Body & Fitness

The most underrated foods in your pantry

Move over super foods, we're celebrating some everyday food all-stars.

While quinoa, kale and blueberry smoothie bowls might be at the height of their popularity, perhaps it’s time to pay tribute to the many humble staples that quietly sitting in the fridge and pantry.

All nutritious foods have their own unique contribution towards good health, and here are some heavy-hitters that might already feature regularly in the shopping basket.

Pulses

With the variety of pulses available, there is a legume for every occasion. Pulses are the original gluten free option, and now a variety of pulses can be bought as flours for those who wish to experiment with gluten-free baking.

Pulses provide both soluble and insoluble fibre, which give healthy gut bacteria and help with good bowel function.

Adding chickpeas, lentils, broad beans, or field peas to your cooking can provide many benefits.

“Pulses are gluten free, low in fat and contain plant sterols, which can be beneficial in lowering cholesterol. Packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, they are an important and cheap addition to every diet,” says dietitian Georgie Rist.

Whether they are the main event in a meal or an addition to salads, the protein, iron, calcium and folate hit from legumes make them an underrated pantry star.

Kiwifruit

This furry little fruit needs to hold his green head high and be counted in the “wholefood” category.

Kiwifruit can provide health benefits for almost every part of your body, from your eyes to your gut, to your immune system.

“Kiwifruit has almost double the vitamin C content of an orange,” says Rist. “One large golden kiwi fruit provides more vitamin C than one glass of acai juice, and at a fraction of the cost. Including kiwi fruit with your meal can help to increase the absorption of iron from plant foods.”

Kiwifruit are also packed with magnesium which supports muscle function,as well as potassium, folate, zince and antioxidants.

Nuts

Whether you choose to activate, roast or keep them raw, our bodies go nuts for nuts.

“Nuts not only taste delicious but have the science to back them up when it comes to including a handful a day helps support healthy weight management, diabetes risk, lower cholesterol and improve heart health,” says Rist.

One study found that 30g of nuts per day has more health benefits than eating a low fat diet. A 30g serving of nuts is between 15-20 of most of the larger nuts, so about a small handful, otherwise it may go the other way and cause weight gain due to high fat content.

Each nut contains a unique variety of nutrients, with almonds, walnuts, macadamias, hazelnuts and cashews being among the best for us.

A dollop of good quality nut butter makes a delicious addition to your smoothie, and believe it or not, also your stir fries!

Spinach

Kale chips, kale smoothies, braised kale, kale, kale, kale. To hear it, you would think kale was king. However many people don’t realise that spinach still reigns supreme.

“Kale has been receiving a lot of attention of late, but what many people don’t know is that spinach is actually higher in a number of nutrients than kale, including iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamin E,” says Rist. “I side with Popeye, and don’t go a day without my cup of spinach!”

One cup of cooked spinach provides 180mg of calcium (15-20% of recommended daily allowance), and ½ cup cooked spinach provides 80mg magnesium and 100mcg folate, over 20% of RDI for both.

Dark green vegetables are high in fibre, and are great for your immune system. Eat a variety of leafy greens to keep life interesting.

Avocado

This rough-skinned fruit may hold the secret to your youthful skin as it naturally wants to fight free radical damage and keep you young.

Just half an avocado provides a handful of antioxidants, plus 22mg Vitamin C, 120mg folate (30% RDI), 4.3g fibre (14% RDI).

“The healthiest foods to choose are those that pack a nutritional punch. That is, they should be nutrient-rich, compared with their energy (kilojoule) content, and provide food components such as fibre, antioxidants, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. And they should also contain only minimal amounts of – if any – saturated fat, added sugars and salt,” says Rist.

“There is no one size fits all when it comes to diet. We are all different and response to food differently. Vegetables are wonder foods! However, for optimal health we need to focus on a ‘super diet’ packed with a variety of nutritious foods, rather than just than one or two superfoods!”

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