When you think of healthy food, you might imagine fruits and vegetables that are green, red or yellow in color. But what about brown? Foods of this color are significant in the battle against obesity and diabetes. There are brown foods that can fight inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, and lower blood glucose levels.
In this article, we cover 17 amazing brown foods that are delicious and – for the most part – also healthy!
What makes foods brown?
Brown and white foods are rich in phytochemicals such as allicin, known for their antiviral and antibacterial properties. Look for this pigment in onions, mushrooms, cauliflower, turnips, peas, and garlic.
Oxidation occurs when oxygen reacts to compounds called polyphenols with the help of enzymes called polyphenol oxidase. This damages the fruit tissue, turning it brown. But brown is not a sign of spoilage. You would have to leave it out for a few days before it would spoil from oxidation. This brown color is actually from a non-toxic chemical called melanin. It’s in everything, from fruit to the irises of your eyes.
Another way in which the brown color appears in certain foods is because of the roasting process. Roasting exposes foods to a high temperature for a certain amount of time. This brings them to a semi-burnt state, giving them that characteristic brown color.
The List: 17 Brown Foods
Almonds are a very heart-healthy nut. They are loaded with monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, fiber, and essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. It is also true that almonds, like most nuts, are high in calories and carbohydrates. Just one ounce of almonds contains an eighth of your daily protein needs.
In spite of the high calorific value, they have been linked to a decreased risk of obesity. This is mainly due to their protein and fiber content, which helps control glucose and satiate appetite, meaning that eating some of these nuts can make you less hungry. Recent studies have shown that regular consumption of almonds can improve gut health and reduce the risk of heart disease.
2. Brown Mushrooms
Mushrooms are an excellent food because there are so many ways to add them to your diet. They can be eaten on pizzas, in sandwiches, or added to any sauce. They are a very healthy brown food.
One characteristic of this type of mushroom is that it is low in calories and contains no fat or cholesterol. Some of the most famous varieties are morels, porcini, and shiitake.
Like all other brown foods, brown mushrooms are high in antioxidants. This helps to protect the body from free radicals. It also strengthens the immune system.
Brown mushrooms are full of nutrients such as vitamin B. They are one of the best brown foods to include in your diet, as they have a direct impact on the digestive system and red blood cells.
3. Brown Rice
What differentiates this brown food from its non-brown variant is that it’s composed of whole grain, including the husk. Those who eat it will have already noticed that it takes longer to cook than non-brown rice. This is because it is not as processed. It is much more nutritious, rich in calcium and fiber, minerals, and several vitamins.
Its health benefits include preventing obesity and regulating cholesterol. It is also suitable for people who have diabetes as it contains a low glycemic index.
All these nutritional benefits and its low number of calories make this one of the healthiest brown foods around.
4. Brown Sugar
Brown sugar is extracted from sugar beet or sugar cane. Both white and brown sugar go through the same refining process where moisture and minerals and extracted. The byproduct of refined sugar is molasses, and this is then reintroduced to brown sugar products which means it has more nutrients. Brown sugar is much lower in calories compared to white sugar, and has a distinctive taste.
The main nutrients found in brown sugar are iron and potassium, essential for a healthy body and nervous system. It also contains calcium, important for the health of our bones, and, like white sugar, provides a quick supply of energy.
The chestnut is the fruit of the chestnut tree, a deciduous tree mainly found in the Northern Hemisphere. It should not be confused with the so-called horse chestnut or the water chestnut, which produces fruit of similar appearance.
The chestnut is not so much the fruit itself as the seed. Chestnut fruits are easily recognized as a kind of globe or dome covered with slightly hairy thorns. Inside are two or three achenes, which are chestnuts. Their size can vary between two and four centimeters, with a convex or convex-plane base and a hard shell called endocarp. Chestnuts are dark brown when ripe.
Although they are a nut, chestnuts have a relatively lower calorific content, as they are less fatty. They only provide about 37 calories per ounce in the raw. This rises to 70 when roasted, since the percentage of water they contain is reduced.
