I can’t tell you how many times I have spoken about using food as medicine. This topic always sneaks its way into most all of my presentations, lectures, webinars, etc. I spend a lot of time educating and promoting the consumption of whole organic fruits, veggies and grains; making sure to incorporate as many colors on your plate at a time as possible. This is because each color carries a different nutritional benefit for your body, and it is therefore very important for you to not leave any out of your diet. But, what about the black foods? No one seems to ever mention that color…they haven’t exactly gotten the same press as the greens!
“The Blacker the Berry…”
Most of you already know that antioxidants are a key health benefit for us; but how many of you knew that black or dark foods are even more powerful antioxidant powerhouses? In fact, black foods have more antioxidants than light-colored foods because of their high pigment content. One particular antioxidant from the dark side is the superstar anthocyanin. The most concentrated natural sources of anthocyanins are purple, blue, red, and black whole foods including spices and seeds! Studies suggest anthocyanins can help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, various cancers, vision acuity problems, etc.
Black Super Foods
Ready to take some notes? I’m going to list eight super healthy black foods for you to try to add to your diet as soon as you can! Some you may have already tried, and some may be new for you and your family. Have fun looking up new recipes on how to creatively incorporate these into your meals, and begin reaping the health benefits they carry as Super Foods!
- BLACKBERRIES: These berries are not only very easy to find at your local grocery store, but they also carry the potential to provide you with a nice amount of fiber and anti-aging qualities. I absolutely love blackberries, and like to incorporate them in my own diet by tossing them into a smoothie; a bowl of cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt; or just snacking on them plain by themselves, or with other berries!
- BLACK GRAPES: Believe it or not, black grapes actually contain even more anthocyanin than blackberries! Pay close attention to the skin color of the grapes as you pick them out from amongst other grapes…the darker it is, the more antioxidants is has. Want even more health benefits? Chose the ones with seeds. Numerous studies have revealed tremendous health benefits behind not only the black grape, but also the grape seed itself, including heart health, brain health, blood sugar regulation, etc. Sometimes, as a healthier alternative to popsicles/ice cream, I’ll freeze my grapes for a sweet frozen treat!
- BLACK PEPPER: Black pepper does wonders for your food digestion, as well as nutrient absorption. For several decades, it has also demonstrated impressive antioxidant and antibacterial effects. As if all of this wasn’t enough, not only does black pepper help you derive the most benefit from your food, but the outer layer of the peppercorn stimulates the breakdown of fat cells, keeping you slim while giving you energy to burn. You can buy black pepper whole, crushed or ground into powder. To ensure the best flavor, I’d recommend buying the whole peppercorns and grinding them yourself in a mill just before adding to a recipe. In addition to superior flavor, buying whole peppercorns will also help to ensure that you are purchasing pure pepper, since ground pepper is often times mixed with other spices.
- BLACK LENTILS: Although the black lentils are not as common as the green and yellow ones, they still carry the most health benefits. For instance, in just one serving you can load up on iron (around 8mg), along with a ton of fiber and protein. I think my personal favorite way to incorporate lentils into my diet would be in my soups, chilies, and stews!
- BLACK TEA: This type of tea is easy to find, and all you need is one cup to benefit from a healthy dose of antioxidants. One study done on black tea discovered that it actually reduces inflammation recovery time and muscle soreness after an aggressive workout! I like to have a cup of black tea in the mornings (vs. coffee). During the hot summer months, I like to fill a pitcher with it, freeze or refrigerate, and enjoy it cold as refreshing iced tea!
- BLACK RICE: Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE rice!! So any diet that requires me to abstain from it is usually not for me. It was such a relief to find that I could still eat rice; I just had to be wise in my selection of the type. Looking for a healthier alternative to white rice? Tired of using brown rice as the substitute? Well, black rice may be your answer! It’s pretty readily available in most grocery stores now, and contains about six times more antioxidants than white or brown rice. I love the rich, nutty flavor of black rice…and sometimes, to “tame” the smoky, robust taste, I’ll cook mine in almond milk rather than water!
- BLACK BEANS: Black beans are packed full of so many antioxidants (bioflavonoids) that they had to be elevated to the Super Food level. Packed with protein and fiber, they’re good for energy, maintaining blood sugar levels, and digestion. I’ve enjoyed black beans in soups/chilies, salads, and dips…but I’d have to say, my favorite way to consume them is as a good old black bean burger!
- BLACK GARLIC: Black garlic offers nearly twice the amount of antioxidants as white garlic! I’m sure you’re wondering what makes this garlic black in the first place…well, the black color in this Super Food is the result of the sugars being drawn out of the garlic cloves during the fermentation process. You’ve probably enjoyed this caramelized garlic in a few Asian dishes. Its taste is commonly described as “a perfect mix of molasses-like richness and tangy garlic undertones”.
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Katherine Igah-Phillips, MD, MHA
Returning to Nature, LLC.