My Top 10 Superfoods: Fresh Spring Recipes to Supercharge Your DietPat Crocker April 1, 2011
I’m sure that we would all like to think of a ‘magic bullet’ that could take care of all of our health issues, whatever they may be. That’s why the title of this article is appealing: eat these foods and you will be well. The fact is that all whole, organic, natural foods are superfoods, and as long as we eat a variety of brightly-coloured fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, coldwater fish, and herbs – while giving processed and fast foods a wide berth – we will feel better, have more energy, and will keep body weight at a manageable level.
Still, it is handy to have a short list of must-have foods that we know we can turn to for essential nutrients and maximum health benefits. This list boasts foods that have been proven to offer vital phytonutrients for the following health benefits: Lower or help regulate blood sugar levels; Help regulate metabolism and burn body fat; Help protect the heart; Help prevent cancer; Detoxify vital organs; Lower blood pressure; Prevent or reduce inflammation; Aid digestion.
MY TOP 10 SUPERFOODS
It is known that the daily choices we make have long-term effects on our health, and in order to begin to see the benefits listed above, you will need to include the following foods in your daily eating pattern. It’s time to ‘spring clean’ your diet by eliminating harmful high fat, low nutrient foods and replacing them with these superfoods every day: cruciferous vegetables, dark-skinned berries, alliums, herbs and spices, fatty fish, nuts, legumes, dark chocolate, seaweed, and seeds.
Dark Skinned Berries – blueberries, blackberries, and acai berries. High concentrations of anthocyanins and phenolic pigments (which make them dark blue, red, or purple in colour) give them exceptional antioxidant, anti-diabetic, and heart-protective properties. Diet Advice: include raw (fresh or frozen) dark-skinned berries at least once daily in meals.
Alliums – leeks, garlic, onions, and shallots. With garlic the hero of the bunch, alliums help to protect against prostate, stomach, and colon cancer; lower blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels; and provide antibacterial, along with other, benefits. Diet Advice: eat raw garlic once a day and include one other allium in a daily meal.
Herbs and Spices – thyme, rosemary, turmeric, ginger, cayenne, and cinnamon. Most fresh green herbs have antioxidant properties, along with other healing benefits specific to the herb; dandelion (slightly bitter) and burdock leaves (very bitter) are cleansing; spices contain powerful phytonutrients that regulate and affect body functions. Diet Advice: Eat fresh green herbs with two meals each day and cook with fresh ground spices (season dishes with 1 tablespoon Spring Seasoning Paste, below) every day.
Cruciferous Vegetables – Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli rabe contain a powerful range of disease fighters. Endoles and sulforaphane may increase enzymes that lower the incidence of colon and lung cancers. Diet Advice: eat these foods raw, lightly steamed or stir fried, at least three times per week; every day is ideal.
Fatty Fish – especially wild salmon and sardines. Wild-caught fish eat krill and other wild foods that contribute to the quality of their flesh. They are also lower in mercury and high in vitamin D. Wild salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Avoid farmed fish that may have been fed grain and antibiotics. Diet Advice: eat fatty fish twice a week.
Seaweed – arame, hijiki, kelp, kombu, nori, and wakame detoxify the body and help prevent assimilation of heavy metals. May have anti-cancer effects, and individual seaweed varieties have varying levels of calcium, iodine, potassium, and iron. Diet Advice: eat seaweed once or twice per week and eat kombu raw (crushed and sprinkled over breakfast cereals, salads, and main course dishes) every day.
Nuts – walnuts and almonds are great sources of antioxidants, vitamin E, selenium, and magnesium and of all nuts, walnuts are highest in alpha-linolenic omega-3 fatty acids, which lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Legumes – dried peas, beans, and lentils are good plant proteins, high in fibre and associated with lower risks of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. Diet Advice: eat legumes three times per week, more often if you are vegetarian/vegan.
Dark Chocolate – 70% cocoa or higher is high in antioxidants for anti-aging, flavonoids that prevent clogged arteries and lower blood pressure, and magnesium. Diet Advice: indulge in one small square of the best quality dark chocolate every day.
