The Black Market: Why Black Foods are Trending Right Now

These aren’t the greens you’re looking for.

No – if you’re considering a nutrient-rich diet, flush with antioxidants – it’s time to join the dark side.

Everyone from Men’s Journal to Oprah is touting the health benefits of black foods thanks to its key, shared ingredient: anthocyanins.

Anthocyanins are the pigments that are found naturally in colorful or dark foods (specifically red, blue, black and purple) that help signal the presence of some powerful nutrients. They can be found all over the plant, from the roots to the stem to the leaves to the flower, etc. And they’re packed with antioxidants which help boost your immune system and prevent disease.

Studies are even being performed to verify that these anthocyanins offer anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-cancer fighting agents as well.

Who would have thought that these dark, unassuming foods actually pack the power to lower your risk for health disease and even keep cancer at bay? The reality is that black foods are one of the healthiest food hues available.

Men’s Journal interviewed Corey B. Schuler, a functional medicine nutritionist at the Metabolic Treatment Center, to get his take on going to the dark side: “I encourage weekly, and in some cases daily, consumption of black foods due to high polyphenol, phytonutrient, antioxidant and vitamin and mineral concentration.”

So, how do you add these onyx-hued veggies, fruits and grains into your diet?

Nikken Foods breaks down the key black foods that fit nicely into your meal prep:

Black foods as a drink:

Black Coffee / Espresso – Skip the cream and sugar and you’ll have a concentrated dose of antioxidants which help reduce your chance of heart disease. If you can keep to just a couple cups a day, the caffeine proves a great boost to blood flow and circulation (not to mention the mental boost!)

Black Tea – Regular consumption of black tea introduces your system to theaflavins, an anti-inflammatory aid which reduces muscle soreness, risk of stroke and heart attack. Drink up!

Black foods as an appetizer:

Black Sesame Seeds – These can precede a meal or a workout due to how much protein they pack, which makes muscle-building and repair easier. Plus, their omega-3 and 6 fatty acids give you the healthy fat you need. Grind these down into butter or tahini and spread across crackers or consider double-downing on the good fat by adding these sweet, nutty seeds to the top of a fatty fish like salmon.

Black Mission Figs – This particularly sweet and jammy treat has less sugar than raisins or dates and is an excellent source of potassium. Thanks to its high-fiber content, figs aid digestion, weight loss and lower blood pressure. Pro tip: Fresh figs go well with peanut butter.

Black Olives – Looking for something tasty to set out before the big meal? Black olives are a great healthy option and are a wonderful source of the monounsaturated fat (more of the good kind of fat). Thanks to the intrinsic oleic acid, each bite may help lower your blood pressure, reduce your risk of heart disease and fight off cancer.

Black foods as an entrée:

Black Beans – Cut the sodium out of the equation and give your digestive tract some support with this protein and fiber boost. Also, if you’re keeping count – black beans are a great source of calcium, copper, magnesium, phosphorous and zinc to help build and support bone strength. As a filler to any meal, black beans enhance your salad, soup, sandwich or side.

Black Rice – Did you know rice can be more nutrient-rich than most berries? If you choose black rice, you can expect a nutty, earthy flavor that easily replaces brown rice for similar meals and kicks up your intake of antioxidants, fiber and Vitamin E.

Black Garlic – The dark side of garlic actually differs very little from regular garlic, though it has a milder taste which makes it the easy choice for more garlic-shy consumers and it tends to have more antioxidants. Nevertheless, it contains allicin which helps increase your heart health. Feel free to use in any of the ways you’d typically cook with garlic.

Black Forest Mushrooms – The black trumpet, shiitake and wild morels are all great sources of antioxidants as well as a compound that helps boost your immune system. The black forest mushrooms are usually dried and can be re-hydrated to enhance the flavor of your soup, veggies or pasta.

Black Pasta – And speaking of pasta, the use of squid ink to your noodles adds a black-blue color and a rich umami taste. This traditional food additive is found in Japanese and Mediterranean dishes due to its savory flavor, but it’s also touted for its various health benefits, including reducing blood pressure, combating stomach ulcers and boosting your immunity system.

Black foods as a dessert:

Blackberries – Researchers at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging claim that the polyphenols found in dark berries help reduce the cognitive decline of old age and actually clean up the cells that impair brain function. Not a bad way to remove any guilt for having seconds for dessert.

Dark Chocolate – Speaking of doing dessert the right way – the purer the cocoa the better! Dark chocolate is rich with antioxidants which are also linked to brain health. Men’s Health recommends opting for 3 ounces of 65% cacao or higher.

Ready to join the dark side and find the perfect ingredients for your next meal? Visit Nikken Foods and discover what’s possible across our wide range of high-quality specialty ingredients.