They are a great source of quality carbohydrates, satiating and rich in fiber, with a low sugar content. This makes them a great, healthy, energy food. They are rich in minerals such as potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium, and provide a small amount of group B and C vitamins. They also have antioxidant properties.
These characteristics make chestnuts a perfect food to enrich your diet with essential nutrients. They are a useful addition to slimming or maintenance diets. They are a handy and healthy snack between meals.
Chickpeas are an excellent source of vegetable protein and soluble fiber. A 1-ounce serving has only 34 calories and, although it contains 75% carbohydrates, it also has 16% protein and is low in fat.
Along with other legumes with complex carbohydrates, it provides a slow release of energy. This is important for people suffering from prediabetes or diabetes, since it allows an adequate utilization and control of glucose.
Fast food contains simple carbohydrates which are too quick to digest, rapidly raise blood sugar, and leave us hungry soon after consumption. In contrast, chickpeas fill you up and maintain consistent and longer-lasting energy levels.
The fiber in chickpeas and other legumes helps to lower cholesterol and maintains good gut health.
Evidence indicates that people who do not eat legumes are four times more likely to suffer from high blood pressure than those who eat them regularly.
Milk chocolate is a brown-colored food. While not as healthy as dark chocolate, due to the fat and sugar content, it is still packed with potent polyphenols, and these flavonoid polyphenols can reduce inflammation and may even help reduce arterial plaque.
As for calories, one ounce of milk chocolate contains 152 calories, which is lower than dark chocolate despite containing more sugar. The mental health benefits of treating yourself to some chocolate cannot be overstated!
Cinnamon is a sweet, brown spice that comes loaded with health benefits. It gets its warm color from the inner bark. Although this spice doesn’t contain many minerals or vitamins, it has large amounts of antioxidants that fight numerous diseases.
Studies show that cinnamon can lower blood sugar levels after meals by slowing digestion. In addition, research shows that cinnamon can reduce the risk of cardiac complications, and lessen the risk of heart disease.
Dates are considered an exotic fruit, obtained from the Phoenix palm species. They are widely used as a substitute for refined sugar, but in addition to being sweet and delicious, dates are also nutritious for the body.
Consuming small portions of this fruit can supply you increased energy, fiber and protein, along with nutrients and minerals such as magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc and vitamins K and B.
Dates also have antioxidant properties which combat conditions such as oxidative stress. Medical studies have proven the anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties of dates.
Flaxseeds contain many nutritional properties. They are also delicious and go well with almost anything. When ground, they are easier to digest and can provide more benefits than whole seeds.
They contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein, healthy plant fats, and antioxidants that help prevent cell damage. They are also a good source of fiber, so they help maintain regular bowel movements and avoid constipation. They contain vitamins B1, B2, and B6, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, and manganese. Their vitamins and minerals benefit the immune system, nervous system, bone density, blood circulation, and more.
Flaxseeds are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 — essential fatty acids that are not produced by the body. They contain more fatty acids than canola and soybean oil. Half of the flaxseed’s calories come from fat, but this fat is healthy, as it helps boost “good cholesterol.” It also lowers “bad cholesterol” levels.
In India, ginger is considered one of the essential tubers and one of the healthiest. Fresh ginger has a high gingerol content, which is an anti-inflammatory. It has widespread use in the traditional medicine of many cultures.
Another of its qualities is that of calming nausea during pregnancy. It’s also used as pain relief, particularly for menstrual pain. It also has positive effects on the intestinal tract.
It is a very versatile food that can be used in cookies, cakes, infusions, and all kinds of recipes, and it is consumed dried, fresh or as an oil.
There are numerous health benefits from hazelnuts.
- Take care of your bones: they are rich in minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and calcium. Strengthen your bones and prevent diseases such as osteoporosis.
