Publix GreenWise Market Magazine - Fall 2011
|Elegant and understated, ebony is showing up on fashionable dinner plates everywhere. But here's the kicker: Dark-hued foods also pack dramatic health perks. |
The midnight shades of foods like black beans and black olives go beyond eye-catching. They also can signal health benefits that their paler cousins can only dream about.
As with the crimson of strawberries and the emerald of spinach, black is a beacon for a variety of health-protective compounds, says Navindra Seeram, Ph.D., of the Bioactive Botanical Research Laboratory at the University of Rhode Island. Anthocyanins, which give many black foods their dusky hue, may help combat cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes and heart disease. They also act as antioxidants and potential anti-inflammatory agents. Other dark foods such as black tea also contain beneficial elements like polyphenols.
Turn to black foods -- like the examples shown here -- whenever you want eye appeal that comes with a powerful health punch. Spoon blackberry chutney over meats, sprinkle whole black peppercorns over steaks and flavor desserts with dark chocolate. After all, black food is the new black.
1. Black Popcorn
Nutrition highlights: Plain popcorn -- low in fat and high in fiber -- is one of the healthiest snacks you can reach for. Researchers report that black popcorn is higher in antioxidants compared with other varieties of the snack.
Eat it up: Surprise guests twice: show them the black kernels, then let them watch it pop up white. Or make a healthy snack by tossing together black popcorn, granola, dried fruit and nuts.
Nutrition highlights: Their glistening purple-black is a clue to blackberries' rich store of the powerful antioxidants anthocyanin and ellagic acid. Animal studies show that blackberries may even protect against dementia.
Eat it up: Pop a fresh blackberry into your mouth and let the flavor explode. Puree berries with freshly ground black pepper into a potent sauce to slather over pork tenderloin. Or pair them with dark chocolate brownies.
3. Dark Chocolate
Nutrition highlights: Thank the potent polyphenols found in cocoa for the potential heart-health benefits of dark chocolate. But don't fall for light-color milk chocolate with only 7 to 35 percent cocoa content. Keep it real -- and dark -- by looking for at least 70 percent cocoa.
Eat it up: Dark chocolate is about much more than decadent volcano cakes. Whip it into a souffle, toss bits into homemade trail mix with nuts and dried fruit, or stir cocoa powder into a Mexican mole sauce.
4. Black Pepper
Nutrition highlights: Peppercorns have long been prized for their flavor and medicinal value. Rightly so: The BB-size berries brim with antioxidants that may aid digestion, protect against cancer and boost metabolism.
Eat it up: Black pepper ups the flavor of just about everything, from eggs to cottage cheese. Take it to another level by studding cuts of meat and poultry with cracked black peppercorns before grilling for a true pepper rush.
|5. Black Olives|
Nutrition highlights: These glossy fruits contain a stash of several potentially health-boosting compounds, including polyphenols, antioxidants and monounsaturated fats.
Eat it up: Beyond canapes and pizzas, mix a medley of black olives from different regions, such as Kalamata and Niçoise, to lend incredible color and flavor to dishes like lemon-roasted chicken and chunky tomato sauce with pasta.
6. Black Beans
Nutrition highlights: One cup of the ebony gems has 60 percent of your daily fiber quota, helping keep cholesterol levels down and blood sugar stable. And black beans are antioxidant stars due to their levels of anthocyanins.
Eat it up: Black beans are a Tex-Mex staple, and not just in burritos. Pair them with quinoa as a side dish, toss them over romaine for a hearty salad or puree them into a black hummus.
7. Black Tea
Nutrition highlights: Green tea may hog the headlines, but don't under-estimate black tea. It has lower levels of potentially health-protective catechin polyphenols compared with green, but boasts higher amounts of other polyphenols. Studies link black tea to protection from cancer and heart disease.
Eat (or drink) it up: Enjoy hot black tea with lemon and honey or poured over ice. Add steeped black tea to rice dishes, quick breads and soups in place of water for a unique flavor bump.
Sources: National Institutes of Health, University of Kentucky, Alzheimer's Association, Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, U.S. Department of Agriculture, McCormick Science Institute, American Heart Association, National Cancer Institute, American Diabetes Association, Harvard School of Public Health