muscle breakdown too. I won't lie, the berries are a bit harder to find (if you want to grow some of your own, you can cop the seeds here). The flip side to this is a lot of people prefer to take it in supplement form. A great brand is found here.
Fonio is a gluten-free rugged grain that is really popular in West Africa. It looks a lot like millet and is oftentimes used as a porridge or bread ingredient. The reason why it's a grain worth trying is because it has a very low glycemic index (which makes it great for regulating diabetes), it is high in iron, it contains the amino acids cystine and methionine (they aid in liver detoxification) and also the amino acid methionine (which strengthens your hair and nails) and, it has calcium, magnesium and phosphorus in it. International markets tend to have fonio in stock. So does Amazon.
Are you a big tea drinker? If so, one that you might want to add to your tea collection is Mugicha. Long story short, it's a Japanese tea that falls into the category of being a roasted barley tea. It's good for you because it contains vitamins and minerals that fight free radicals and aid in preventing tooth decay while reducing body fat and high cholesterol levels. You can get some tea bags here.
Let's round all of this out with limequats, shall we? If you were to crossbreed a lime with a kumquat, a limequat is exactly what you would end up with. Thanks to the off-the-charts amount of Vitamin C that they contain, limequats can help to lower the risk of infection, delay signs of aging, reduce the risk of cancer, strengthen teeth and bones and lower the risk of heart disease too. Something else that's great about this particular fruit is they contain thiamin, niacin, pyridoxine, folates and pantothenic acid—all of which help to keep your blood healthy and your metabolism high. Since it's a hybrid fruit that is really popular in Florida, you might need to have a few of 'em shipped to you. No worries. Sites like Pearson Ranch sell them. Just make sure to order some before June because they are only in season from January through May, making it the ultimate springtime fruit. Enjoy!
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