Brown foods get less recognition than their more colorful counterparts, but this doesn’t mean they can’t be healthy and delicious. They are a great way to add balance and variety to your diet and are generally more readily available than other foods.
When it comes to colors, brown foods seem to get the least amount of love. This is because they are less visually appealing than foods that are a brighter color like red, yellow, or green.
However, their blander color doesn’t necessarily mean they taste boring. Brown foods can provide variety to your diet and are generally quite filling and nutritious.
Brown foods are able to be included in savory and sweet dishes and some of the most popular flavors are brown like chocolate and cinnamon (we will cover these more in-depth later in the article).
So, we have compiled a list of our favorite brown foods that you can add to your next shopping list. We have included both healthy and somewhat unhealthy food for variety.
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What Makes Food Brown?
There are 3 ways that food can naturally turn brown. You are also able to artificially color foods with food coloring and browning sauce.
Allicin is a phytochemical that has antibacterial and antiviral properties. It is originally derived from garlic and is what gives garlic its distinct smell.
It can be commonly found in brown and white foods such as onion, mushrooms, turnips, and cauliflower.
Oxidation is the process that happens when chemicals come into contact with oxygen. The oxygen reacts with polyphenols and damages it turning it brown.
This doesn’t mean the food is spoiled and is most obviously seen in cut apples. It is a non-toxic reaction that is perfectly safe to consume.
The chemical that turns it brown is called melanin and is also found in the human body such as in the irises or skin.
Roasting can happen in nature as foods are cooked under the sun, but it is more common to be done by humans.
The process involves the food being cooked at a high temperature until it is in a semi-burnt state. This deepens the flavor and is commonly seen with roasting coffee beans.
1. Brown Rice
Rice as a food has been cultivated for thousands of years and is the key component of diets in many cultures. It is the basis for many dishes and can come in a variety of sizes and colors.
Brown rice involves keeping the whole rice grain intact including the husk. This makes it less processed than white rice and also has more nutrients as they weren’t removed with the husk.
Since there are still all the parts of the grain in brown rice, it takes slightly longer to cook. It results in a chewier texture and a slightly nuttier taste. This makes it appealing to children.
It includes nutrients such as calcium, fiber, minerals, and several vitamins. Brown rice also has a high energy content, second only to oats.
By including brown rice in your diet it can help to regulate cholesterol.
Brown rice also has a low glycemic index which makes it ideal for people with diabetes.
It is high in many nutrients such as magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, and vitamin B6.
2. Whole Wheat Pasta
Similar to how brown rice is healthier than white rice, whole wheat pasta is healthier than regular pasta.
As the name suggests, whole wheat pasta is made from whole wheat flour which gives it a slightly nutty taste and a brown color.
This flavor change is subtle, so it is an easy swap to whole wheat pasta instead of regular pasta.
The nutrients found in whole wheat pasta are magnesium, phosphorus, and selenium. They are filling so you are able to eat smaller portions but still, feel satisfied.
Pasta is available in many different shapes and sizes for a variety of different dishes. You are even able to get pasta with different flavorings mixed in such as spinach and tomato.
3. Peanut Butter
While the process of grinding peanuts into a paste has been around since the Aztecs, the first patent for a process to create peanut butter was in 1884.
Since then peanut butter has been expanded and improved to become a household spread that is served on crackers or in sandwiches.
Compared to other spreads, peanut butter is quite satiating. That means you can eat less of it but feel full. It has a slightly sweet and oily taste so it can be used in sweet and savory dishes.
Technically, peanuts aren’t nuts. Instead, they are legumes like peas and beans. They are still high in protein and healthy fats like Omega-3.
In fact, peanut butter contains roughly 22g of protein per 100g serving.
Natural peanut butters are better for you than processed ones since they don’t have additives and sweeteners in them.
It has a low glycemic index meaning it affects the blood sugar in the body slowly. This is good for people with diabetes.
Natural peanut butter contains magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and vitamin B6. All of which are needed to help the body function properly.
Sweet chestnuts are different than horse chestnuts and water chestnuts. They come in a hard shell that is covered with lots of thin spikes that look almost like fur.
Horse chestnuts have a spikey shell that is usually green and they are toxic to consume. Whereas water chestnuts are vegetables that grow underwater and are sweet and crunchy.
Chestnuts have become synonymous with the holidays with roasting chestnuts becoming a tradition of the season.
Compared to other nuts, chestnuts have a lower sugar content and also fewer calories and fats.
