9 important foods you should be eating but aren't

Sure, you know you should be eating more fruits and vegetables, and less sweets and red meat.

But there are also foods out there that you probably have never heard of that can help make your diet even healthier.

Here are just a few of the foods that most Americans are ignoring that we should be eating instead. Everything on this list is either good for your body or good for the planet.

Banana peels.

Grilled bananas.

That's right, you can eat that handy package your banana comes in. Not only are banana peels edible, but they're also surprisingly healthy. The peels are high in fibre, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, potassium, and magnesium. To eat it, try blending some into smoothies or frying, baking, or boiling them until tender. Heat breaks down the fibre, making the peel easier to chew and digest.


Business Insider/Steven Tweedie
Exo blueberry-flavored protein bar.

Earlier this year, rap legend Nas invested in a company called Exo that makes protein bars out of crickets. Yes, crickets. The Brooklyn-based startup has $5.6 million in funding.

And Brooklynites aren't the only people hip to the value of bugs as food: The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation recently reported that eating insects could help reduce world hunger. Not only are bugs easy to raise; there are also lots of them! And, since they use less water than pigs or cows and feed on waste materials, they're far easier on the planet than other sources of protein.


Jackfruit being weighed, packaged, and sold by a vendor.

At markets around the world, vendors slice open monstrous yellow orbs called Jackfruit, hack out the fleshy bulbs of the inner part of the fruit, and sell them by the pound. Raw and ripe, the fruit tastes like a cross between a mango and a pineapple.

But young jackfruit can also be shredded, seasoned, cooked, and served up as an alternative to meat. I recently taste-tested some
. I
t was surprisingly tasty -- with a texture similar to pulled pork and a flavour that reminded me of a cross between hearts of palm and kimchi.

Some experts call jackfruit a 'miracle' crop, since so many parts of the Jackfruit tree can be used and because the fruit itself is so versatile and nutritious.
The flesh is high in calcium, iron, and potassium and low in fat. The edible seeds are good sources of protein.


Baked kohlrabi with cheese.

Kohlrabi -- aka that cream-coloured veggie you've never heard of -- is high in fibre, folate, vitamins C and B6, and potassium, and was included on the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention's list of 'powerhouse' foods.

All of the foods on the list pack a lot of key nutrients into each calorie and are linked with a reduced risk of chronic disease. Studies also suggest that people who eat more of them tend to be thinner and live longer than those who rarely or never eat them. A cup of raw kohlrabi packs just 37 calories but a whopping five grams of fibre. Try it baked.


Chicory salad.

Instead of adding kale to your next salad, try chicory. It's a flavorful addition to any food.

Chicory is also a good source of fibre, vitamins, folate, and zinc, and it's very low in calories. In fact, a whole cup of it raw is just seven calories.


An open raw breadfruit.

Breadfruit is found throughout regions with hot, sunny, moist climates, such as the Pacific Islands. The football-sized fruit is covered in prickly, geometric-patterned skin. When hacked open, it resembles a giant kiwi, and the flesh inside is whitish yellow.

Some have called breadfruit 'the perfect candidate for tackling world hunger,' and it's easy to see why. The trees are easy to grow (no seeds are required, merely a root and a pot of soil), and they begin bearing fruit in 3-5 years, according to the Hawaiian Breadfruit Institute.

Plus, it's good for you: Breadfruit is rich in energy-providing carbs but low in fat, and a single fruit packs about 10 bananas' worth of potassium.

Broccoli water.

Next time you boil a head of broccoli, don't toss the water! It's full of nutrients and can be used in soups, sauces, or even gravy -- wherever you'd normally use plain-old water. The reason you want to re-use it instead of just tossing it is because boiling the green veggie leeches its water-soluble vitamins.


Fried lionfish with mango salsa.

Lionfish, which are native to the western Pacific Ocean, are now an invasive species in the Caribbean, Atlantic, and the Gulf of Mexico. They eat anything and everything, and they have thrown the delicate balance of life in many of these waters into chaos.

Experts blame the problem on decades of dumping unwanted lionfish from home aquariums, and say the best way to control the population is to start eating them.

National Geographic describes lionfish -- which have venomous dorsal fins that can be painful to humans if stung -- as having 'moist, buttery meat.' Floridian fisherman are trying to build a commercial market for the fish in the state, which are mostly caught there in lobster traps.


Watercress salad.

The number one item on the CDC's 'powerhouse foods' list was a leafy green you've probably never heard of. Watercress is an easy addition to salads and it's easy to grow, too.

A 2012 meta-analysis of five studies that involved more than 179,000 people found a lower risk ratio of developing type-2 diabetes in people who ate the most fruit and veggies compared to those who ate the least. The link was strongest for green leafy vegetables like watercress, and it got stronger the longer the study progressed.

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