By Tiffany Gagnon Men's Fitness
Health foods get a bad rap for being bland and sometimes downright unpalatable, but there are plenty nutrition-boosting ways to satisfy sweet, spicy, and savory cravings. You don’t have to choke down boiled chicken breast or scary-looking health tonics to give your body the fuel it needs. Build muscle, pump up your immune system, and feel your energy levels soar with these 10 tasty foods.
1) Dark Chocolate
Any health-food junkie knows that if you're looking for a sweet treat, dark chocolate is the way to go. The secret to its reputation as a superfood: cacao beans. They've got the highest concentration of antioxidants of any known food, according to Brad Gruno, founder of Brad's Raw Foods. To reap the most benefits, pick a bar that's 70% dark or higher. Just keep in mind that the darker it is, the more bitter it will taste.
Flaxseeds won't overwhelm your taste buds, but they do have a subtle nutty flavor. They are one of the richest sources of a compound called alphalinolenic acid (ALA), an essential omega-3 fatty acid that may protect against heart disease and stroke. Your best bet: Eat flaxseeds ground to make their health-boosting benefits more available to your body.
Ginger is known for its powerful health benefits such as improving cardiovascular function, aiding digestion, boosting immunity, relieving pain, and reducing inflammation. And a small amount goes a long way in terms of both flavor and health. Add grated ginger to pressed juice or hot water, suggests Tanya Zuckerbrot, M.S., R.D. If you're looking to make a heartier meal, try these pear-ginger pork chops.
It's time to get cracking. Pistachios have a delicious buttery flavor, and a long list of health benefits. They're an excellent source of protein, fiber, antioxidants, and potassium. Plus, they contain healthy monounsaturated fats that may help lower bad cholesterol levels and protect against heart disease. Due to pistachios' ability to reduce the body's response to stress, they make the perfect afternoon pick-me-up. To avoid excess sodium, opt for unsalted nuts.
5) Goji berries
These tiny super berries pack a mean health punch. Native to Asia and Europe, Goji berries have long been used in traditional Chinese medicine. Believe it or not, they are a good source of protein, in addition to containing high levels of antioxidants and trace minerals, like copper, iron, zinc, calcium, germanium, phosphorus, and selenium. Oh, and the list goes on—they also contain B vitamins and vitamin E. Dried goji berries are a bit tangy, a little sweet, and have the same texture as raisins. Eat them by the handful or mix them into a homemade trail mix for a tasty superfood snack.
6) Acai berries
Acai berries have a deep purple hue and a sweet, tart flavor similar to that of a blackberry. They're one of the most popular superfoods out there, and are packed with an outstanding amount of antioxidants and plant chemicals. It's challenging to find the berries in the produce section of your grocery store, so the best way to get these guys into your diet is with a superfood smoothie. Most grocery stores stock frozen acai packets. Choose the purest option possible, meaning no added sugar.
Nothing tastes better than a juicy, ripe pineapple. On its own or blended into a smoothie, this fruit never fails to please the taste buds. Like all fruit, it naturally contains sugar, so moderation is key. Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain that helps improve digestion and also acts as an anti-inflammatory. If you'd rather not lug home a heavy pineapple, toss a few bags of frozen pineapple in your grocery basket—these are particularly handy when whipping up a healthy shake.
8) Greek yogurt
It's likely that this delicious snack is already a staple in your diet, but it would be wrong to leave it off this list. Non-fat Greek yogurt is creamy, decadent, and amazing for your body. On average, one eight-ounce serving offers up nearly 20 grams of muscle-feeding protein. You can eat it plain if you like, but the beauty of Greek yogurt lies in its versatility. From fresh fruit, to seeds and nuts, to honey or cinnamon, your add-in options are endless.
9) Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are like a gift from Mother Nature. When cooked, an enzyme in the potato breaks down the starch and turns it into something called maltose, which is responsible for the food's sweet flavor. Sweet potatoes are full of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for healthy vision, immunity, and for preventing some types of cancer. Sweet potatoes are also low in calories and high in fiber, making them an ideal food for weight loss or maintenance.
Garlic breath aside, this food is amazing. Raw or roasted, its flavor rating is through the roof, and it's also incredibly healthful. Garlic has been used for decades to help prevent colds to heart disease, and according to a study published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, eating raw garlic twice a week could cut your risk of developing lung cancer in half.