You know that certain fruits and veggies -- spinach, tomatoes, blueberries -- are nutritional powerhouses, full of antioxidants, fiber, all the vitamins and minerals that keep you healthy. But did you know that some lesser-known produce has equally amazing health benefits? One recent study, for example, found that purple potatoes pack a serious nutritional punch not found in their more common white counterparts.
Here's why you should add them to your cart, along with 4 more surprisingly healthy picks.
1) Purple Potatoes
Even though low-carb diets are no longer the rage, potatoes still have a bad reputation for wrecking diets. Brand new research from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania comes to a different conclusion, at least about the purple variety. A study followed 18 overweight and obese people who also had high blood pressure. Participants were asked to either eat six to eight golf ball-sized purple potatoes for lunch and dinner, or stick to a potato-free diet. After a month, participants switched diet routines. Participants who ate potatoes saw a significant drop in their high blood pressure -- diastolic pressure fell an average 4.3 percent while systolic blood pressure dropped an average 3.5 percent.
This sweet white fruit is popular in Asia, but with its big health benefits, it should make its way into your cart, too. According to a 2006 study in the Journal of Nutrition, lychee has the second-highest level of heart-healthy polyphenols of 24 fruits tested. They were beat only by strawberries, and the study found they had nearly 15% more disease-preventing polyphenols than grapes. Lychee's powerful antioxidants may also help to prevent the formation of breast cancer cells, according to a recent test-tube and animal study from Sichuan University in China.
Try them: In your favorite fruit salad (you can buy the canned version), or puree them with broth and simmer to make a delicious sauce for chicken or pork.
Eat just one cup of this South American fruit, and you're getting 5 times as much vitamin C as a medium orange (377 mg versus 83 mg). Like other red fruits, including tomatoes and watermelon, guava contains lycopene, which may help prevent heart disease. And according to research by microbiologists in Bangladesh, guava can even protect against foodborne pathogens such as Listeria and staph.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest released a report in June 2011 comparing the nutritional info of 50 popular fruits. They ranked them based on the percentages of certain nutrients–fiber, vitamin C, potassium, folate, iron, calcium, and antioxidant-packed pigments called carotenoids–in each serving. Guava beat out apples, bananas, and grapes to be the number one fruit.
Try it: In delicious pastries, cobblers, and turnovers. Its tangy sweetness is nice alternative to cherries, berries, and other more common fruits.
4) Bok Choy
This leafy green cabbage is the number one veggie in China and boasts 10 times the recommended amount of vitamin A in just one cup. Packed with antioxidants, it's no surprise that several studies show that high intake of Brassica vegetables (a family of vegetables including kale, broccoli, and bok choy) may reduce the risk of certain cancers, including prostate cancer.
Try it: In the wok. Just add oil and ginger to make this delicious Stir-Fried Bok Choy recipe.
5) Asian Pears
Snack on one large Asian pear, and you'll get 10 g of fiber, nearly half of your daily recommended amount. So what's so great about fiber? Not only does it lower cholesterol, but it also keeps you full longer and helps to control blood sugar levels.
More from Prevention: