Surprisingly Healthy Foods

Four foods that fly under the nutrition radar but shouldn’t.


Eating right doesn’t have to mean all veggies, all the time. Here are four everyday foods that fly under the good-nutrition radar. Adding these good guys in disguise to your diet may offer arthritis pain relief, fight inflammation or reduce your risk of related conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

“White” bread. Whole wheat and whole-grains are typically higher in fiber and other nutrients than refined grains. “But don’t diss white flour,” says Julie Miller Jones, PhD, professor emeritus at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minnesota. White flour is fortified with folic acid, which helps break down homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood that may promote atherosclerosis – the build-up of artery-clogging plaque, which can be common in those with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Even better news for white-bread fans: Some manufacturers, like Pepperidge Farm, are now using a variety of whole-wheat flour that’s softer in texture and, yes, white in color. And because white whole wheat isn’t refined, it’s a whole grain – offering more fiber and nutrients than its processed counterpart. Look for “whole grain white” on bread labels. King Arthur also sells whole-grain white flour for baking.

Mushrooms. Think of them as more than a salad garnish. They’re are a great source of key dietary nutrients – including copper, which helps the body produce red blood cells, and potassium, which benefits the heart, muscles and nerves. Some mushrooms  – those exposed to UVB light during processing – are also a decent source of vitamin D, which helps our bodies absorb calcium to build and maintain strong bones. Studies suggest that ample vitamin D may play a role in overall health as well.

Commercially-grown mushrooms exposed to UVB light for just 15 to 20 seconds pack as much as 100 percent of your daily value per 3-ounce serving. To find the D-lightful fungi, look for packaged mushrooms labeled “high in vitamin D.” Mushrooms sold in bulk aren’t treated with UV light because they can’t be labeled as such.

Chocolate. This crowd-pleaser is not only rich in flavor, but also in flavanols – antioxidants that may help keep arteries clear, reduce the stickiness of blood platelets to reduce the risk of heart attack and lower blood pressure by improving blood vessel elasticity. But chocolate isn’t just heart healthy.

A 2012 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who consumed any type of chocolate more frequently – an average of two times per week – had a lower body mass index than those who consumed chocolate less often. Researchers say that from this study, you can’t infer that eating chocolate leads to weight loss – but they add that something about chocolate may play a role, and the sweet stuff warrants further study.

Get recipes with heart-healthy cocoa powder here

Popcorn. The savory whole-grain snack offers more inflammation-fighting antioxidants, known as polyphenols, per ounce than fruits and vegetables – up to 300 mg per 4-cup serving, according to Joe Vinson, PhD, an antioxidant researcher and chemistry professor at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.

“Popcorn is also a good source of fiber, which can help relieve the gastric issues often associated with rheumatoid arthritis,” says Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian and assistant professor in the department of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Fiber is also linked to lower inflammation and may add years to your life. But make sure it’s air-popped – and not doused in butter – to keep tabs on fats and calories.

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