Healthy Foods That Aren't Spoken About

Growing up in Jamaica, organic food was the only type of food I would have. My mother, in addition to eating naturally healthy food in Jamaica was also a health nut, and my life has been filled with testimonies of healthy foods from books and newsletters, to standing in Whole Foods comparing ingredients; I have seen it all. We have all heard of the conventional superfoods: kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts (which I despise because they’re like mini evil cabbages). However, I decided to make a list of some superfoods that aren’t spoken about as much as they should be.

 

1. Coconut oil

Coconut oil is a well-rounded superfood. It is good for cooking, hair and skin care, improving immunity, and digestion. Ninety percent of the fats in coconut oil are healthy saturated fats. These fats are processed by the liver, turning them into fuel rather that fat that is stored, giving you the most energy out of your food (and the automatic effects of a workout). It protects the liver and prevents heart disease as well as high blood pressure. It also has cancer prevention properties and reduces arthritis. In addition to improving immunity, as stated above, it also improves brain function. It improves digestion by helping the body to better absorb vitamins, calcium and magnesium.

Additionally, it is my favorite oil to use on my hair. My hair doesn’t come together very well and is often frizzy and dull looking. Using coconut oil helps to bring my hair together without using damaging gels or sprays and gives my hair a better sheen. I must warn you though, that if you have scalp issues, coconut oil may not be helpful. I personally know quite a few people who cannot use coconut oil when they have scalp problems because coconut oil makes their scalp flaky.

 

2. Nuts

Did you know they are technically fruits? And peanuts, though officially characterized as legumes, are often included in the nut family because they have similar nutritional characteristics. Nuts as a whole are filled with omega-3 fatty acids that help fight inflammation and vitamin E that help prevent buildup of plaque in the arteries. Nuts have lower “bad cholesterol” and higher doses of “good cholesterol,” Though nuts have similar nutritional benefits, each type of nut has different nutrients and healthy properties, so it is best to eat a variety of nuts to utilize all of their nutritional benefits. My mother always tells me that a good portion is a handful (or 9 nuts). This is because nuts are high calorie foods and this serving size will help to regulate your calorie intake.

 

3. Olive Oil

Like coconut oil, olive oil is also versatile. It is used in cooking, hair, and skin care as well. Using two tablespoons of olive oil daily can reduce the risk of heart disease. It is good for cleaning the colon and is therefore a good detox, not to mention it is great for preventing gallstones. It is known to help lower the risk of bowel cancer and breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Olive oil has natural anti-aging properties, so it is widely used in beauty products. Like nuts, it also regulates cholesterol levels. It does this by cleaning the bladder of “bad cholesterol.”

 

4. Cerasee

Cerasee, originally from the Middle East and Africa, has spread throughout the world. Jamaicans always give cerasee to children with the claim that it “cleans the blood.” It is often boiled and consumed as tea and will be mixed with other herbs to make a bath to cure skin illnesses. It is consumed to help cure fevers and colds, constipation, parasitic worms and diabetes. Because of its ability to aid in constipation, it makes a great detoxer. But beware: you do not know the definition of bitter until you drink cerasee tea.

 

5. Sorrel

Native to West Africa and also known as roselle, its fruit is used by Jamaicans to make a drink - simply called sorrel - that we drink during Christmas season. While Jamaicans tend to only use the fruit, many places use the leaves of  sorrel in savory dishes such as soup. When only the leaf is used, it is referred to as spinach dock or narrow-leaved dock. Sorrel is good for skin problems and for prevention against diabetes and cancer. It is strengthens the immune system, heart, and is good for digestion. The sweet, tangy taste of the sorrel fruit is caused by oxalic acid which can become poisonous when consumed too much. However, I am not sure what is meant by too much, because Jamaicans use no discretion when consuming sorrel, and as is evident, our population is still thriving.

 

6. Dark Chocolate

Who knew everyone's favorite food could be healthy? Dark chocolate reduces the chance of  arteriosclerosis, which is the hardening of the arteries. Consuming small of amounts of dark chocolate 2-3 times a week can help to lower blood pressure and increase blood flow to the brain, improving cognitive ability. And since it contains caffeine, but much less than coffee, it helps to stimulate you on those sleep deprived days without excessive, unhealthy doses of caffeine. Dark chocolate helps the brain to produce the same chemicals it does when you are in love, thereby improving your mood.

One of the reasons I included cerasee on this list is because it amazes me how certain cultures have had good eating habits for generations and they are often ignored until a scientist comes up with a “genius experiment” and “discovers” the benefits of a certain super food. This phenomena hit home for me when I moved to America and the scientists on TV were raving about how great of a discovery cerasee was and all its benefits; my family couldn't help but laugh.  

 

Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

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