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Plantain Flour, Spirulina & Other Uncommon Foods To Add To Your Diet

Wellness

Question. When's the last time you tried something new? Next question. When's the last time that new thing was food-related? The reason why I'm asking is because there really are a lot of benefits that come from doing something that you've never done before. It alleviates boredom. It exposes you to different things. It helps you to evolve as a person. Because it involves a certain amount of risk, it boosts your self-confidence and self-esteem. It also gives you a taste of more of what life has to offer (pun intended in this case).


Speaking of taste, there are even good reasons to try foods that you never have before; reasons that I bet you've never even thought about. It can grow your palate. It can get—or keep—you excited about cooking. It can expose you to different food histories and cultures. It can give you access to other ways to take care of your health and well-being. And of course, most of all, it can provide great content for your IG page.

Now that (hopefully) I've gassed you up to step outside of the same ole' aisle at the same ole' grocery stores, here are some foods that, I would love for you to hit up the comment section to let me know if you've tried them before (if you have, it'd be super cool if you shared a recipe or two!). All of them are semi-unique, all of them are really good for you, and all of them are worth adding to your "something new list" if you've never heard of them before. Are you ready to introduce your taste buds to something different?

1.Plantain Flour

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If you're already a lover of plantains, you may have heard of plantain flour before being that it's a dry pulverized form of plantains. One thing that's really cool about flour that's in this form is the fact that it's got less calories than the standard all-purpose flour. Some other reasons to give plantain flour a shot is it's got a good amount of protein, fiber, magnesium, potassium, iron and vitamins A and C in it. Plus, thanks to the Vitamin B6 that it contains, plantain flour can help to boost brain power. Also, since it's loaded with antioxidants, plantain flour is able to keep your immune system strong while reducing free radicals too. Oh, and if you ever get ulcers that are caused by aspirin, it can help to heal those as well.

Believe it or not, plantain flour is something that you can find at Walmart. Or, if you want a gluten-free brand, you can get some on Amazon or the kosher kind here. As far as how to use the flour, introduce it to your taste buds with this plantain flour corn muffins recipe.

2.Spirulina

OK, I'm gonna shoot it straight to you. Spirulina is a blueish-green algae—yes, algae—that technically qualifies as a superfood because of how nutritious it is. It's got calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, folate, vitamins A, B6, K and C. As far as its health benefits, spirulina improves gut health, manages diabetes, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels and boosts metabolism. It should go on record that spirulina isn't FDA-regulated (you can get tips to make sure you get it in its peak form here). Still, you can Google how many sites sings its praises nonetheless.

Some people take it in powder form (so they can add it to their juice or smoothies), but spirulina is also available as a tea.

3.Cherimoya

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Cherimoya is a type of fruit that Mark Twain once referred to as being "deliciousness itself". It's also known as a custard apple and is compared to tasting like a banana, mango and pineapple. Cherimoya is the kind of fruit that is high in antioxidants, Vitamin B6 and the carotenoid antioxidant lutein. Health-wise, snacking on these can improve your vision, boost your mood, fight inflammation, strengthen immunity, plus this fruit has the flavonoids catechin, epicatechin, and epigallocatechin—all of which contain cancer-fighting properties.

This is a fruit that you can find at Whole Foods. If you want some tips on how to prepare it, how about trying some raw cherimoya custard or a cherimoya almond cake?

4.Amaranth

A gluten-free grain (that tastes a lot like brown rice) that's pretty good for you is amaranth. If you're a vegetarian or vegan, it's an awesome source of protein. People with arthritis and fibromyalgia symptoms like it because it contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties. The calcium that's found in this grain will strengthen your teeth and bones. And, if you have diabetes, the manganese in it will assist in keeping your diabetes under control.

This is the kind of grain that you should be able to easily find at your local grocery store or Whole Foods. As far as how to prepare it, some people like to sprinkle amaranth into their soup or stew. Or you can turn it into a porridge and have it for breakfast.

5.Celeriac Root

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Celeriac root—also known as celery root—is a vegetable that isn't the most common one on the planet yet, slowly but surely, it is gaining in popularity. Since it's a root vegetable, celeriac root's "close cousins" with parsnips and parsley. It has a ton of Vitamin K in it (51 percent of your daily supply per serving) along with vitamins B6, C, phosphorus, potassium and manganese. Thanks to the Vitamin K and potassium that's in it, celeriac root is good for your heart. Vitamin K is good for your bones as well. Plus, the fiber that's in celeriac root aids in digestion.

Whole Foods usually has this veggie in stock. As far as recipes go, celery root and apple soup or mashed celeriac root and potatoes are good ways to ease into it.

6.Bee Propolis

OK, this is the kind of food that you'll probably prefer not knowing what it's made of, but because of all of the benefits that it contains, it's still worth giving a shot regardless. So, what's in it? It's a combination of beeswax and bee saliva. That's kind of gross, I know. But hear me out about why it still made the list.

Bee propolis contains 300 natural compounds including amino acids, polyphenols and even 10 percent essential oils. There are hundreds of studies about how it's a great natural treatment for cancer, oral candidiasis, HSV-1 (herpes that creates cold sores), parasites and even relieving symptoms that are related to endometriosis-related infertility. I don't know about you, but all of this is worth putting up with a little bee spit.

Bee propolis is something else that you can take in supplement form. Or, you can get honey that's infused with it and use it like you would any other kind of honey that you already have.

7.Jicama

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Jicama is a vegetable that has a brown papery skin but is a white starch when you cut it open. As far as the texture of it goes, a lot of people say that it's a cross between a potato and pear; it even has a nutty/sweet taste to it. Jicama has iron, magnesium and potassium in it, but what it contains a really impressive amount of is Vitamin C (around 44 percent of your reference daily intake); this means it's a food that contains tons of antioxidants. Jicama boosts heart health, helps to prevent cancer and will keep your gut healthy.

A great thing about this particular food is you can prepare it all sorts of ways—you can cut it up raw and add it to your salad, use it as an ingredient in your stir fry or add it to a fruit salad. The produce section of your grocery store should care it, along with your local farmer's market. Mexican grocery stores oftentimes have Jicama too.

8.Teff

If you ever go to an Ethiopian restaurant and mention teff, they are going to know exactly what you're talking about because that's where it originates from. Although some people consider teff to be a grain, teff is technically a seed. It provides 25 percent of the protein that your body needs on a daily basis, plus it's packed with fiber, magnesium, zinc, calcium, potassium, copper and vitamins B6 and C. Some benefits of teff is it increases blood circulation, strengthens your immune system, relieves PMS, makes your bones stronger, and it's also a gluten-free food.

As far as how to prepare it, a lot of people enjoy it as a homemade bread or a stack of pancakes. Just keep in mind that as a bread, it's more like a flatbread with a slightly sour taste.

9.Dragon Fruit

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Dragon fruit is an exotic type of cactus fruit that tastes like a hybrid of watermelon, kiwi and cactus pear. It contains a good amount of magnesium and fiber, along with vitamin A and C. Something that's particularly cool about dragon fruit is it has a lot of antioxidants in it, including betalains that reduce oxidative stress and even suppress cancer cells. Other health benefits that come from eating this sweet fruit includes the fact that it keeps your gut healthy, fights off free radicals and boosts low iron levels. It's in season from late summer through December. Oh and, just to be fair, it's not the cheapest fruit on the planet but it is delicious.

There are specialty markets that carry dragon fruit or you can find some online on sites like Melissa's.

10. Ashwagandha Tea

Something that's a huge health trend right now is Ayurveda (a word that means "the science of life" in Sanskrit). An herb that is highly respected when it comes to this approach to holistic health is ashwagandha. What does it mean? "The smell of horses" in Sanskrit. That's a heads up that it doesn't smell the best, but it is good for you. Ashwagandha can lower your blood sugar levels, keep your cortisol in check, reduce depression symptoms, increase muscle mass and even improve fertility levels in men.

You can also take this as a supplement, but a lot of people prefer to drink in tea form. You can get some organic ashwagandha tea here and make a delicious beverage with it here.

11. Honorable Mention: Pearl Powder

Something that's considered to be a "superfood of the sea" is pearl powder. It's packed with calcium, zinc, copper, selenium, magnesium, antioxidants and amino acids (including Tyrosine and Lysine) that will make your skin glow and can even help to regenerate bone tissue. Something else that pearl powder does is raise the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain so that you can feel calm and relaxed. Some health professionals even believe that it's tied to longevity.The best way to consume pearl powder is to purchase the powder and put a teaspoon of it per day into your smoothies or the foods that you are planning to bake. Or, for a strawberry iced latte recipe with pearl powder in it, click here. Enjoy!

Featured image by Getty Images

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Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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