By: Nissa Simon
Colorful fruits and vegetables might get all the love, but some white foods have terrific health benefits, too. Here are a few to add to your shopping cart.
Plain-Jane white button mushrooms may increase the body’s resistance to the flu and other viral infections by boosting levels of a type of white blood cells that are a vital part of the immune system, Tufts University researchers reported in the Journal of Nutrition. Mushrooms also contain potassium to control blood pressure, dietary fiber to lower cholesterol, and selenium, which works as an antioxidant to protect body cells from damage.
Nicknamed nature’s wonder drug, garlic slows cell damage, reduces blood
pressure and helps prevent hardening of the arteries. It also contains compounds that help fight off colds and other infections. More good news: Garlic probably cuts the risk of developing colorectal cancer, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research.
A review from the University of South Australia published in the Journal of Nutrition found that people who ate raw or cooked garlic regularly could reduce their risk of developing colorectal cancer by as much as 30 percent. To activate its health-promoting compounds, chop or crush garlic five to 10 minutes before cooking or adding to other ingredients.
Parsnips take the prize among vegetables for their soluble fiber co
ntent: nearly a day’s worth in a cup-size serving. Soluble fiber has been shown to reduce total and LDL “bad” cholesterol levels. Parsnips are also packed with potassium to help protect against high blood pressure. Another plus: They’re rich in folate, a B vitamin that helps break down homocysteine, an amino acid associated with a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.
Sure, onions make your eyes water and your breath smell funky, but they provide a wonderful array of health benefits. To start with, onions may prevent bone loss, according to nutrition researcher Bahram Arjmandi, a professor at Florida State University in Tallahassee.
Research from the Medical University of South Carolina found that older women who ate onions every day were 20 percent less likely to have a hip fracture than women who ate them once a month or less. Onions are also rich in quercetin, a plant compound linked to controlling blood pressure. In addition, they contain a fat-soluble plant pigment that helps protect vision.
Yogurt’s bone-building calcium content and high-protein profile are well known, but this tangy food also has lesser-known benefits. It is high in potassium, says Rachel Johnson, a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont, “and diets high in potassium help maintain healthy blood pressure.
” Yogurt is also rich in probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that boost immunity. (Look for the words “live active cultures” on the label.) One analysis of probiotics by the well-respected Cochrane Collaboration notes that they cut the duration of colds by two days.
Popcorn is a great low-calorie source of fiber, which plays a starring role in reducing cholesterol levels and controlling blood sugar. But there’s more: It contains hefty amounts of concentrated cancer-fighting chemicals called polyphenols, according to research reported at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.
Unfortunately, the hulls, the part of the popcorn that gets caught in your teeth, have the highest concentrations of fiber and polyphenols, so keep a toothpick handy. And go easy on the butter and salt.
A one-cup serving of cauliflower provides nearly all of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C, an antioxidant that boosts immunity, reduces inflammation and may reduce the risk of developing heart disease. This nubby vegetable also is a good source of the nutrient choline.
Researchers at Boston University and Tufts University collaborated on a study that found people with high intakes of choline performed better on memory tests, according to their research published in a 2011 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Cream-colored chickpeas provide a considerable amount of zinc, a mineral that plays a vital role in strengthening communication between brain cells in the hippocampus, the part of the brain crucial to long-term memory.
Chickpeas, aka garbanzo beans, are champs when it comes to other minerals as well. They’re rich in manganese (which supports wound healing), copper (blood vessel formation and supple skin), phosphorus (strong bones and teeth) and magnesium (a healthy immune system).