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Black or dark foods can provide lots of nutrients

September 14, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Health experts will tell you that the pigment you find in brightly-colored fruits and vegetables help protect you just like they do the plant itself.

The brighter the color, the more nutrients the plant has, but did you know that black foods are also rich in nutrients? We'll show you how to darken up your plate.

The things with the most rich colors are generally those with the most anti-oxidants.

In the world of plant chemicals, anthocyanins are phytochemicals that give blueberries their deep blue color, which not only protect the berry against oxidation, but also bugs and UV radiation. For humans, the dark-colored plant chemicals translate to fighting inflammation and protecting against certain diseases.

Some favorites are iron and fiber rich black beans, lentils, and garbanzo beans or chick peas.

Also check out darker grains, such as black rice and black barley. A quarter cup serving of barley offers eight grams of fiber, which is huge. It's a chewy texture perfect for soups or mixed with other grains.

A 2009 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found black soybeans had the highest levels of polyphenols, which are antioxidants that help protect against heart disease and cancer.

When it comes to produce, black raspberries, dark cherries and currants are sweet and healthy.

On the savory and spicy side, there's seaweed, black sesame seeds and black pepper as well.

These foods are easy to incorporate in your day. Shake some black sesame seeds into your teriyaki bowl, add black beans or black soybeans to chili and swap out or add black barley or black rice to your side dish.

If some of these grains and beans seem a little scary, why not stick with the tried and true? Some of the best dark foods are found in coffee, tea and chocolate.

See photos of darks foods that are rich in nutrients.

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