Seeds – flax, chia, pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds. Sesame seeds enhance absorption of vitamin E and help lower cholesterol, pumpkin seeds contain beta-sitosterol that offers some benefit for prostate hyperplasia (BPH), and sunflower seeds help lower cholesterol and may lower the risk of heart disease. Diet Advice: eat 2 to 3 Tbsp seeds (whole sesame seeds if you can find them; pumpkin if you are male) every day.
Pat Crocker is a Culinary Herbalist, Home Economist, and Healthy Food Writer. She lives by her lists. Photographer, lecturer, and author of several award-winning books, Pat’s latest book (with co-author Nettie Cronish), Everyday Flexitarian is now available in bookstores. Her other books, including The Yogurt Bible, The Vegan Cook’s Bible, The Vegetarian Cook’s Bible, The Juicing Bible, and The Smoothies Bible, are available at bookstores throughout Canada and the United States. Write or e-mail Pat at 536 Mill St., Neustadt, ON, N0G 2M0, firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit https://www.riversongherbals.com or https://www.foodwedsherbs.blogspot.com
Black Berry Smoothie
- 1/2 cup pomegranate juice
- 1 Tbsp avocado oil
- 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
- 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blackberries
- 1/4 cup frozen acai berries
- 1/2 banana
- 1 Tbsp chia seeds
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1) In a blender, combine juice, oil, blueberries, blackberries, acai berries, banana, and chia seeds. Blend on high until smooth. Pour into 2 glasses and garnish each with cinnamon. Makes 2 servings.
Leek, Garlic and Onion Tart
- 3 cups thinly sliced potatoes
- 1 cup thinly sliced, peeled sweet potato
- 3 Tbsp honey mustard
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup sliced leek, white and tender green parts
- 4 cloves garlic, slivered
- 3 cups thinly sliced onions (about 3 onions)
- 2 Tbsp avocado or olive oil
- 3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil or Spring Seasoning Paste (recipe below)
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1) Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C)
2) Potato Base: In a large bowl, toss potatoes with mustard and oil. Spread in bottom of 10-inch (3L) springform pan or round tart pan, lightly oiled. Press potatoes with the back of a spoon to compress. Sprinkle salt and pepper over top.
3) Topping: Distribute leek and garlic evenly over potato base. Scatter onions over top. Drizzle with oil. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes or until potatoes are tender and onions are golden. Sprinkle basil and Parmesan over top and bake for another 3 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Spring Seasoning Paste
- 1 cinnamon stick (2-inches), crushed
- 1 Tbsp whole yellow or brown mustard seeds
- 1 Tbsp whole coriander seeds
- 2 dried cayenne peppers, cut into pieces
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh green herbs (thyme, oregano, dandelion, or burdock leaves)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 piece (1-inch) fresh ginger, peeled
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 Tbsp macadamia or olive oil
- 1 Tbsp brown rice syrup
1) In a blender or mortar (using pestle) chop or pound cinnamon, mustard, coriander, and peppers until consistently ground (fine or coarse, as desired). Add garlic and ginger and blend or pound to a thick paste. Add nutmeg, oil, and rice syrup and mix until well blended and smooth. Transfer to a small jar. Label and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Makes 1/2 cup.
Asparagus and Cauliflower Salad
- 1 Tbsp avocado oil or olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 Tbsp Spring Seasoning Paste or garam masala
- 2 cups fresh asparagus pieces
- 1 cup thinly sliced cauliflower
- 1/2 cup shredded carrots
- 1/4 cup raisins or chopped dates
- 1 Tbsp sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup baby spinach
1) In a wok or skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes or until soft and lightly-coloured. Add garlic and seasoning and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add asparagus and cauliflower and mix well to coat with onions and spices. Cook, stirring constantly for 3 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender.
