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|April 23-29 2009
• The critical elements
The Lazy Dog fulfills all the requirements of the classic sports bar
by Clay Fong
• The Dessert Diva
A local chef shares her sweet secrets
by Danette Randall
Healthful foods you should incorporate into your diet
(and how to enjoy them)
by Julie Deardorff
Step aside, blueberries, spinach and broccoli. It’s time to give unsung superfoods a chance.
Many of us tend to eat what we know and what we can pronounce and prepare. But mixing things up helps add more healthful micronutrients and phytochemicals into our diets, said Mary Russell, director of nutrition services at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
Trying little-known foods also gets you into ethnic grocery stores, farmers markets and local markets that focus on sustainable, local food, Russell said. “That’s where you can learn from others how to buy, prepare and use unusual foods.”
To help steer your cart in a new direction, try incorporating these healthful foods that you probably aren’t eating — but should be — into your diet.
An ancient relative of durum wheat, kamut increasingly is used as an alternative to regular wheat. It has 20 to 40 percent more protein and is higher in lipids, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Moreover, it can be tolerated by some with sensitivities to regular wheat. Kamut can be found in some packaged pastas, bread, cereals and crackers.
Try it: Kamut is usually found in the bulk section of supermarkets. Substitute it for wheat berries or rice or mix with sauteed peppers and onions. For breakfast, mix a half-cup with diced apples, raisins, walnuts and a touch of cinnamon and honey.
One of the first vegetables to come to the farmers market — and your yard — in the spring, dandelion greens are low in calories and high in fiber. But a serving (1 cup) of these dark, leafy greens also has more vitamin A than a cup of cantaloupe and more calcium than spinach, said dietitian Jodi Greebel, president of Citrition, a nutritional counseling practice in New York City. They’re also high in iron, other vitamins (including vitamin C), potassium and folate.
Try them: They’re somewhat bitter so you might not want to toss them in salads. Instead, try cooking them with something sweet — say a chicken or pasta dish with tomatoes — or adding nuts and dried fruit, Greebel said. Or saute with garlic and pepper.
Grapefruit is in peak season through April and its juice boasts more nutrients per calorie than 100 percent apple, grape, pineapple and prune juice. Each serving (1 cup of juice) gives you more than 100 percent of your daily recommended vitamin C, which helps neutralize free radicals that can damage cells and lead to infection, aging and disease. It can boost the performance of some medications — but it can interfere with others — so check with your doctor if you take prescription drugs.
Try them: Top with a spoonful of maple syrup, or a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves, or use as a topping on cereal, waffles, pancakes or in a yogurt parfait.
Made from fermented soybeans, this traditional Indonesian food looks strange but it may ease symptoms of menopause because it contains phytochemicals such as isoflavones and saponins, said Russell. The soy protein and isoflavones also might reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers.
Try it: Slice and saute. Its nutty, mushroom flavor can be used in soups, salads and sandwiches, according to author Jonny Bowden in The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth.
Sea vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals and trace elements. The kelp family (kombu, wakame and arame) is an excellent source of iodine and has about four times the iron of beef. Arame has more than 10 times the calcium as milk. Nori, the seaweed wrapped around sushi rolls, contains protein, calcium, iron, potassium and more vitamin A than carrots. If you’re taking medications, check with your doctor.
Try it: Try sushi or maki rolls. Or cut nori strips into pieces and sprinkle on salads, Russell suggested. Put kelp in a shaker and use instead of salt. Add to soups. Or mix it with olive oil or tamari and use as a seasoning.
Don’t shun this creamy fruit because of the fat content. Avocados have good, unsaturated fats which help with growth and development of the central nervous system and the brain. They’re packed with nearly 20 vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. And they play well with others; when you eat an avocado, it helps the body absorb more fat-soluble nutrients, such as alpha- and beta-carotene, as well as lutein, from other foods.
Try them: Use avocado in place of mayonnaise. Add it to smoothies, salad, salsa, soups or sandwiches.
Dried plums (prunes)
These little gems are “a mouthful of rich sweetness,” said dietitian and nutrition therapist Victoria Shanta Retelny of Chicago. High in antioxidants, they also have twice as much potassium as bananas; potassium can help keep blood pressure in check.
Try them: Retelny loves to dip them in dark chocolate or she purees them, then tops them with a dollop of plain yogurt and cinnamon.
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