| Superfoods – To Your Health!
by Stacey Tress
What is a Superfood?
Superfoods are nutrient powerhouses that pack large doses of antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals. These foods have an incredible array of health benefits. Eating them may reduce the risk of chronic disease and prolong life, and people who eat more of them are healthier and thinner than those who don’t. Read about some of my favourite superfoods, what health benefits they offer, and how to fit them into your diet.
Goji Berry (Wolfberry)
Goji berries contain an extraordinary amount of unique nutrients and anti-oxidants that give them amazing power as a superfood in our diets. They are classically grown from an evergreen shrub found in China, Mongolia, and in the Himalayan mountains of Tibet. Goji berries are also called wolfberries in many of these countries. These hardy plants produce berries that are members of the Solanaceae family of plants, also called nightshade veggies. The relatives include tomato, potato, peppers, eggplant, tomatillo, and tobacco. Typically, the clusters of small red fruit are cooked into soups in some Asian cuisine, or dried and ground into a powder or juiced.
Did you know you can grow goji berries here in the Prairies? See this link for a great list of edible fruits that we can grow here, theurbanfarmer.ca/resources/edible-plants-for-the-prairies.
Goji berries have all eighteen amino acids, as well as mega doses of vitamin A (beta carotene), B1, B2, B6, and vitamin E. They contain more vitamin C by weight than any other food on earth. They also contain more iron than spinach, as well as twenty-one other key trace minerals. Gojis are extremely rich in the unique phytonutrient anti-oxidants known as lutein and zeaxanthin. These are two of the most important nutrients for healthy eyes and nervous system.
Goji berries are also rich in unique compounds known as lycium barbarum polysaccharides. These nutrients have been shown to enhance immunity and have a similar chemical structure to immune-stimulating compounds within maitake mushrooms and echinacea. These polysaccharides provide immune cells with special sugars that enable them to communicate more effectively.
Key polysaccarides enhance immunity in the following ways:
These polysaccharides are also one of the preferred fuel sources of good intestinal bacteria. They help to orchestrate a healthy immune response, as well. By supporting the immune cells and probiotic cells with their preferred fuel, the polysaccharides present in goji berries modulate immunity and reduce inflammation.
These polysaccharides are very effective at enhancing detoxification within the body. They aid in the removal of metabolic waste products such as lactic acid that accumulates in muscles during exertion. They also support the liver and protect it from damage that may occur during intense periods of exercise.
In Asia, goji berries have been used as a cultural medicinal for inflammatory-based disorders such as asthma, allergies, chronic pain, and cancer. The polysaccharides also show promise in blunting auto-immune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and Crohn’s disease.
These key nutrients synergize to have a very powerful effect on the key endocrine glands such as the adrenals, thymus, thyroid, and pituitary. Goji berries are the great adapters and aids for the body in that they enhance the body’s ability to successfully adapt to stress. This unique array of super nutrients make them one of the world’s premier foods for optimal performance and longevity.
I have been consuming these berries in my diet for many years, but usually in a dried fruit form and added to my granola or oatmeal. I also love drinking goji berry juice, which has become my preferred way to get these antioxidants. My whole family drinks it every day. Having the goji berry in juice form is an easy way for your body to digest and assimilate the abundant nutrition. I’m a busy mom and love the convenience of this tasty and nutrient-dense drink. I always have some on hand, so the next time you are in Yorkton, come over to try some!
Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant rarely found in other foods. Studies suggest that it could protect the skin against harmful UV rays, prevent certain cancers, and lower cholesterol. Plus, tomatoes contain high amounts of potassium, fibre, and vitamin C. One of my favourite local producers of seed is Prairie Garden Seeds and I just love their Fargo Yellow Pear. As the name suggests, it produces tons of large cherry-sized pear to oval tomatoes. So super yummy. Here’s the link to all of the tomatoes Prairie Garden Seeds have: prseeds.ca/seed
I’m always looking for easy ways to preserve my fall harvest and here’s one of the easiest ways to have that fresh tomato taste all winter long.
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Take whatever kind/amount of tomatoes you have and give them a wash. I never peel my tomatoes but I do take off the stems. Cut into quarters and arrange in a casserole dish. I love adding a nice drizzled dose of olive oil and salt/pepper. I roast the tomatoes until they are done, usually about 40 minutes or so, depending on how many are piled in. Once they cool, I just portion into usable size containers (ziplock bags would work, too). Some folks puree before they freeze. but I like the versatility of working with the chunks. I use these roasted tomatoes as the base of my Roasted Tomato Soup, Beef n Mac, and Hamburger Soup. Additions—sometimes I add a whole head of garlic to the casserole dish of tomatoes, or red pepper, or onion, or basil. Whatever I add, I just make sure to label the container going to the freezer. Everything tastes better when roasted!
