Did you know that some foods can boost your health in more ways than one? New research shows that certain pantry staples have surprising health benefits — beyond what you may already know. These ‘double duty’ foods may help prevent or alleviate multiple conditions, so you’ll be getting a huge health bang for your nutritional buck. Here are 5 foods you won’t want to miss.
It’s well known that prunes can help with digestive health. That’s because they contain fiber and also sorbitol, a naturally occurring sugar-like compound that helps regulate digestion.
But prunes have another important benefit that you might not have heard about: they help keep your bones healthy. I just returned from the annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo where findings from a 2015 San Diego State University study were presented. This exciting new research indicated that eating just 5-6 prunes a day can help slow bone loss and improve bone density in post-menopausal women. Researchers believe that nutrients found in prunes, specifically vitamin K, help promote bone mineralization.
Prunes are easy to incorporate into everyday meals and snacks. I use prune puree when I bake (it also helps to reduce fat and calories!) and when I’m on-the-go, I always keep Sunsweet Ones (individually-wrapped prunes) in my purse to keep hunger at bay.
Search for any ‘heart healthy’ menu plan and you’ll be sure to find oats. For over a decade studies have shown that oats can help reduce ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and also lower blood pressure, making them an ideal food to help combat heart disease.
But there’s even more good health news about oats – research has found that oats may help control hunger pangs. An Australian study found that oats contain a substance called beta glucan that helps to boost an important appetite-control hormone. If you’re looking to get a nutritious jump start on your day, help yourself to a warm bowl of cooked oats.
Are you cooking with lentils? If not, you should consider including these edible seeds into your meals. Low in calories and fat but high in protein, fiber and potassium, studies have shown that lentils can help lower blood sugar and even the likelihood of developing diabetes. In fact one study found that lentils not only benefit the blood sugar response from the meal in which they’re eaten, but also the subsequent meal eaten four hours later.
Lentils are also a powerful weapon in the fight against heart disease. Research indicates that lentils can help reduce LDL cholesterol, the risk of heart attacks, and arterial inflammation. And a national survey found that people eating lentils four times or more per week had a 22% lower risk of coronary heart disease, compared to those eating them less than once a week.
Not sure what to do with lentils? They’re perfect for baking, soups, and side dishes and even desserts! For a guilt-free sweet treat your whole family will love, try these Lentil & Sweet Potato Tartlets.
If you want to help your heart, crack open some pistachios. These tasty nuts are loaded with antioxidants, unsaturated fats and various vitamins and minerals that make them a perfect heart healthy snack.
What’s more, these little nuts may also help you maintain a healthy weight. Far from being ‘fattening’ (as they were once considered), studies now show that people who eat nuts regularly are thinner than those who don’t. A 2014 study found that nuts keep you full for longer and may also provide a modest boost to your metabolism. And researchers at Eastern Illinois University reported that eating in-shell pistachios resulted in consuming 41% less calories compared to those who ate shelled nuts. The logic is that pistachio shells help to trick the brain into thinking that you’ve eaten more than you actually have.
5. Canola Oil
If you have canola oil in your cupboard, you’ve got a powerful disease fighter in your kitchen! That’s because canola oil provides more heart healthy fats than other popular oils. And studies show that replacing saturated fats with fats high in poly- and monounsaturated fats can help reduce the risk of heart disease.
But that’s not all canola oil can do. Recent research reveals that it may help control blood sugar and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. A study published in the journal Diabetes found that people with type 2 diabetes who ate a low–glycemic-index diet enriched with canola oil had better blood sugar control and reduced risk for heart disease compared with those on whole-grain control diets. Researchers believe that when some carbohydrates are replaced with plant-based oils, like canola, they blunt the rise in blood sugar at meals by slowing down the body’s absorption of carbohydrate.
Canola is perfect for sautéing and baking due to its versatility and light taste. For a lighter start to your morning, try these tasty mini banana muffins.