Monday, May 16, 2011

Is Black the new Green?

Intensely coloured foods are known as nutritional powerhouses. Their colours aren't just for show in our dishes, they're indications that those foods are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that are essential for good health.

Among these intensely coloured foods, which we often use as table decorations, are the dark greens. Although not as pretty (depending on who you ask), they're the foods we are often told to include more of in our diets thanks to their wonderful nutritional properties. But it now seems that something strange is happening among foodies and health professionals alike; several of our green staples are being swapped for their lesser-known and still nutritionally packed black alternatives. Is black the new green?

You might be able to list a couple of black-coloured foods off the top of your head, but it might be a challenge. In any case, here's a breakdown of some super-healthy swaps you might want to try incorporating into your diet to change up the old standard.

Black tea: Just like its more famously antioxidant-loaded green counterpart, black tea is a nutritional hero in disguise. Black tea contains flavins which are compounds associated with improved memory and concentration levels. Other studies have also associated black tea with lower rates of certain cancers, such as stomach, prostate and breast cancer. It has also been shown to improve blood vessel function by up to 50%, which cuts the risk of developing heart disease and strokes.

Black lentils: Also known as beluga lentils, just one cup of these bad boys contains 8mg of iron, which is a hard find among vegetarian diets. Beluga lentils contain antioxidant pigments called anthocyanins which are also found in blue, purple and red foods, most notably berries. To cap things, lentils and other beans and pulses are high in fibre as well as protein, which helps boost immunity and repair muscle tissues.

Blackberries: In addition to being decadently sweet and tart, these beautiful berries are jam-packed with antioxidants and fibre. Blackberries contain the antioxidant compounds polyphenols and anthocyanins which can help reduce the risk of cancer by fighting free radicals in the body. In addition, these little gems are full of folate, vitamin C and manganese which can help support the immune system. One cup will only set you back 75 calories but will provide you with nearly 8 grams of fibre!

Black rice: We know that white, refined rice is the worst version of this grain, and that brown is superior. So what about black rice? Unbeknownst to many, it is actually a superfood that is revered in China, but it is not as popular over here. It turns out that the outer husk of black rice contains higher amounts of vitamin E than its counterparts, in addition to being high in fibre, iron, and once again, antioxidants. Studies have found that black rice plays a role in boosting memory function and reducing the risk of heart disease, thanks to its many nutritional virtues. In fact, just one spoonful of "forbidden" rice contains more anthocyanin antioxidant pigments than blueberries.

Black Soybeans: We're so used to the green ones that many people don't even realize they come in other colours. It's a good thing they do, though, because black soybeans are packed with isoflavones, fibre and the heart healthy omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid. Studies have found that black soybeans included in the diet can help fight obesity, lower cholesterol and cut the risk of diabetes. That's a lot of power in one food!

So before you find yourself sticking to your old fall-back while doing your groceries, why not switch things up with these superfoods? You've got nothing to lose!