Thursday, June 23, 2011

Super-Foods for Super Health

This article will also be available on the Total Cleanse website
Super-Foods for Super Health
Sarah Reid, RHNC

The food world – healthy-minded or not – is a buzz with the label “super-foods”. Not the same as fortified (or “nutrition – value – added”) goods, real super food is wholesome, natural and as close to the source as possible. Some of the famous elements on the list are berries, pomegranates, broccoli and whole grains, and they’ve all almost become brands in themselves, being easily incorporated into the diet and available in any grocery store. However, some ignored, and sometimes downright shunned, foods are just as accessible and have equal “health-food” factor and should join in your quest for a healthier life.

Apricots and plums are a couple of the “forgotten fruits” at the grocery store. However, these small stone fruits both pack a good dose of vitamins A & C, tryptophan (great for stress-busting), potassium (perfect for high blood pressure) and fibre. If finding good-quality fruits, or those in season, is difficult, the good news is that the portable, dried versions have a higher concentration of vitamins, minerals and fibre. While you’re scoping out fruit, why not give papaya a whirl? It’s full of not only vitamins A & C, but also skin- and blood-healthy vitamin K. Papaya gets a second round of applause for inflammatory conditions like acne, IBS or burns – thanks to its high concentration of the protein enzymes papain and chymopapain. Avocadoes are another fruit worth perusal at the market – though not local to Canadians, just as little as ½ of one boosts your absorption of powerful antioxidants known as carotenoids by 250%! Using a few slices or ¼ cup of mashed avocado instead of butter on bread or cheese in a burrito is a great way to add it to your routine, and once you get more adventurous try blending it into smoothies and soups for a rich and creamy texture.  

For many people, the easiest health-promoting goody to add to their diet is something most of us already have in the house – cocoa powder. This is not to say go hog-wild with the instant cocoa packets! Foods with high levels of cacao (raw cocoa) are packed with antioxidants, insulin-sensitivity enhancing compounds and protection against heart disease and stroke. Chocolate, so long as it is at least 70% (and ideally fair-trade), is a winner for the same reasons, but be warned – like with tea and coffee, the milk added to lighter varieties actually competes with the antioxidants and you can’t absorb them! Mash a spoonful into a ripe banana (for a great sugar-free “pudding”) or mix some in with a pinch of cinnamon and ancho chilli powder to your next spicy taco filling mixture for added richness

While grabbing the can of cocoa for your next smoothie, why not break out it’s famous partner in candy crime – nut butter? Believe it or not, the kid-friendly lunchbox staples of almond and peanut butter (that my sister and I used to eat from the jar by the spoonful) are actually great sources of Omega fatty acids – and it’s a lot easier to get kids to eat a PB&J than flaxseed and wheat germ cookies, or a slab of salmon. Almond butter packs a bit more power in the cholesterol-reducing field, but in either case opt for a natural, sugar free version (or make it yourself). While the “low-fat” varieties are tempting in the grocery aisle, they’re often packed with more sugar and hydrogenated fats than their “regular” counterparts, so stick to the other types for the most benefit.

Finally, where would the baking world be without cinnamon? Though you don’t have to eat a lot of it to benefit from both its taste and it’s nutrition, this spice is considered to be one of the healthiest in the world alongside ginger and garlic! It’s been shown as a potent cholesterol-lowering agent, so pairing it with the already anti-LDL oats (along with a handful of berries and ground flaxseed) is a whammy of a breakfast! Cinnamon’s not resigned to the sweet kitchen either – try adding a pinch to pasta sauce, black beans or chilli for a true Mexican flair! It’s also a great spice for the diabetic pantry – the compounds in cinnamon have shown to normalize blood sugar levels from either hyper- or hypoglycaemic states (unlike traditional medicine which often just has a “lowering” effect).

You don’t always have to follow the hype when it comes to making good food choices – often a lot of the best options are right in front of you! Enjoy adding these stealthy super-foods to your cooking repertoire, and share the wealth of health with those at your table!

Here's an amazing, sweet treat that has the goodness of cocoa, cinnamon and avocado - yes, avocado! - packed inside. They are rich, so a little goes a long way, and are always a welcome change to the party table (especially if you don't tell the kids about the superfood!). It can also be found on my blog What Smells So Good?.

Hass - ta la Vista Brownies (AKA "Frosted Fudge")
Adapted from Janet Hudson (brownie) and Tasha the Voracious Vegan (frosting)
Makes 16 rich squares
1 Hass avocado
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3.5 oz bittersweet chocolate (100g), melted - use a minimum of 70% cocoa solids here
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup tart cherry concentrate - like
this one
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp dried cherries, soaked in Kirsch or hot water and drained

1 Hass avocado
1 tbsp agave nectar
2 tbsp powdered sugar

3 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp coconut milk
2 tbsp shredded coconut
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, line and grease grease a 9" square pan.
  2. In a large bowl beat together avocado pulp, salt, brown sugar, vanilla and vinegar.
  3. Stir in melted chocolate until well combined.
  4. Add flours, cinnamon and cocoa powder, stirring gently, then add coconut milk, cherry concentrate and water and mix well.
  5. Fold in dried cherries.
  6. Bake 20 minutes.
  7. Cool completely in the pan, then chill overnight before frosting.
  1. For frosting, combine avocado, agave, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon and coconut milk in a food processor and whip until smooth.
  2. Spread on chilled brownies and sprinkle with coconut.
  3. Chill completely before cutting.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 162.4
Total Fat: 8.3 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 13.8 mg
Total Carbs: 25.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.4 g
Protein: 2.1 g

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About Me

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I started my "working life" as a holistic and allopathic nutritional consultant with a love of cooking. Teaching the value of wholesome meal choices to families became close to my heart after I battled a long history of struggles with weight and health, and the passion for teaching led me into where I am now. My blog, which focuses on "bringing good taste to healthier food" through creative use of whole grains, fresh produce and acknowledging the importance of the occasional treat, also features a wealth of "specialty diet" friendly recipes for gluten-, egg-, dairy- and sugar- tree nut-free items that everyone can enjoy without alienating those who need them.

Overall, I want to bring back the desire for good quality, homemade, (mostly) healthy food into the hearts and kitchens of families so that the next generation will be less box-reliant than mine. I firmly believe that any “homemade” food, even when labelled as "naughty", is a more wholesome treat than pre-packaged, cookie-cutter junk. With the knowledge of good food (and how to cook good food) as a base, a healthy lifestyle can follow, and then anything is possible!