- Protect your heart: hazelnuts have no cholesterol and have an amino acid called arginine which helps the cardiovascular system to function properly. The magnesium they contain helps to relax the muscles, which also helps maintain a healthy heart.
- Perfect for your skin: if your concern is skincare, these nuts have a high vitamin E content, which also benefits nails and hair.
- Releases antioxidants: hazelnuts have a high content of vitamin A and C, which help to release toxins from your body and delay aging.
- Maintain healthy digestion: hazelnuts are excellent for combating constipation, thanks to their high fiber content.
Lentils are earthy legumes that bring many health benefits. They are packed with beneficial nutrients, such as iron, zinc, magnesium, protein, and, most importantly, soluble fiber. While lentils may be high in carbohydrates, their rich fiber content is really good for gut health.
Lentils also provide a large amount of vegetable protein. It has the third highest protein content of any vegetable or nut, by weight.
One cup of cooked lentils can provide about 90% of the recommended daily requirement of folate, which helps reduce the risk of heart disease. Try adding heart-healthy, diabetes-fighting brown lentils to your diet as well as other beans.
Lentils are particularly good for vegetarians, as they are a good source of iron, a mineral which is missing in many vegetarian foodstuffs.
14. Peanut Butter
Like many nuts, peanuts are rich in protein and beneficial omega-3 fats, but did you know they are not nuts but legumes? Regardless of how peanuts are classified, they have a low glycemic index and help control glucose and regulate insulin. A recent study showed that people who consumed peanuts or peanut butter in the morning had reduced blood sugar spikes in the afternoon.
Natural peanut butter is packed with essential nutrients, such as magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and vitamin B6. Avoid more processed varieties of peanut butter as they contain sodium, sugar, and unhealthy preservatives.
A two-tablespoon serving of peanut butter can account for nearly 25% of the daily recommended amount of saturated fat. Those two small spoonfuls can contain more than 185 calories, so get the benefits of peanut butter but don’t eat too much of it.
Walnuts are another brown food with great health benefits. They top the list in so many ways:
- They contain higher antioxidants than any other nut.
- Higher Omega-3 content than other nuts.
- Studies are ongoing to confirm if walnut consumption reduces the likelihood of developing breast, prostate and colon cancer.
- They may protect the brain from inflammation, helping instead to maintain memory and learning skills, and reduce symptoms of anxiety.
In addition to the above, they are also useful like other nuts in maintaining gut health and reducing appetite.
They work to reduce inflammation or oxidative stress, which can lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Healthy diets that include walnuts lead to less physical deterioration in aging populations.
Diets that contain sugar and highly processed food may lead to sperm deterioration. Eating walnuts as a regular part of a healthy diet may counteract this deterioration.
16. White Coffee
There’s a good chance that you’ve come across types of white coffee made with milk or creamer. From cappuccino to flat white, there are nearly as many types of coffee to enjoy as there are baristas to serve them to you!
But white coffee is more than just coffee with milk. This term refers to a process of lightly roasting coffee beans, giving them an enticing brown color and a unique flavor. Because the roasting time is reduced, the coffee retains a higher caffeine level – the ultimate wake up call!
Coffee also provides small amounts of vitamins B1, B3, and B5. B vitamins can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. Studies also show that the antioxidants in coffee can help fight insulin resistance and improve long-term glucose control.
17. Whole Wheat Pasta
Rice and pasta are the quintessential foods, and we could not leave the latter out of our ranking. People usually prefer regular pasta, but whole wheat pasta is much more nutritious, as it hasn’t been stripped of its nutrients by processing.
Whole wheat pasta provides 45-65% of your daily calorie needs. It is more filling than processed (white) pasta, and, like other unprocessed foods, this means it can help with weight loss. The micronutrients found in whole wheat pasta such as selenium, phosphorus, copper, and magnesium, bring many health benefits.
To overcome resistance to changing from traditional pasta, a little care in preparing tasty pasta dishes will mean that you won’t find the flavor change to be as noticeable. Changing to whole wheat pasta will help you have a more healthy diet.