It's generally considered that if a food is "healthy," this means that it's low-calorie or low-fat. Of course, these are attractive health benefits, but it's easy to overlook the fact that a healthy body is one that is functioning to its fullest capability, and the foods that best help achieve this are the ones that should be considered the healthiest. You may not be aware of little-known health boosts that foods you eat regularly provide. Keep reading to learn which kitchen staples have unexpected health benefits that go beyond low calorie or fat quantities.
1. Lemon: Fatigue-Fighting
Lemon (Citrus limon) is renowned for its high Vitamin C content, which has been shown to kick-start the immune system. However, its fatigue-fighting properties remain less popular. The fruit's vitamins and unique phytocompounds can stimulate brain activity to aid concentration and alertness. For this purpose, it is commonly used in aromatherapy to counter fatigue. It has been argued that lemon has an energy-boosting abilities that are more immediately effective than water, so lemon juice is popularly added to water for long-exertion activities, such as hiking.
2. Tomato: Improves Eyesight
Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) contain copious amounts of vitamin A and its precursor beta-carotene, which have been found to sharpen vision by protecting the cornea. It is often used in commercial brands of eye drops to treat various eye infections, including some forms of conjunctivitis, and aid peripheral vision.
3. Natural Yogurt: Skin-Reviving
It is no secret that natural yogurt contains probiotics (i.e., "good for you" bacteria) that counter harmful microorganisms inside the body, but the benefits these properties offer the outside of the body are not so widely publicized. When applied to the skin, yogurt's antipathogenic abilities have rejuvenating effects that are especially beneficial to acne-covered skin.
4. Prune: Weight Loss Aid
The most famous use of the fiber in prunes (Prunus domestica) is undoubtedly in relieving constipation, but these soluble fibers can aid in weight loss, too. The fiber in prunes delays the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream after eating and slows the rate at which food leaves the stomach, which promotes a sustained feeling of satisfied fullness after finishing a meal. This helps prevent overeating, which, in turn, assists in maintaining a healthy weight.
5. Onion: Anemia Treatment
Among the numerous health properties of onion (Allium cepa), its antiseptic and immune-boosting properties are probably the most famous. On the other hand, one of its lesser known benefits is its effectiveness in treating anemia, due to its high iron content. Anemia is a red blood cell deficiency that causes tiredness, but it can be treated naturally by eating onions and other iron-rich foods, like nuts and whole grains.
6. Olive Oil: Cardiovascular Ally
Olive (Olea europaea) oil is not only a delicious kitchen staple, but it is also rich in unsaturated fatty acids like omega-3 and 6. Not only do these nutrients help moisturize the skin, but they also help protect against cardiovascular disease. Olive oil consumption as the main dietary source of fat is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.
By being aware of these unexpected benefits, you can plan strategic ways to use them. This could mean applying yogurt to your face rather than your breakfast cereal, or using lemon juice as an aromatherapy ingredient as opposed to a cooking one. Remember: to get the best from these foods, you don't necessarily eat them, and the health benefits of a food aren't necessarily limited on its fat or calorie content, but rather on the ways it promotes the optimum functioning of your body and your well-being.
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Olive oil intake and mortality within the Spanish population (EPIC-Spain), 2012
- Clinics in dermatology, Virgin olive oil as a fundamental nutritional component and skin protector, 2009
- University of California, Davis, Olive Center, Best Practices
- National Library of Medicine, Iron in diet | Vitamin A
- Journal of Cosmetic Science, Clinical efficacy of facial masks containing yoghurt and Opuntia humifusa Raf. (F-YOP), 2011
- Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition, Effects of Citric Acid and L-Carnitine on Physical Fatigue, 2007
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, Chemical composition and potential health effects of prunes: a functional food?, 2001