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Food comes in all colors. However, brown foods are considered one of the most nutritious ones. And it’s not just us. Even research states they are incredibly helpful against chronic diseases and work wonders to manage obesity and diabetes.
Most foods on our list might sound familiar, but some might catch you by surprise. Here are 25 foods that are brown and should be a key part of your diet.
Starting with one of the most popular nutty members, almonds. While they may look small, they pack loads of nutrients and calories. They date back to 1400 BC, first discovered in the Mediterranean region. Almonds are even mentioned in Greek mythology and the Bible.
Their nutritional profile boasts a good portion of proteins, antioxidants, magnesium, manganese, and phytic acids. Low in carbs and brimming with healthy fats, they are incredible in lowering cholesterol.
Did you know they’re one of the best sources of Vitamin E? Additionally, being calorie-dense, they’ll satiate you quickly. If you’re looking to lose weight, their satiating properties will reduce hunger and your overall calorie intake.
The best thing about almonds is their versatility. You can eat them raw, roasted, salted, as almond milk, butter, and even flour.
2. Baked Beans
Baked Beans are a classic side dish in American cuisine. The dish uses white navy beans, half-boiled and baked in sauce, giving them a brown tinge. Common ingredients include various spices, herbs, and, yes, sugar. For the sauce, tomatoes, vinegar, and mustard are added.
Don’t let the name fool you; they’re not always baked. Sometimes they’re slow-cooked over a stove in a pot or a pressure cooker.
Baked beans were introduced to us by indigenous American tribes. FUN FACT: Boston is still known as Beantown because baked beans are all the rage there.
They’re an excellent source of plant proteins and are a perfect vegetarian option. Like most brown foods, they help lower cardiovascular risks and blood glucose. Look out for canned baked beans, though. They usually have more additives, salt, and sugar.
3. Brown Bread
It’s no surprise that brown bread is quickly becoming a healthier alternative to white bread. It retains the bran and germ of the wheat flour that white bread misses out on. That’s why it’s also called whole wheat bread.
You’ll have to excuse its hard texture due to these grains, but you get more health benefits. Thanks to the whole grain fibers, which act as probiotics, can help improve your digestive system. Add in the cardiovascular, diabetic, and weight loss benefits, and they become an excellent replacement for white bread.
Just remember to eat it in moderation, and you can enjoy this less processed, additive-free bread. However, it’s better for people with gluten sensitivity and celiac disease to avoid it.
4. Brown Egg
Ah, the mystery of why some eggs are brown. Brown eggs come from the breed of red-feathered hens with red earlobes. These eggs are superior to their white counterparts regarding size and egg yolk.
Unfortunately, that also makes them more expensive. Surprisingly, instead of quality, the price of brown eggs is driven by the hen’s hearty feed.
As for the difference in nutrients, you’d be surprised to know both have the same. Apart from a tad bit more omega-3 in brown eggs, both provide the same nutrients.
Hens laying brown eggs are also given a more nutritious feed. Some people say brown eggs taste better, but you’ll have to take their word because it’s not backed by science.
5. Brown Mushrooms
The aisle of mushrooms in a supermarket often confuses people on which mushrooms to pick: white or brown. So, what’s the difference?
Brown mushrooms are actually cremini mushrooms. Interestingly, cremini is underdeveloped and mature to become portobello mushrooms. So, all of them come under the vast umbrella of Agaricus bisporus mushroom.
White mushrooms have a higher water content; water reduces, and flavor concentrates as they turn brown. That’s why brown mushrooms taste better. The rich umami flavor gives them a meaty, earthy, and brothy taste.
Packed with Vitamin D, riboflavin, selenium, and antioxidants, you can enjoy them in burgers, pizzas, and sauces.
6. Brown Rice
Like brown bread, brown rice also contains bran. They include the husk of the rice side, making them more nutrient-dense. They are more preferred in Asian cuisines such as Thai, Chinese and Japanese.
Like most brown foods, brown rice has anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and anti-cholesterol properties. It is also a low glycemic index food, perfect for diabetic individuals. What’s more, it’s gluten-free!
Since they are less processed, the cooking time is more than white rice. Phytic acid present in it also makes it difficult to digest.
7. Brown Sugar
The journey of brown and white sugar is pretty much the same. Both undergo a similar refining process; however, the twist is that the by-product of refining, molasses, is added again to produce brown sugar.
It has the unique quality of holding its shape like sand.
Interestingly, both white and brown sugars provide the same amount of calories. There are slightly more minerals in brown sugar, such as potassium, calcium, and iron. Brown sugar can also be found in light brown and dark brown.
Chestnut has ‘nut’ in its name; it comes from the fruit of the Chestnut tree and is the fruit’s seed.
These nuts used to be a staple food in Italy, but now they’re enjoyed as street food. Chestnuts also held a high place in Roman diets. They planted it in all their conquered lands across Europe.
They’re packed with vitamin C. Half a cup of raw chestnuts will fulfill 35-45% of your daily vitamin C requirement.
Chickpeas are also called garbanzo beans. If you don’t want to keep eating meat or eggs to fulfill your protein intake, they are a smart alternative. These golden-brown powerhouses are filled with plant proteins.
Did you know chickpeas are one of the oldest cultivated foods we have? These legume group members are called golden foods because they contain folate, copper, iron, selenium, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, and calcium.
You can use boiled chickpeas in salads, hummus, falafel, etc.
A brown foods list will be incomplete if we don’t add chocolate to it. From the light brown color of milk chocolate to the brownish-black color of dark chocolate, it’s one of the most popular brown foods.
FUN FACT: Chocolate is made from the seed of the tree Theobroma Cacao meaning food of the gods.
While its sugar content is higher, milk chocolate actually has fewer calories than dark chocolate. Research states if indulged in a moderate quantity, it can be enjoyed in a healthy lifestyle.
The sweet yet spicy cinnamon has a fascinating history, dating back to nearly 4000 years ago. Even war has been fought over this brown spice in Ceylon, modern-day Sri Lanka.
Obtained from the tree’s bark, this woody spice has no minerals or vitamins. However, its anti-inflammatory properties make it an excellent addition to foods and medicines. Surprisingly, it's also used in beauty and home products.
12. Coffee Beans
Did you know coffee beans aren’t beans? They’re actually the pit of the coffee cherry fruit.
Coffee beans make one of the healthiest beverages in the world. If you don’t want to brew them into coffee, you can also munch on roasted or chocolate-covered beans to get your caffeine fix.
Like coffee, they provide the same nutrients but in a concentrated form.
Coming toward more exotic brown foods, dates come in many shapes and colors. The best quality dates are from date palms grown primarily in the Middle East.
Apart from Vitamin B, K, and other minerals, dates have anti-inflammatory properties that improve brain function. It's also recommended for pregnant women because it promotes natural labor.
You use it as a natural sweetener, in marmalades or jams, or snack on it directly.
These mild, nutty seeds are plant-based and often used in smoothies to juice out all their nutrients. You can eat it raw, ground it to a powder, or add it to your smoothies.
Even though flax plants have been present from the beginning of civilization, their seed is a recent addition to our diets.
Particularly rich in the B1 vitamin thiamine, flaxseed can help improve metabolism.
Originally used as a flavoring agent and herbal medicine, ginger has a long-standing history. The ginger plant is actually an herb grown in a tropical climate.
Its therapeutic and ayurvedic properties have been used to treat many ailments. Its high gingerol content and anti-inflammatory properties make it incredibly popular.
Use it in cookies, cakes, ginger ale, or as an oil, fresh or dried; it has endless uses.
Hazelnuts, also known as filbert, come from a tree that gives fruit over 80 years. Ancient Romans included it in their weddings as a prosperity token.
These sweet, soft, and juicy nuts have an impressive nutrient profile with folate, Vitamin E, zinc, potassium, and antioxidants.
Whatever the cuisine is, you can use this versatile ingredient in your salads, desserts, pasta, and main dishes.
Easily one of the most popular vegetarian-friendly foods, lentils come in many different colors, black, green, red, and yellow, but brown is the most commonly used.
Hailing from Asia, these legumes look tiny but pack immense nutritional value. Rich in fiber and a great source of protein, these cousins of peas are a staple food in many cultures. If you're having bowel troubles, lentils can regulate them and promote healthy gut bacteria.
They're pretty easy to cook, too. Requiring no prior soaking, you can make them in under 30 mins.
You might be familiar with molasses as a thick, brown syrup, but it also comes in powder form. Initially, its industry struggled in America until a California factory gathered profits.
It’s calorie-dense, with one new tablespoon containing 58 calories. So, use it in moderation.
Nutrients like selenium, iron, and copper can also improve bone health.
19. Peanut Butter
Who hasn't relished the classic PB&J sandwich? This creamy butter is made from roasted peanuts blended into a thick paste.
An amazing fact: Since peanut butter is a carbon-rich food, it can turn into diamonds under high pressure.
Don't bash peanut butter because of the fats yet; it also contains healthier ones. In fact, a study shows it slows cellular aging and is excellent for your heart.
Pecan is another brown nut that is sodium-free, low in carbs, and has minimal cholesterol. It’s the only tree nut naturally available in the US.
What's more, the American Heart Association has certified it a heart-healthy food because it lowers cholesterol just like a medicine. It has more than 19 minerals and vitamins as well.
Whether your dish is sweet or savory, pecans go with literally everything.
A popular street snack, pretzels, comes from medieval Europe. An Italian teacher invented it to capture the interest of his distracted students.
There are hard, soft, salted, and unsalted, many types of pretzels.
Munch on this knot-shaped snack and enjoy the benefits of its various vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins and iron.
22. Pumpernickel Bread
Now, we bring a bit of sweet rye bread from Germany, the pumpernickel bread. Like brown bread, it's one of the healthiest bread to choose from.
Not available widely in the US, this dark bread will boost your immune system thanks to its selenium, manganese, and fibers.
Its main ingredient, rye, doesn't contain wheat but still has gluten.
Raisins are sun-dried grapes, shriveled and added primarily to bakery products.
They're a great source of phytonutrients that protect your cells from free radical damage. If you want a pretty smile, these phytochemicals also fight cavities causing bacteria in your mouth.
You can even make your raisins by drying grapes in the sun for 2-3 days.
Last, of the brown nut family, we have walnuts. Their brown color is due to the pigment tannins.
Crunchy but with high-fat content, these brain-shaped nuts significantly improve brain function. The Greeks even used to call them 'karyon,' meaning head.
Folks with walnut allergies should avoid these tasty nuts, though.
25. Whole Wheat Pasta
Whole wheat pasta is made from whole-grain flour, a popular addition to healthier diets.
It has multiple health benefits, from weight management, cancer prevention, and diabetes prevention to reducing the threat of cardiovascular disorders.
Instead of boiling at high heat, simmer it and enjoy a delicious yet healthy pasta dish.
Did we miss any brown foods? Let us know in the comments. Don't forget to check out these other colorful foods: