Winning stocks may await you in the last place you'd expect. Here's why looking through lists of recent stock market losers could benefit you in the long run.

High-flying, fast-growing stocks can easily catch investors' eyes. And while some of these stocks may owe their highs to overinflated valuations, many others do keep rising. After all, they must be doing something right.

Consider Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (Nasdaq: GMCR). Though its five-year average annual revenue growth rate of nearly 60% looks compelling, its P/E ratio of about 120 smacks of overvaluation. (The forward P/E ratio of 45 is far more reasonable, given the company's growth rate.) The company's deal to offer Starbucks coffee for its Keurig machines sounds promising, but bears already worry about some of its soon-to-expire patents, and don't like its negative free cash flow.

In short, figuring out whether highfliers like Green Mountain will keep soaring or head into a tailspin can be confusing and stressful.

Look down
That's why it can be smart to look for hidden winners among beaten-down stocks. Sure, plenty get beaten down for good reason. United Continental Holdings (NYSE: UAL) and American Airlines parent AMR (NYSE: AMR), for example, are not too far from their 52-week lows, beset by steep fuel prices, troublesome weather, lofty capital and labor costs, and the many other challenges of the notoriously unprofitable airline industry. I wouldn't rush to invest in such outfits.

But many downtrodden stocks look a lot more enticing. Central European Distribution (Nasdaq: CEDC) makes and sells alcoholic beverages in Europe and Russia. While its business has faltered lately, demand isn't likely to dry up anytime soon. Tellabs (Nasdaq: TLAB) has seen business soften for its routers as it competes with Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO), but it still has international potential and significant investments in research and development. Dolby Laboratories (NYSE: DLB) holds considerable promise of its own, delivering sound technology for streaming video applications, PCs, and more. All three of these stocks have dropped 30% or more over the past year.

None is a slam-dunk investment, but each merits at least a closer look. Hard times can be the best times to buy truly compelling companies.

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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Starbucks, but she holds no other position in any company mentioned. Click here to see her holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Starbucks and Cisco Systems and has created a bull call spread position on Cisco. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Central European Distribution, Dolby Laboratories, Cisco Systems, Starbucks, and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Separate newsletter services have recommended shorting shares of and opening a complex options position on Green Mountain. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.