7 Foods With Surprising Health Benefits

These healthy foods below are often overlooked, but they pack plenty of nutrition.

When it comes to healthy eating, many people usually go with whole-wheat bread, chicken breasts, fresh veggies, and berries.

While these are all nutritious staples, you may be missing out on other good-for-you foods.  Want to shake up your usual rotation? Consider adding the foods below to your meals and snacks.  [source: consumer reports].



Some people think of grapes as little globes of sugar. It’s true they’re one of the sweetest fruits, with 12 grams of sugar per half-cup.

But the sugar in fruit is absorbed more slowly and doesn’t cause the same blood sugar spikes as table sugar, says Samantha M. Coogan, RDN, program director of the didactic program in nutrition and dietetics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Blood sugar spikes and crashes can deplete your energy and, over time, raise the risk for type 2 diabetes.

Eating grapes may actually fend off the disease. A 2013 analysis published in BMJ showed that having about three servings of grapes (and raisins) per week was linked to a 12 percent lower risk for type 2 diabetes. “Grapes also come packaged with fiber and vitamin K, which is important for heart and bone health,” Coogan says. Plus, they contain resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant that studies suggest may help reduce the risk of a list of chronic illnesses, including heart disease, some cancers, and Alzheimer’s disease.


Chicken Thighs

Dark meat has a reputation for being fatty, but the difference between chicken thighs and breasts is minimal.

Four ounces of skinless thighs have 200 calories and 2.6 grams of saturated fat vs. 180 calories and about 1 gram of saturated fat in the same amount of breast meat.

Chicken breast has slightly more protein but thighs contain more iron, a mineral lacking in many older adults’ diets.

Chicken thighs are less expensive, more flavorful, and easier to cook, says Elisabetta Politi, RD, a dietitian at Duke Lifestyle and Weight Management Center in Durham, N.C.

“They don’t dry out as quickly as breasts,” she says. For a quick dinner, toss thighs and vegetables with herbs, spices, and a little olive oil and roast at 425° F for 30 minutes.


Sourdough Bread

Even though most sourdough loaves are made with white flour, it’s a smarter pick than a traditional white bread.

The difference is that sourdough uses a fermented flour and water “starter” containing natural yeast instead of commercial yeast. (If yeast is in the ingredients list, the bread isn’t made with a fermented starter.) As the dough rises, it creates acids that slow the absorption of starches. As a result, “sourdough doesn’t raise blood sugar as quickly as regular white bread,” Politi says. According to a 2019 Italian review of research, sourdough has a lower glycemic index—a measure of how a food affects blood sugar—than unfermented white and whole-wheat bread.
Leftover Pasta, Rice, and Potatoes

Don’t toss out last night’s leftovers. Refrigerating cooked rice, pasta, and potatoes rearranges the starch molecules, forming a type of fiber called resistant starch. It’s broken down in the large intestine, which creates short-chain fatty acids that feed healthy bacteria in the gut. And blood sugar levels may rise more slowly after meals with resistant starch. According to a 2015 study in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, cooked white rice that had cooled for a day had 2.5 times the amount of resistant starch as freshly cooked rice—and led to a smaller blood sugar response. The amount of resistant starch didn’t change much when the cold rice was reheated. While more research on resistant starch is needed, studies suggest that it may help protect against diabetes, weight gain, and certain cancers.



When it’s not swimming in butter and salt, popcorn is one of the healthiest snacks.

“Popcorn is a whole grain,” Coogan says. “It’s high in fiber that slows digestion, so you feel full for longer.” A 3-cup serving delivers 3.5 grams of fiber—roughly 14 percent of the total amount you need each day—for only 91 calories.

This snack also packs in protective antioxidants called polyphenols. Research suggests that ferulic acid, one of popcorn’s antioxidants, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol buildup in the arteries, which may fend off diabetes and heart disease.

For the healthiest popcorn, make it yourself on the stove or in an air-popper and season it with a little avocado or olive oil or butter, salt, and spices. Bagged and microwave popcorn can be high in unhealthy saturated fat and sodium (check the nutrition facts label). And the bags used for microwave popcorn may contain harmful PFAS chemicals that may leach into the kernels.



Cabbage, the star of coleslaw, is rich in fiber, vitamin C, and glucosinolates, compounds that may protect cells against cancer-causing damage.

In a 2013 Annals of Oncology research review, people who ate the most cabbage slashed their risk for colorectal cancer by 24 percent compared with those who rarely ate the vegetable. And mayo, which is used to make coleslaw, is low in cholesterol-raising saturated fat; a half-cup of coleslaw has just 1.5 grams.



A staple in Korean cuisine, kimchi—made of veggies (usually cabbage) and hot pepper paste—adds a spicy, sour kick to meals.

Because it’s fermented, it delivers “good” bacteria called probiotics, which may help with inflammation, digestion, and gut health. According to a 2023 review in the Journal of Ethnic Foods, eating kimchi regularly was linked to a number of health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol, body fat, and blood pressure. It can also increase the diversity of the natural “good” bacteria that live in your gut.

Use it as a condiment in rice and egg dishes, or add it to sandwiches or tacos.

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