Uncommon, but healthy

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Certain unusual foods that can spruce up your daily diet while adding nutrients to a meal
Most of the time we try and stick to our usual regular meals and foods. And especially when we think healthy, only very few foods come to mind. But there are lots of different types of food available that are healthy and also add variety and spice to our meals. Here are some of these uncommon, but healthy kinds of food.
1. Edamame
These are young versions of green soybeans that are picked while still attached to their branches. In Japanese they literally mean ‘beans on branches’. These young soybeans are an excellent source of plant protein, antioxidants, iron and fibre. They have a slightly sweet and nutty taste, and can be steamed or cooked in a microwave. They can then be squeezed out of the pod and used as a crunchy snack, or added to soups, stews, casseroles and stir-frys. The beans can be pureed into hummus and enjoyed as a creamy dip if you add garlic, lemon and tahini (sesame paste).
2. Quinoa
Quinoa is becoming quite popular as a health food these days, and is excellent for people on a gluten free diet. Being a high protein grain it is a very good source of protein for vegans and vegetarians, and a good substitute to white flour. It is also a good source of fibre and low GI, and therefore allows long-term satiety. It also contains iron, calcium and magnesium for a healthy nervous system. Quinoa tends to have a slightly nutty flavour and firm texture. It is versatile and can be used instead of rice or added to desserts, stir-frys, puddings and patties. You can even prepare quinoa gluten free pancakes, muffin, breads and cookies. It can be used as a breakfast meal with honey, fruit and nuts, and in salads.
3.   Bulgur
Bulgur wheat is a wholewheat grain that has been cracked and partially pre-cooked. It is traditionally used in Middle Eastern cuisine, and is added to tabbouli and pilafs. Bulgur is richer in nutrients and vitamins than refined, processed wheat, which has been stripped of many beneficial ingredients. Low in fat, high in fibre and rich in minerals, bulgur wheat is a healthy dietary choice.
4.   Natto
Natto is a traditional Japanese dish made from soybeans fermented with the bacteria Bacillus Natto, which makes them easier to digest and absorb. It has a strong smell and you need to acquire the taste of eating natto. In Japan, it is a considered a strong health food and is often eaten at breakfast with rice and sometimes with mustard, soy sauce, broth, vegetables or a raw egg. Natto has the amount of protein equal to a lot of animal foods, but with fewer calories. Natto also contains vitamin K, which is needed for normal blood clotting and regulation of calcium in the body, keeping it in the bones and out of the arteries. In addition, natto provides vitamin E and vitamin B2, and contains an enzyme called nattokinase, produced during the fermentation process, which is said to help prevent blood clots.
5.   Wheat germ
Wheat germ is the most vitamin and mineral-rich part of the wheat kernel. In fact, the germ is actually the embryo of the wheat plant. But this kernel, which includes the wheat germ, is removed during the refining of wholewheat grains to white flour. Because its healthy oils can go rancid quickly, removing wheat germ helps in longer storage of wheat. It is packed with important B vitamins – such as folate, thiamin and vitamin B6, and the minerals zinc, magnesium and manganese. It is also a good source of Vitamin E. You can incorporate wheat germ into casseroles, muffins and pancakes, or sprinkle it over cereal or yogurt. The texture of wheat germ can add a great crunchiness and taste to these foods.
6.   Beets
Beets are a good source of both folate and phytonutrient betalains. Betanin and vulgaxanthin are the two best-studied betalains from beets, and both have been shown to provide antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory, properties. It is important to have beets raw or just sautéed with a little lemon juice and olive oil, as they lose nutrients when cooked.
7.   Seaweed
Since the last few years, seaweed has become a popular health food, from being included in sushi rolls to snacks made from seaweed. Some of the most popular edible seaweeds include deep green kombu, dried black hijiki, chewy red dulse, emerald wakame, bright, leafy sea lettuce, and dark, toasted nori.
Nori, which is a red seaweed that turns black and green when dried, is one of the most prevalent types for snacks. Nori is rich in proteins, fibre, Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin C. The wakame variety of seaweed is a good source of calcium and magnesium, and thus prevents osteoporosis. Raw seaweed is normally available at Asian supermarkets and can be cooked with a little olive oil and salt and pepper or added to salads.
Let’s break the habit of eating regular meals and snacks, and try to add these foods which might not be familiar, but are packed with health benefits and nutrition.

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