Dear goji berries, maca, spirulina, and lucuma: congrats on your much-deserved moment in the spotlight. Ever since you burst onto the health-food scene beaming in colorful hues and tasting the way no one’s ever tasted before, all of a sudden, bananas seemed so basic.
Don’t get us wrong. We love all of you new-school superfoods—A LOT. But it’s about time we bring back some of the old-school ones that have been cast aside for long enough. Here are five that will always have a place in a clean-eating kitchen, plus new ways to enjoy them.
Behind the peel is a fruit full of fiber—particularly pectin, which can help slow digestion and keep you fuller longer. Bananas are also a prebiotic-rich food—meaning they can feed the good bacteria in the gut that keeps everything moving. Their high potassium levels may also lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. They’re rich in vitamin B6 that can protect against type II diabetes and strengthen the nervous system. We all know no smoothie is the same without a little bit of creamy banana, so give them the props they deserve.
We get it—everyone loves kale. But don’t forget about its cruciferous cousin. Broccoli is sometimes underrated, but it’s no joke when it comes to beneficial nutrients—every serving packs in calcium, fiber, and antioxidants like vitamins C and A and beta carotene. In a small study of 81 diabetics, consuming 10 grams of broccoli powder daily showed a reduction in cholesterol and triglycerides—an effect that could be combative against heart disease. Broccoli’s polyphenols (plant-derived compounds that have antioxidant properties) may also slow the growth of cancer cells. Good thing it’s so versatile: it works well in various dishes, like an Asian stir-fry, sprinkled into a salad, or as a roasted side dish.
Speaking of cruciferous veggies, throw cabbage into the mix, too. Like broccoli, its phytonutrients—chemicals that occur naturally in plants to protect them from germs, fungi, bugs, and other threats—may also stave off cancer. The most prominent are glucosinolates. These contain sulfur (hence the bitter taste), which helps maintain keratin, a protein that promotes healthy hair, skin, and nails, in the body. Cabbage’s high vitamin K content may also optimize mental function and concentration, as well as defend against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
How many people these days sit down to spoon out the bittersweet flesh of a grapefruit? It’s kind of a retro image in an era of Instagram-worthy smoothie bowls, right? But give grapefruit a chance, especially if you’re looking to drop a few pounds. A small study of 91 obese patients found that eating half of a fresh grapefruit before meals could lead to significant weight loss, as well as improved insulin resistance. Not to mention, it’s got tons of vitamins C and A.
Okay, it probably doesn’t get more old-school than this. Shriveled up old prunes may have an uncool rep for being a staple in grandma’s pantry, but think of them as what they really are—dried plums—and suddenly they seem a little more alluring. The anthocyanins that give them their beautiful hue are anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic, and could potentially prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes, as well as control obesity—all due to their antioxidant activity. And hey, the high levels of vitamins A, K, and B6, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, potassium, and manganese aren’t too shabby, either! That’s a lot for such a tiny, forgotten fruit.
Try: Sprinkling them atop salads, or baked into cookies or bread
Don’t sleep on these throwback superfoods. You can have your goji berries and eat these, too.
Photo credit: Alicia Cho