Making Superfoods Super Tasty
By: Tianna Robinson
There is an inverse relationship between what’s good for us and what tastes good. If this were not so, there would be no such thing as obesity and potato chips and we’d happily snack on broccoli while watching TV.
To the rescue: Bestselling cookbook author Bonnie Stern, who runs a top-notch cooking school in Toronto and Fran Berkoff an experienced dietitian, made the perfect match and hosted a cooking class on super foods: why they are good for you and how they can taste good too!
Green tea was first on their list of a super foods (or super liquid in this case).
Turns out it doesn’t matter where you find this tasty tea, whether the grocery store or fancy tea shop – Fran says as long as it comes from the tealeaf itself, it is good for you.
The major benefit of green tea is its ability to lower heart disease.
Be sure not to confuse green tea with herbal tea though, herbal teas do not have the same benefits
Are you less into tea and more into wine?
Wine is delicious and nutritious (in moderation); Fran suggests that women drink one glass a day to gain its benefits while men should drink two glasses a day. However, if you are at risk of breast cancer be careful — it has been shown in some studies that there is a correlation between alcohol and this cancer.
Red or white? It’s hard to know for sure. Red wine has been studied more than white, and so it is usually thought to have more benefits.
Bonnie and Fran started the class with a Green Tea Sangria, suggested especially because you are consuming half the amount of wine you might normally. And, it’s delicious – you won’t miss the extra hit of vino.
Make good friends with garlic, smelly as it is – your body reaps huge benefits from it, including lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
Bonnie suggests if you are using raw garlic in a salad dressing to use a garlic press to ensure you don’t get chunks of garlic in your salad.
Feeling a little ill? Ginger is great for an unsettled stomach.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is an essential ingredient for Bonnie and it is easy to see why.
EVOO is the first press of the ripe olive unlike other oils that are processed. With only 100 calories per tbsp, you get full flavour and great benefits from the antioxidants and the mono-saturated fat that is in EVOO.
EVOO also makes you feel a little more satisfied by your meal, which is great for the waistline.
Anything that comes out of the ground contains vitamins that keep it healthy and in turn will keep us healthy. Bonnie is a huge advocate of farmer’s markets, and if one is accessible to you, use it! Enjoy the luxury of eating produce that is only a day old.
Look for vegetables that are very vibrant in colour- these contain the most vitamins and antioxidants.
Spinach: This is a great source of Vitamin C, A, K, potassium, protein and iron. Speaking of iron, if you are not getting enough of it, Fran suggests eating iron with vitamin C. This will make iron more available to your body. For example, try eating a spinach salad with oranges or with a glass of orange juice. Do not shy from cooking your spinach either, cooked spinach makes it shrink and therefore makes it more concentrated. If you cook the spinach you will consume more of this iron-filled goodness.
Don’t like Brussels sprouts? Cut them in half, put them in the oven for 20-30 minutes and taste them again. You might be pleasantly surprised!
How about beets? Trim off the top and bottom, wrap in foil and bake for two hours. Bonnie says this is the best way to eat your beets!
Frozen veggies. Do not be afraid of frozen veg. According to Bonnie and Fran, they are frozen under the “flash freeze” method and therefore maintain all their wonderful nutrients. Make sure you do not over-cook and you are good to go!
Pomegranates: We all know the pomegranate is the current darling among foodies, and as an added bonus, it’s currently in season.
As delicious as they are they, it is hard to open up a pomegranate and look graceful at the same time- unless you are Bonnie Stern. Her method for limiting the amount of red juice splashed on your t-shirt? Take a knife, pierce the skin and follow it around the entire circumference. Then place the pomegranate in a bowl filled with water and slowly separate. When you pull out the seeds the bitter pith will rise to the top and the seeds with fall to the bottom. Voila!
The seeds are where you will find all of the benefits of the pomegranate; they’re high in antioxidants, lower heart disease and studies indicate they lower the chances of getting cancer as well.
Be careful of pomegranate juices as they are often watered down and do not have the same health benefits as eating the real thing.
Avocado: Avocados are the only fruit with fat from Omega 3 fatty acids. They also contain antioxidants, vitamin B6 (helps with male hormone production), high levels of folic acid, potassium (which assists in regulating women’s thyroid gland) and also helps people with digestive and circulatory problems.
It is nearly impossible to find a ripe avocado in Canada. Bonnie’s solution- place the avocado in a bag of rice and it will quickly ripen to use for the next day. Once you have your avocado to your desired ripeness, place it in the fridge and it will keep for up to a week.
Omega 3’s are the bee knees, good for making your blood less “sticky”, lowering stroke and heart disease. You can find Omega 3’s in fortified foods such as milk, bread and eggs but they will never match the amount of Omega 3’s you get from fish, and the fatty ones such as salmon are best.
Fish is the most delicious when fresh, and Bonnie suggests putting your nose right up to the fish. If it doesn’t smell fishy – in fact it shouldn’t smell like anything – it is fresh and at its best.
Roast your fish and it will be the juiciest, usually 10 minutes per inch of thickness is the rule of thumb.
Two servings of fish a week is recommended to get sufficient Omega 3’s.
Not all fish are created equal, if you take a close look at the salmon before you buy it– the more white streaks it has, the more of that good fat. Salmon from the Atlantic is generally the most beneficial in this sense — the Atlantic is colder and therefore causes the fish to hold onto fat. If the salmon has more of a red colour, it is wild and leaner.
If you don’t like fish and prefer Omega 3 supplements Fran says to make sure it is DHA or EPA and 500 mg. Since Omega 3’s thin your blood slightly, be careful if you are on medication.
Bonnie had a great suggestion for anyone who doesn’t like fish but is worried about how much red meat they eat. She suggested that when making meatballs, for example, use half meat and half legume such as chickpeas. She also urged us to remember that the smaller the pieces shorter the shelf life. Minced meats will not last as long in your fridge.
Click here to see Bonnie’s delicious Orange Glazed Salmon recipe
Nuts. These aren’t a junk food, even though they’re delicious – they pack Omega 3’s too. Whether you love almonds, walnuts or hazelnuts Bonnie strongly suggests one thing- toast them. Put them in the oven at around 375F (190C) for 15 minutes and then put them in the freezer. They will be much more flavourful this way!
For more information on Bonnie Stern’s School of Cooking and Cookware shop visit http://www.bonniestern.com/