The most underrated foods in your pantry

Move over super foods, we're parading some everyday food all-stars.

While quinoa, kale and blueberry smoothie bowls are off flashing themselves in all of their glory across Instagram there are many humble foods in our kitchen that need to come out of the closet- or pantry- and parade themselves proudly in the spotlight of centre stage.

While all nutritious foods have their own unique contribution towards good health it’s time to drag the most underrated foods in your kitchen out of the shadow of coconut and chia pudding.


With an array of beans and peas in this group there is a legume for every occasion. Pulses are the original gluten free option, and now a variety of pulses can be bought as flours for those who wish to experiment with gluten-free baking.

Pulses provide both soluble and insoluble fibre, which give healthy gut bacteria and good bowel function, and you need a happy bowel for a happy life.

Adding chickpeas, lentils, broad beans, lupins or field peas, to your life will give you many benefits believes Accredited Practicing Dietician from Dietician’s Association Australia, Georgie Rist.

“Pulses are gluten free, low in fat and contain plant sterols, which can be beneficial in lowering cholesterol. Packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, they are an important and cheap addition to every diet,” she says.

Whether they are the main event in a meal or an addition to bulk up your salad the protein, iron, calcium and folate hit from legumes make them an underrated pantry star.


This furry little unsuspecting fruit needs to hold his green head high and be counted in the “wholefood” category.

This bad boy has health benefits for almost every part of your body, from your eyes to your gut, to your immune system.

“Kiwi fruit has almost double the vitamin C content of an orange,” says Georgie. “One large golden kiwi fruit provides more vitamin C than one glass of acai juice, and at a fraction of the cost. Including kiwi fruit with your meal can help to increase the absorption of iron from plant foods.”

Kiwis are also packed with magnesium which supports muscle function, potassium, folate, zince and antioxidants just to name a few.


Whether you choose to activate, roast or go in raw, our bodies go nuts for nuts.

“Nuts not only taste delicious but have the science to back them up when it comes to including a handful a day helps support healthy weight management, diabetes risk, lower cholesterol and improve heart health,” says Georgie.

One study found that 30g of nuts per day has more health benefits than eating a low fat diet. A 30g serving of nuts is between 15-20 of most of the larger nuts, so about a small handful, otherwise it may go the other way and cause weight gain due to high fat content.

Each nut contains a unique variety of nutrients, with almonds, walnuts, macadamias, hazelnuts and cashews being among the most popular.

A dollop of good quality nut butter makes a delicious addition to your smoothie, and believe it or not, also your stir fries!


Nothing sings summer like a cool slice of juicy watermelon but this water packed fruit is not just delicious, it’s also a powerful antioxidant.

Watermelon contains lycopene which is a powerful carotenoid oxidant which is most commonly attributed to another red fruit – tomatoes.

Although tomatoes are another underrated food, watermelon has a more concentrated level of the cancer-fighting, stroke-busting carotenoid.

Also may help by significantly reducing blood pressure and improving heart health, which is a bonus because it is also good for sexual function. Watermelon is sometimes referred to as “Nature’s Viagra” due to the levels of L-arginine present.


Kale chips, kale smoothies, braised kale, kale, kale, kale. To hear it, you would think kale was King, however many people don’t realise that spinach still reigns supreme.

“Kale has been receiving a lot of attention of late, but what many people don’t know is that spinach is actually higher in a number of nutrients than kale, including iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamin E,” says Georgie. “I side with Popeye on spinach, and don’t go a day without my cup of spinach!”

One cup of cooked spinach provides 180mg of calcium (15-20% of recommended daily allowance), and ½ cup cooked spinach provides 80mg magnesium and 100mcg folate, over 20% of RDI for both.

Dark green vegetables are high in fibre, and are great for your immune system. Eat a variety of leafy greens to keep life interesting.


This rough skinned fruit may hold the secret to your youthful skin as it naturally wants to fight free radical damage and keep you young.

Just ½ an avocado provides a handful of antioxidants, plus 22mg Vitamin C, 120mg folate (30% RDI), 4.3g fibre (14% RDI).

“The healthiest foods to choose are those that pack a nutritional punch. That is, they should be nutrient-rich, compared with their energy (kilojoule) content, and provide food components such as fibre, antioxidants, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. And they should also contain only minimal amounts of (if any) saturated fat, added sugars and salt,” says Georgie.

“There is no one size fits all when it comes to diet. We are all different and response to food differently. Vegetables are wonder foods! However, for optimal health we need to focus on a ‘super diet’ packed with a variety of nutritious foods, rather than just than one or two superfoods!”

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