In the nutrition world, black foods are white-hot. The pigment that gives them their gothic hue provides a key antioxidant linked to anti-aging as well as heart disease and cancer prevention. So, in honor of Halloween, here of five of my favorite raven-colored foods, along with suggestions for adding them to your diet:
Black Quinoa: You may be familiar with golden or even red quinoa, but this whole grain also comes in black. I love to cook and chill it, then sprinkle onto a garden salad or fold it into organic soy yogurt along with fresh in-season fruit (right now sliced apples, pears, seedless grapes or persimmons), cinnamon and slivered almonds.
Black Rice: Recent research found that compared to brown rice, black rice packs more potent anti-inflammatory properties. That’s key because inflammation is a known trigger of aging and disease. It’s awesome in place of brown rice in any recipe, and I love it in stuffed peppers.
Black Sesame Seeds: These mineral-rich seeds contain natural properties that fight inflammation and lower cholesterol. I use them to garnish stir-frys, but I also love them in my ‘speedy slaw.’ I whisk together brown rice vinegar, freshly squeezed OJ, fresh grated ginger, orange zest, roasted garlic and white pepper, toss with shredded cabbage and garnish with black sesame seeds.
Black Olives: My favorite way to enjoy these gems, which are bursting with good-for-you fat, is in the form of tapenade. It makes a delicious (and healthier) alternative to mayo, and it’s an easy way to dress up beans. Just toss cannellini beans in black olive tapenade and add them to a garden salad, or serve along with veggie crudites and whole-grain crackers.
Black Mission Figs: A quarter cup (the size of a golf ball) packs 20 percent of the fiber you need daily, and figs also provide key minerals, including potassium, calcium and iron. I love to remove the stem, mince, and toss them into hot or cold cereal, or slice and fill with a mixture of nut butter combined with rolled oats and spices, or dip them in melted dark chocolate– yum!
Fun fact: Only 7 percent of people say black is their favorite color, but even fewer choose yellow at just 5 percent (blue is tops). What’s your favorite color or favorite black food? Please share your thoughts here or tweet them to @cynthiasass and @Shape_Magazine!
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.