Trying different foods from around the world is a great way to find new and exciting flavors that you can incorporate into your diet. To make sure you're picking the healthiest options, we've explored some of the superfoods found in traditional dishes around the globe, from Brazil to Turkey to Malaysia. Check out our list of the world's best superfoods, and test out some new healthy flavors in your next meal.
Turmeric, the primary spice found in Indian curry, is pretty powerful. Just one tablespoon of ground turmeric packs in 16 percent of your daily intake of iron. It's also a great source of vitamins A and B6. Extracts from the spice have high amounts of the compound curcumin, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric may also prevent heart attacks after bypass surgery, improve the success of chemotherapy in breast cancer patients, and suppress the growth of head and neck cancers.
In Greece, olives are heart-healthy stars. Olives contain monounsaturated fats, which can lower cholesterol and regulate insulin. Kalamata olives contain the phenol hydroxytyrosol, which may prevent abnormal cell growth and DNA damage, according to The Dr. Oz Show. Olive oil is also a good bet, since it's rich in polyphenols, thought to protect against cancer and inflammation. The oil is also known for its vitamin E and beta-carotene. The monounsaturated fats in olive oil can help prevent clotting and heart disease. It may also help build strong bones and improve brain health.
You can find cilantro in Mexican guacamole and Portuguese soup, but Vietnamese cuisine actually relies heavily on this flavorful herb. The leafy green may help to control blood sugar and cholesterol, but also has bacteria-fighting properties. Cilantro has been known to ease the pain of menstrual cramps, digestive gas and arthritis and prevent urinary tract infections. As a good source of zinc, the leafy green could help fight off unpleasant symptoms of the common cold.
Soy comes in many forms in Japanese cuisine. One cup of soybeans contains 33 grams of protein, which may lower blood cholesterol, and high amounts of many essential amino acids. Soybeans also contain natural isoflavones that seem to have anti-cancer properties. One study found that the peptides in soybeans can stop the growth of colon cancer, liver cancer and lung cancer in scientific labs.
While the shiitake mushroom is also native to Japan and China, it also stars Korean cuisine, and is one of the best sources of vitamin D around. Shiitake mushrooms have been shown to lower cholesterol and improve the immune system. But the real boon in this superfood is lentinan , a compound that seems to possess anti-tumor properties. It's been associated with higher survival rates and quality of life in cancer patients.
What Italian meal would be complete without that amazing tomato flavor? Tomatoes are full of vitamins A and C, potassium and fiber. As if that wasn't enough, tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that gives the fruit its red hue thought to promote normal cell growth and prevent the growth of breast, colon and prostate cancer cells. Studies show that tomatoes also contain anti-inflammatory powers and have the potential to lower the risk of strokes and prevent blood clotting.
Found in the famous paella, clams add a host of health benefits to Spanish cuisine. There are compounds that lower cholesterol, and the high level of polyunsaturated fats can lower the risk of heart disease. This shellfish also has enough iron in 100 grams to meet 78 percent of your daily intake. A serving is also a great source of vitamin B12.
Found in burritos, salads, soups and more, black beans have a lot to offer classic Mexican cuisine. Like most beans, these are a great source of fiber. However, black beans in particular jam in 15 grams of protein in one cup and have more antioxidant properties than other beans.
Whether it's consumed as a tea, sliced or juiced, ginger has long been used as a home remedy for a number of ailments. The root, a star in Thai cuisine, has been used to ease nausea and digestive problems. Some research shows the potential for its use as a painkiller to treat arthritis, joint pain or muscle soreness. Recent research has also shown that it could benefit those suffering from asthma. The National Institutes of Health also associates ginger with treatments for migraines, toothaches and coughs.
While used in many Mediterranean dishes, cumin can be found on many traditional Turkish plates. The spice is a great source of iron and calcium and has been shown to lower blood glucose levels , important for people with diabetes. It also contains antibacterial properties, which have been shown to effectively kill the bacteria associated with stomach ulcers. Cumin has been consumed for digestive problems, bloating and even as an aphrodisiac.
As the main ingredient in the traditional Sambal -- the spicy condiment popular in Malaysia -- chili pepper packs on the heat and health qualities. The spice fights inflammation and provides natural pain relief. Researchers are currently studying its effects on arthritis and blood pressure. Chili pepper has also been found to clear congestion and aid in weight loss.
One of the main ingredients in the popular Egyptian dish fūl medames, chickpeas actually surface in a number of Egyptian, Israeli and other Middle Eastern dishes. Chickpeas are also the star ingredient in hummus. No matter who wins the debate over the origins of the popular dip, there's no disputing the facts: Chickpeas are full of fiber and protein. They are a higher source of folic acid than other beans, and a good source of other minerals, including zinc and magnesium. These beans also provide a significant amount of the essential amino acids and vitamins including riboflavin, niacin, thiamin and folate.
Used in curry and several varieties of dal dishes, lentils are a staple of the Pakistani diet. With 16 grams of fiber per cup, lentils can lower cholesterol and manage blood sugar. They pack in vitamins, essential minerals and 18 grams of protein in just one cup. They have been used as a weight-loss aid , since all that slow-burning fiber and complex carbohydrate can fill you up and keep you satisfied longer.
Brazilian papaya is not only tropical and sweet, but packed with nutrients. Just one small fruit contains 95.6 milligrams of vitamin C! This, along with vitamins A and E make the papaya a juicy form of protection against the common cold. Chock full of antioxidants, papaya has been shown to protect against heart disease and colon cancer. These antioxidants also help improve skin and the immune system. The fruit also contains the superpowers of lycopene, although not at quite the same level as the tomato.
A popular ingredient in Chinese cuisine, bok choy was originally cultivated during the Ming dynasty. As part of the cruciferous -- or cabbage -- family, bok choy is known for its powerful antioxidants. With a high concentration of the antioxidant kaempferol, bok choy also seems to have anti-cancer properties. One cup of this veggie is loaded with vitamin C and contains more than 100 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin A when cooked.
As the largest wine producer in the world, the French know about the health benefits they harvest. Red wine has long been praised for its powerful antioxidant, resveratrol. This key ingredient prevents damage to the blood vessels and reduces "bad" cholesterol, or LDL. It has also been linked to a reduction in the risk of breast cancer. Studies have shown that any alcohol, including white wine, raises HDL, or "good" cholesterol, and may reduce blood clots. Wine may also improve women's overall health -- when consumed in moderation, of course.
Clarification: The text has been update to reflect that shiitake mushrooms are native to multiple Asian countries.