16 Exotic Foods You've Got to Try

Unusual fare, extraordinary health benefits

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Black Garlic

When garlic is fermented, it produces melanoidin, a dark substance that causes it to turn black. Cook with its fermented form to get all the health benefits of garlic without the pungent odor and killer breath. It contains two times more antioxidants than unfermented garlic and natural antibiotic properties, according to holistic nutritionist and private chef Tricia Williams. She recommends using it just like regular garlic to support a healthy immune system, particularly during cold and flu season.

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Wild Blueberries

Wild blueberries pack more antioxidant punch per serving than any other berry, including cultivated blueberries. They also outshine pomegranates and sweet cherries in anti-aging, anti-cancer and heart-healthy properties. Wild blueberries are sweet, tangy and generally smaller than their cultivated cousins. They have a short, six-week harvest time and only grow in certain parts of Maine and Canada. Due to their limited availability, wild blueberries are most readily found frozen, which are great to bake and cook with.

 

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Cocoa

Cocoa is a superfood when it comes to cardiovascular and metabolic health, according to a Harvard study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It's proven to improve blood pressure, endothelial health, and cholesterol levels and reduce the metabolic precursors leading to heart disease. Plus, a new University of California, San Diego study shows that adults who eat chocolate regularly tend to be thinner than those who don't. Munch on cacao nibs for a sweet antioxidant-packed snack in its most natural state.

 

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Hemp Seed

Hemp seeds are a complete plant-based protein rich in omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. They also contain nervonic acid, which is found in brain cell insulation and decreases your risk of obesity and heart disease, according to The Happiness Diet by Tyler Graham and Drew Ramsey, MD. Williams sprinkles them in salads or mixes them into a morning smoothie.

 

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Kukicha Twig Tea

This green tea from Japan has six times more calcium than milk, according to Williams. She prepares it hot or cold for patients, particulary with bone density issues. Kukicha is made from four types of stems, stalks and twigs, which are often excluded from teas and contribute to its unique flavor. It's creamy and has a sweet, mildly nutty flavor.

 

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Adzuki Beans

Adzuki beans have anti-inflammatory healing factors and assist in kidney and bladder functions—so much so that they're sometimes referred to as the "peeing bean," according to Williams. They're also full of soluble fiber, which keeps you fuller longer. Pair it with a grain to make a complete protein.

 

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Chia Seeds

The same seeds that provided a great head of "hair" for your chia pet, are the ones that'll keep you full for hours because they hold 10 times their weight in water. They're full of anti-inflamamatory properties and have a great fatty acid profile. Chia seeds also contain a lot of fiber to help keep your digestive system on track. 

 

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Jerusalem Artichokes

Make Jerusalem artichokes part of your meat-free meals. Also known as sunchokes, they deliver almost 30 percent of your daily recommended value of iron. They also help reduce cholesterol, according to Williams. 

 

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Fenugreek

Commonly found in curry, fenugreek has huge medicinal properties. It can be prepared in tea as a digestive aid or to help reduce fevers. "Fenugreek leaves you feeling clean and clear," according to Williams.  

 

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Seaweed

Seaweed provides a rich source of iodine—hundreds of times more than fish—which is crucial for a healthy thyroid, the gland that regulates metabolism. An underactive thyroid is linked to low energy, poor memory, depression, ADHD, migraines, weight gain, infertility, infection and heart disease, according to The Happiness Diet. Iodine is also necessary for proper brain development.

 

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Purslane

This wild weed doubles as a nutritious green. It's a good source of vitamin A. Purslane is also rich in omega-3s, particularly ALA, which is needed to produce other omega-3s vital to brain function and is linked to a reduced risk of depression, according to The Happiness Diet. Add it raw to salads and soups or saute it with veggies.

 

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Coconut Oil

Help new brain cells grow, fight inflammation and regulate hunger with coconut oil, which is rich in caprylic acid. Use it when baking to create "flaky pie crusts, crumbly scones and fluffy cupcake icing, all without butter," suggests New York Times food writer Melissa Clark.

 

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Komatsuna

This dark green, leafy vegetable is common in Asian cuisine. It's rich in vitamins A and C and is packed with calcium. Add it to soups and stir fries or saute it with garlic for a perfect side dish.

 

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Celeriac

That funny looking root vegetable with nobs and roots that you see in the supermarket is called celeriac, also known as celery root. It's loaded with digestion-promoting fiber, vitamins A, C and K and potassium. Try shredding it and mixing it with a dollop of mayo and a sprinkle of lemon, salt and pepper for a simple spin on celery remoulade, a classic French salad.

 

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Baobab

Baobab trees grow all over Africa and produce fruit enclosed in coconut-like shells. The seeds are coated in a pale powder, which people have been mixing into foods and drinks for centuries to boost health. Baobab is an excellent source of potassium, calcium and magnesium. It's also full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.

 

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Maca Root

Often referred to as the natural Viagra, maca root boosts libido, sexual function and overall energy. It's native to Peru and mostly sold in pill form here.

 

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Next: 27+ Age-Defying Eats

 

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First Published Tue, 2012-03-20 19:55

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