Healthy Eats: Top 5 Superfoods for Summer
Photo: Stephanie Studer on Unsplash
Trees and flowers aren’t the only things popping this time of year. Local superfoods are now making long-awaited appearances at farmers’ markets, grocery stores – and in some cases your own backyard.
Julie Daniluk, a Toronto-based registered nutritionist, health educator, writer and TV personality is a big believer in the ability of food to maximize health – and the more seasonal it is the better.
Here are her top five superfoods this season:
“This is one of my favourite foods in the whole world,” says Julie.
Asparagus, she explains, doesn’t require the level of pesticides many other veggies do. It’s also loaded with Vitamin B, which supports proper brain and liver function and helps detoxify the liver. It’s a great source of potassium too.
“That’s really important for the Zoomer crowd because it ensures we can keep our blood pressure at a correct level. While sodium elevates blood pressure, potassium lowers it.”
Asparagus is also an excellent source of Vitamin K, which Julie says provides good bone support and when paired with Vitamin D can help prevent osteoporosis.
Most people look at dandelions as the enemy, but Julie suggests you instead embrace them for their powerful health benefits.
“Dandelions have been extremely popular in Europe for years, especially in Italy, but here people look at me weirdly when I talk about plucking these yellow flowers out of my backyard.” The entire plant – flowers, leaves and roots – is edible, she says.
The leaves are strongly diuretic so they can help improve and promote men’s urine flow. They can also reduce fluid retention which can lead to weight loss.
The flowers can be eaten in salads (and have traditionally been used to make wine) and the roots used to make a drinkable tea that’s a great replacement for coffee and helps to support liver function, says Julie.
But be sure to avoid picking dandelions from areas that have been fertilized with chemicals or sprayed with pesticides. “If you see a thousand dandelions in an open field, there’s a good chance the soil has not been tampered with,” she says. And it’s always a good idea to talk to your health care provider to ensure there won’t be any interactions with any prescription drugs you’re taking.
This delicious local fruit is a far cry from the woody versions imported from Mexico or the U.S.
Not only do they taste great, but they pack a powerful anti-oxidant punch, says Julie.
One cup of strawberries provides 75 per cent of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C, which she says is critical for collagen synthesis. (Think plump skin.) “Collagen is what keeps us looking young, but it drops off after the age of 21.”
Strawberries are also high in alpha hydroxy acid, which rejuvenates the skin, and they’re a great exfoliant. So the next time you make strawberry jam, Julie suggest rubbing some crushed berries on your face, but before you add any sweetener.
And speaking of sweetener, Julie recommends adding honey instead of sugar to make that jam. (See her recipe at the end of this article.)
Before garlic scapes, comes spring garlic, which looks like a fat green onion. Julie says it’s packed with allicin, an active ingredient which has strong antibiotic properties and helps to prevent spring colds and flu. Allicin also keeps you from overeating, she says, because it stimulates a feeling of satiation in the brain.
5) Stinging nettle:
This is another spring superfood often thought of as a nuisance weed. A green, leafy plant with sharp, jagged leaves, it’s full of potassium, Vitamins A and C and is very high in minerals.
Sometimes fresh nettle can be found at farmers’ markets and many health food stores sell dried nettle tea. The plant leaves (which should be harvested in the spring using scissors or shears, not bare hands) can also be sautéed for about 20 minutes, then mixed with a bit of high-quality olive oil and sea salt.
“A lot of us don’t know about this plant, but if you go back a generation many of our grandmothers knew what stinging nettles were used for. Now people think they’re just pesky weeds but they’re actually amazing food sources,” says Julie.
“I’m hoping people re-embrace these Canadian superfoods because people so often say eating healthily is so expensive but if you’re willing to look in your own backyard you can actually find free food that’s really good for you.”
Recipe for Julie’s Strawberry Chia Jam
1 lb (3 cups) fresh organic strawberries
2 tablespoons chia seeds
2 tablespoons raw honey
Optional flavour spike: 1/2 tsp vanilla powder
- Wash berries well, remove tops and add to a blender.
- Add chia seeds and optional raw honey to the strawberries.
- Process until smooth.
- Transfer to a glass mason jar, cover with sealable lid and refrigerate for a few hours to thicken.
- Honey helps to preserve for up to 2 weeks.
Makes 3 Cups
A version of this story was published on June 8, 2018.
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