They contain carbohydrates and fiber to help with bodily functions. Chestnuts are also high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins B and C.
Vitamin C is usually found in fruits like oranges, cantaloupe, and kiwis. Chestnuts are one of the few nuts that provide it.
Chestnuts are also a great antioxidant, which help to neutralize free radicals in the body.
Raisins are dried grapes, but during the drying process, they get a deep brown color and a sweeter taste. Raisins are chewier than grapes and can also absorb any liquid they are put into.
This makes the great for baking with and adding to savory dishes. Or they can be consumed by themself as a snack. A dish that commonly uses raisins is fruit cake in which the raisins are soaked in spirits beforehand to absorb the flavors.
They are high in fiber and iron. Raisins also contain vitamins B2 and B6.
Raisins come in a variety of colors and sizes and in some countries their name changes based on these factors.
Golden raisins made from white grapes are called sultanas, whereas the smaller raisins made from a grape called Black Corinth are called currants.
Flaxseeds are a great source of fiber. When added to your diet, they can help with digestion.
Due to their size and ability to be grounded, flaxseeds are very easy to add to your diet. You can add a spoonful to any meal and barely change the texture or flavor.
Flaxseeds are also able to absorb a bit of moisture so that they gain a porridge-like consistency.
As a food, flaxseed is absolutely packed with nutrients. They contain calcium, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus as well as a variety of vitamins such as B1, B2, and B6.
Flaxseeds are also a great source of protein and antioxidants to help your body fight diseases.
They also contain essential fatty acids such as Omega-3 and Omega-6 which can’t be naturally produced in mammals’ bodies and instead must be gained through their diet.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 are essential fatty acids that help to promote good cholesterol in the body while lowering bad cholesterol.
Studies found that consuming flaxseed also helped to improve weight loss and regulate blood pressure.
Almonds are considered heart-healthy nuts as they contain monounsaturated fats. These fats have also been linked to lower insulin resistance and a reduced risk of certain cancers.
The consumption of these healthy fats has also been linked to a decreased risk of obesity.
Another aspect of almonds that is linked to the decreased risk of obesity is that they are high in protein and fiber. They have also been found to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Almonds are packed full of nutrients like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin E. They also have high levels of fiber to aid digestion and improve gut health.
They are relatively high in calories and carbohydrates so they can help to satiate your appetite. This makes almonds a great midday snack.
Due to their sweet taste, almonds and almond flavoring are commonly used in desserts. Marzipan which is an almond paste is frequently used to decorate cakes as it can be molded.
Almond milk has become popular as a dairy-free alternative. You can get sweetened and unsweetened almond milk.
This is probably the most popular brown food on this list. Chocolate is a sweet treat that can make any day better.
Ever since the first solid chocolate bar in 1847, chocolate has become synonymous with the word candy and is frequently associated with numerous holidays.
The 2 varieties of brown chocolate are milk and dark, milk chocolate being sweeter and dark chocolate being more bitter. Due to the less amount of sugar, dark chocolate is considered the healthier choice.
You are also able to get white chocolate which only contains cocoa butter and no cocoa solids.
Chocolate generally has a high sugar and fat content so it should be consumed in regulation but that doesn’t mean it has no benefits.
There are studies that suggest that chocolate has anti-inflammatory properties.
Chocolate is also a fantastic source of vitamins B2 and B12 which help turn food into energy and also help the body create DNA.
Of course, chocolate is also better for your mental health. It helps your brain release endorphins which make you temporarily happier.
While you are able to eat chocolate by itself, there are many other ways to consume it. For example, cocoa powder is used in baking and chocolate can also be turned into a hot drink.
The earliest record of coffee consumption can be found in the late 15th century. Since then it has spread in popularity globally becoming one of the most widely consumed beverages.
Coffee is a great way to get a quick energy boost to your system which makes it the ideal drink for the mornings.
The process of making a coffee involves roasting coffee beans to create a distinct flavor which is then ground and hot water is poured over it.
You can consume coffee black or add milk and sugar to it to make it sweeter.
The consumption of coffee has been linked to a lowered risk of diabetes and could protect your body from liver conditions.
Studies have shown that the consumption of coffee also helps to lower the risk of depression.
As with any drink that contains caffeine, coffee should be consumed in moderation.
10. Brown Mushrooms
Mushrooms are incredibly versatile. They are low in calories and are commonly used as a replacement for meat.
While mushrooms can come in a variety of colors and sizes, the more popular brown mushrooms are shiitake, oyster, and chestnut mushrooms.