These berries are full of phytonutrients that neutralize free radicals (agents that cause aging and cell damage). The antioxidants in these berries may also protect against cancer and reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Move over spinach, you’ve got some fierce competition. Kale contains a type of phytonutrient that appears to lessen the occurrence of a wide variety of cancers, including breast and ovarian. Though scientists are still studying why this happens, they believe the phytonutrients in kale trigger the liver to produce enzymes that neutralize potentially cancer-causing substances.
I love kale because it’s a cold season crop—here in the prairies you can get a few good frosts (and even some snow!) and still go out and harvest kale. I actually skip the late spring sowing of kale to avoid the summer destruction of the cabbageworm and sow my kale seed later in summer and enjoy lovely hole-free kale all fall! Kale keeps forever in the fridge and I love making big batches of homemade soup, adding roughly chopped/shredded kale to it (it shrinks down to practically nothing!).
A cup of black beans packs 15 grams of protein, plus, they’re full of heart-healthy fibre, antioxidants, and energy-boosting iron (and easy on the budget!).
Soaking beans is a traditional practice that can positively impact the nutritional quality for those who consume them. Beans add great value and variety to the diet, yet they contain anti-nutrients—particularly phytates and enzyme inhibitors—that detract from their nutritive value. Beans should be prepared in a manner that maximizes nutrient density by mitigating the effects of these anti-nutrients. Soaking beans overnight seems to be an effective, traditional method of enhancing their nutrient profile, and it is one method consistently used by people who adhere to time-honoured, traditional methods of preparing native, unprocessed foods. I like to add a tablespoon or so of apple cider vinegar or kombucha to the soaking beans, to enhance the effect.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli contain phytonutrients that may suppress the growth of tumours and reduce cancer risk. One cup of this veggie powerhouse will supply you with your daily dose of immunity, boosting vitamin C and a large percentage of folic acid.
My favourite way to eat broccoli (besides fresh off the stalk in summer) is by doing broccoli sprouts.
Full of fibre, oats are a rich source of magnesium, potassium, and phytonutrients. They contain a special type of fibre that helps to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease. Magnesium works to regulate blood-sugar levels and research suggests that eating whole-grain oats may reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes.
Soaked Oatmeal with Blueberries
The night before—take your whole oats and put in dish. Cover with water and add 1–2 tbsp milk kefir or plain active yogurt. (This breaks down the phytic acid as well as lowers the glycemic index of the oats, because the lactobacillus in the milk kefir digests the sugars in the oats overnight.) In the morning, pour the whole goopy mess into a sauce pan and add some more water. You’ll notice a little goes a long way as the soaked oats have expanded. I usually cook this mixture (after bringing to a boil) on low about eight minutes or so. I top off the oatmeal with my “seedy granola” (see last article in Jan/Feb’16 for full recipe), 1/2 cup or so fresh organic blueberries and my milk kefir. Yum!
—From The Nourished Kitchen
Chipotle Chile, Chicken, and Black Bean Soup
• Yield: 4 to 6 Servings
• Prep: 5 mins
• Cook: 20 mins
• Ready In: 25 mins
When the chill of winter surrounds you, this spicy chicken and black bean soup offers a lovely, nourishing warmth. Serve with cornbread and queso fresco and chopped fresh cilantro.
2 tbsp butter
1 yellow onion (chopped fine)
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder (or to taste)
1 tsp Mexican oregano
1 quart chicken broth (preferably homemade roast chicken stock)
1 cup prepared salsa
2 cups cooked chicken (chopped into bite-sized pieces)
1-1/2 cups cooked black beans
- In a soup pot, heat butter in a skillet over medium-high heat until melted, then add chopped yellow onion and fry until translucent, about 4 minutes.
- Stir in cumin, chipotle chili powder, and Mexican oregano into the mixture of onions and butter, continuing to cook for about one to two minutes.
- Add chicken broth and salsa to the onions, butter, cumin, and oregano.
- Add cooked chicken and black beans to the soup pot, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for approximately ten to fifteen minutes.
The Nourished Kitchen, Jennifer McGruther (and recipe credit, too!)
Stacey Tress, a Holistic Nutritional Therapist (HNT), lives in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, with her husband and two daughters. She is the owner of Garden Therapy Yorkton which offers fermenting workshops, design work, organically-grown produce, and more! To learn more, please contact her at 306-641-4239, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.gardentherapyyorkton.ca, or on facebook “Garden Therapy Yorkton.” Also, see the display ad on page 9 of the 21.6 March/April issue of the WHOLifE Journal.