Healthy Eats: Top 5 Harvest Superfoods
Fall’s bounty of colourful fruits and vegetables not only create a visual wonderland of colour and texture, but also pack extraordinary nutritional value. Photo: Westend61/Getty Images
This is a fantastic time of year to eat. Locally-grown food is so plentiful right now it’s hard to know what to enjoy first. Farmers’ markets are overflowing with fruits and vegetables, creating a visual wonderland of colour and texture.
Julie Daniluk, a Toronto-based registered nutritionist, health educator, writer and TV personality, knows what lies beneath those colours and textures. Here are her top five picks for superfoods of the harvest — foods that pack extraordinary nutritional value.
1) Swiss chard: “Greens are coming in fast and furious and they’re the backbone of the anti-inflammatory foods,” she says. “Swiss chard is a beautiful, delicate green that comes in a rainbow of colours” (with yellow, red, purple or white stems). Julie says they’re all high in B vitamins, as well as magnesium, which reduces headaches, helps you better manage stress, and reduces asthma and hot flashes.
Swiss chard is also a rich source of Vitamin K, which “helps reduce the messengers of inflammation.” Unlike kale, she adds, Swiss chard is safe for people who have hyperthyroid issues. To top it off, it contains powerful antioxidants and reduces the bad kind of cholesterol — plus it’s versatile.
“Anywhere you’d use spinach, you can use Swiss chard.”
2) Parsley: “This has historically been sanctioned as a garnish, so people tend to leave it on their plates,” says Julie. “But we should really be embracing it for its incredible properties. Parsley is just so underrated.” It’s not only powerfully anti-inflammatory, Julie says studies indicate parsley’s bioactive flavonoid, called Apigenin, has been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers, including breast cancer, digestive tract cancer, as well as skin and prostate cancers.
Julie suggests chopping it up finely and adding it to soups and stews, salads and salad dressings, and even smoothies. Parsley, she says, also helps to modulate the immune system which means it can help fight allergies or auto-immune disorders.
Most people know it freshens breath, but did you know it’s also a diuretic and can help you drop water and reduce excess swelling?
3) Concorde grapes: These extremely dark-skinned, seeded grapes pack a powerful punch. The dark pigment in the skin helps reduce blood pressure and complications from heart disease, while improving circulation in your arteries. These late summer grapes also contain polyphenals that reduce inflammation in the body, plus they’re high in antioxidants.
“Their thick, sour skin contains the power nutrients and the sweet flesh inside just adds to the eating pleasure,” says Julie. “They’re outrageously nutritious and so pleasurable.”
While the seeds are very bitter, if you manage to chew on a few, she says you’ll get even more bang for your buck since they’ve been shown to help lower the risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias by preventing the accumulation of harmful plaque that contributes to the disease.
4) Local hazelnuts: Once more commonly known as filberts, these little guys contain a whack of Vitamin E, the great hormone regulator, says Julie. They’re good for menopausal symptoms, for thinning your blood, and they’re key for healthy skin and hair. “Vitamin E is a real beauty supplement because it moisturizes you from the inside out.”
Hazelnuts also help you fend off snack attacks since they’re oily and satisfying and fill you up quickly, unlike chips. “The other thing I love about hazelnuts is that they’re a truly Canadian superfood, whereas almonds are imported from Latin America or California,” says Julie. “And what people may not know is that all almonds are cooked before they cross the border into Canada. They’re all pasteurized and they all go through a heat bath.”
Julie points to a Canadian distributor of Canadian products, including hazelnuts. The company is called – get ready for it – Jewels Under the Kilt.
5) Heirloom carrots: “These are one of the brightest, most beautiful superfoods,” she says. These carrots come in red, yellow, purple and orange and while they all have tremendous nutritional value, the red carrots contain lycopene which has been shown to reduce prostrate inflammation. Julie defines ‘heirloom’ as an unmodified fruit or veggie that’s been passed down for generations and is the purest genetic form.
The best way to cook them she says is to lightly steam, roast or sauté to maintain nutritional value. “We know that a lightly cooked carrot has more nutrition than a raw carrot.” One cup of cooked carrots also has four grams of fibre and is rich in phytonutrients which help to reduce the risk of bowel cancer. And the yellow carrots contain extra nutrients that have been shown to help prevent macular degeneration.
All carrots, adds Julie, are great for eyesight because they contain high amounts of Vitamin A. “And let’s not forget how good they taste.”
A version of this story was published on Oct. 3, 2018