Brown mushrooms have been described as having a slightly nuttier taste which makes them popular amongst cooks.
As well as being low in calories, brown mushrooms also contain no fat or cholesterol which makes them a popular choice in most diet plans.
They are high in antioxidants so they can help to strengthen your immune system.
Mushrooms are also high in vitamin B which helps blood cells function.
Brown mushrooms are commonly foraged as they can grow all over the world.
If you are planning on foraging for mushrooms make sure you know exactly what to look for as different mushrooms can look very similar and may be toxic.
As a flavor, hazelnuts are commonly paired with some other foods on this list such as chocolate and coffee. They can also be consumed as a snack by themself.
Hazelnuts have no cholesterol in them so they can assist the cardiovascular system. Hazelnuts are also rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.
As well as vitamins A and C, hazelnuts also contain vitamin E which helps to maintain healthy skin and eyes.
Hazelnuts are also high in fiber which aids digestion.
Caramel is made from sugar that has caramelized and turned brown. You can get soft caramel which is chewable, and liquid caramel which can be poured.
The term caramelized refers to other foods with a high sugar content that gets heated until browned. This happens as the water is removed from the sugar via high heat.
While caramel is obviously high in sugar, it is still a delicious treat that can be enjoyed in moderation.
Dates are a sweet fruit and are usually used as a substitute for sugar in baking. This is because they can be blended down to be incorporated into a batter.
As well as being sweet, dates are also high in vitamins B and K. Vitamin K is needed for blood clotting so they can help wounds heal. Dates also have antioxidant properties.
On top of helping wounds, dates are also high in fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, protein, and zinc.
Dates can be consumed by themself and can be hollowed out and stuffed with other fruit and nuts. Some dates are sticky so specific date forks have been provided to eat them mess-free.
Cinnamon is a sweet spice that is derived from a specific tree bark. It has a warming flavor which makes it prominent in recipes during the colder months.
It is very high in antioxidants which help to fight illnesses. Cinnamon is commonly used in natural remedies and has been throughout history.
Cinnamon can also help to slow digestion which can lower blood sugar levels. This makes it ideal for people with diabetes as it can also help to reduce insulin resistance.
There are early studies to suggest that cinnamon could have some protective effects against cancer and can possibly help to fight HIV.
Walnuts hold the honor of having more antioxidants than any other nut. This can help to reduce inflammation.
They are surrounded by a hard shell that you need to crack though. Walnuts have an earthier taste than other nuts and are commonly used in baking.
Walnuts are also high in Omega-3 which the body can’t produce naturally. Omega-3 helps the general function of all the cells in the body.
Unlike other nuts, walnuts contain polyunsaturated fatty acids instead of monounsaturated fatty acids. Your body can’t naturally produce polyunsaturated fatty acids but they are needed for bodily functions.
16. Brown Sugar
Brown and white sugar go through the same process to be made, only brown sugar has had molasses added back to it.
While brown sugar is slightly healthier than white sugar, it is not enough to make a significant difference. The main difference between brown and white sugar is the taste.
Brown sugar provides an almost caramel-like taste. This makes it a popular choice to use in baking, especially cookies.
Sugar is a useful way to give the body a quick burst of energy to the body and generally just makes food taste better.
While sugar isn’t necessarily a bad thing to add to your diet, it should be consumed in moderation.
Brown sugar also contains iron and potassium which can help with bodily functions.
17. Brown Bread
Brown bread is made from whole wheat flour instead of white flour so it has a chewier texture and a slightly less sweet flavor.
Whole wheat flour contains lots of fiber to help the body with digestion and improve gut health.
It is also high in other nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin E, and vitamin K. Vitamin E can benefit your immune system whereas vitamin K helps your blood clotting to stop excess bleeding.
Many loaves of brown bread come with oats or seeds scattered on top or in the bread to add extra nutrients and texture.
While we have covered a few brown foods in this article, it is by no means all of them. There are plenty of other brown foods that are packed full of nutrition and can make a wonderful addition to a meal.
Brown foods are a great way to pad out your diet between the more colorful foods. They provide sustenance and nutrition that are much needed for everyday function.
Many of them are high in fiber and vitamins that are needed for a healthy gut and immune system. Even the brown foods that aren’t as healthy are still delicious, which we believe is just as important.
Hopefully, you can see that brown foods are also very versatile. They can be used in sweet and savory dishes as either the main part or as a secondary flavor.
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