By Kerri-Ann Jennings, M.S., R.D. Associate Nutrition Editor for EatingWell Magazine
Think that sprig of parsley on the side of your plate is just sitting there looking pretty or that mushrooms aren't particularly nutritious? Find out why these and four other "worthless" foods are better for you than you think.
Mushrooms don't have the bursting-with-nutrients reputation of more brightly colored vegetables like sweet potatoes or Swiss chard, but mushrooms are good for you. Although low in calories (just 20 calories per cup, or about five mushrooms), they deliver a meaty flavor, which makes mushrooms a satisfying replacement for all or some of the meat at dinner. They're also one of the few foods that deliver vitamin D -- four medium mushrooms provide 5 IUs of the vitamin; it's not a lot (the daily recommendation is 400 IUs), but it is notable. Lastly, there's emerging research suggesting that white button mushrooms contain phytochemicals that may help prevent breast cancer. More from EatingWell: 6 Foods You Think Are Healthy But Really Aren't 12 Superfoods for $1 or Less 11 Foods You Should Buy Organic Flickr photo by tony_the_bald_eagle
Iced tea is not only refreshing, it's good for you (as long as you drink unsweetened or very lightly sweetened tea, so you're not loading up on added sugars). Studies show that if you drink tea regularly, you may reduce your risk of Alzheimer's and diabetes, plus have healthier teeth and gums and stronger bones. How? Tea is rich in antioxidants called flavonoids, which are most potent when tea is freshly brewed. If you want to keep a batch of cold tea in your refrigerator, add a little lemon juice. The citric acid and vitamin C in that squeeze of lemon -- or lime, or orange -- help preserve the flavonoids. Flickr photo by Pen Waggener
Before you dismiss parsley as a purely decorative garnish on the side of your plate, consider this: just two tablespoons of parsley contains 156 percent of the daily value (DV) for bone-building vitamin K, 17 percent of the DV for vitamin C and 13 percent of the DV for vitamin A... and all for a mere 3 calories. Flickr photo by Erich Ferdinand
If you notice a layer of liquid on top of your yogurt, don't pour it off. That liquid is whey -- a naturally occurring protein in dairy. As Karen Ansel, M.S., R.D., reported in EatingWell Magazine, whey is also the component in dairy that researchers think may help you lose weight and gain calorie-burning lean muscle, according to research published in The Journal of Nutrition. Mice fed a high-fat diet that included whey gained 42 percent less weight, nearly a third less body fat and packed on 7 percent more lean body mass than mice that didn't eat whey, though both groups ate roughly the same number of calories. To get as much whey as the mice did, you'd have to take a supplement. Get some whey naturally from ricotta, milk and yogurt. Flickr photo by TinyTall
No one's been able to prove the myth that celery has fewer calories than are burned eating it, though it boasts just 16 calories per one-cup serving. It also delivers a great dose of bone-building vitamin K (47 percent of the DV in just two stalks!). Not only that, celery contains luteolin, a flavonoid believed to reduce inflammation that can lead to cognitive decline. In a study published in the Oct. 2010 issue of The Journal of Nutrition, mice that ate a diet that included luteolin had better spatial memory (e.g., how quickly they found a platform in a water maze) and less inflammation than mice who didn't get any luteolin, reported Cheryl Forberg, R.D., in EatingWell Magazine. Celery is one of the top offenders on the so-called "Dirty Dozen" -- the Environmental Working Group's list of the produce that has the most pesticide residue, so if you're concerned, buy organic. Flickr photo by TheDeliciousLife
Radishes are rich in naturally occurring nitrates -- which, unlike unhealthy artificial nitrates found in processed meat, may be beneficial. In a study published in the Jan. 2011 issue of the journal Nitric Oxide, older adults who ate a nitrate-rich diet got a boost in blood flow to the frontal lobe of their brains -- an area commonly associated with dementia. Poor blood flow contributes to age-related cognitive decline. Scientists think that the nitrates' nitric oxide, a compound that keeps blood vessels supple, helps increase brain blood flow. Another bonus for radishes? One radish has just 1 calorie. More from EatingWell: 6 Foods You Think Are Healthy But Really Aren't 12 Superfoods for $1 or Less 11 Foods You Should Buy Organic Flickr photo by Svadilfari
What foods do you love for their health benefits?
By Kerri-Ann Jennings
Kerri-Ann, a registered dietitian, is the associate editor of nutrition for EatingWell magazine, where she puts her master's degree in nutrition from Columbia University to work writing and editing news about nutrition, health and food trends. In her free time, Kerri-Ann likes to practice yoga, hike, bake and paint.
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