2) Remove from heat and stir in carrots and dates. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm over spinach. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Braised Salmon and Kale with Red Lentils
- 1 Tbsp avocado or olive oil
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- 1 Tbsp Spring Seasoning Paste or garam masala
- 2 cups chopped kale (still wet from washing)
- 4 wild salmon fillets (4 oz/125 g each), skin on one side
- 1 can (19 oz/540 mL) red lentils, rinsed and drained
1) In a skillet or wok, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and seasoning and cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes or until lightly coloured. Add kale and toss to coat with onions. Place salmon over top, skin side up. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until salmon is opaque and flakes easily with a fork. Remove skin from salmon and remove fillets to a platter. Toss lentils with kale and heat through. Makes 4 servings.
Shiitake Mushroom Nori Rolls
- 2 sheets dried nori
- 3 Tbsp avocado or olive oil, divided
- 3 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1 zucchini, peeled and diced
- 1/2 cup sliced shiitake mushroom caps
- 1/4 cup chopped almonds
- 3 Tbsp sesame seeds
- 1 Tbsp brown rice syrup
- 1 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp Spring Seasoning Paste (recipe above)
- 1 cup cooked Japanese sticky rice
1) Lightly toast nori sheets over an open flame or under the broiler, set aside.
2) In a skillet or wok, heat 2 Tbsp of the oil over high heat. Swirl to coat the base and sides. Add onions, zucchini, and mushrooms and cook, stirring constantly for 4 minutes. Stir in almonds, sesame seeds, brown rice syrup, tamari, and seasoning paste. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Toss rice with mushroom mixture.
3) Lay one sheet of nori out on a sushi mat or clean tea towel. Spoon rice mixture along the long side of the sheet and roll up. Moisten the long end to close the roll. Set aside and fill and roll the remaining nori sheet. Makes 2 rolls, about 12 slices.
- 1/4 cup walnuts or almonds
- 2 Tbsp sesame or flax seeds
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 cup chopped fresh dandelion leaves
- 1 cup fresh parsley
- 2 Tbsp fresh rosemary or thyme
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup olive oil
- sea salt
1) In a blender or food processor, chop walnuts, flax seeds, and garlic. Add dandelion, parsley, and rosemary and start motor. Add olive oil slowly through opening in feed tube and process until pesto is desired consistency. Season to taste. Makes 2 cups.
- Rimmed baking pan
- 11 x 7-inch (2L) baking pan
- 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup sesame seeds
- 2 cups granola cereal
- 1-1/2 cups unsweetened crisp brown rice cereal
- 1 cup dried cherries or cranberries
- 1/4 cup whole flaxseeds
- 2 Tbsp whole chia seeds
- 1 Tbsp freshly ground sea salt
- 1/2 cup brown rice syrup or honey
- 2 Tbsp coconut oil
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1) Preheat oven to 375° F (190° F)
2) On baking pan, combine walnuts and sesame seeds. Bake in preheated oven until lightly brown and toasted, about 5 minutes.
3) In a large bowl, combine granola, brown rice cereal, cherries, flaxseeds, chia seeds, sea salt, and toasted walnuts and sesame seeds.
4) In a saucepan, heat brown rice syrup over medium-high heat until lightly simmering. Remove from the heat and stir in the coconut oil and vanilla. Stir until the coconut oil is dissolved. Pour over grain mixture. Press into the prepared baking pan and set aside for 15 minutes. Cut the mixture into 2 x 2-inch (5 x 5 cm) squares. Store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks or in the refrigerator for up to a month.
As a professional Home Economist (BAA, Ryerson U., Toronto) and Culinary Herbalist, Pat’s passion for healthy food is fused with her knowledge and love of herbs. She has honed her wellness practice over more than four decades of growing, photographing, and writing about what she calls, the helping plants. In fact, Crocker infuses the medicinal benefits of herbs in every original recipe she develops. An award-winning author, Pat has written 23 herb/healthy cookbooks, including The Healing Herbs Cookbook,The Juicing Bible, and her latest, Cooking with Cannabis (<a href="https://www.sterlingpublishing.com/9781454940753/?category=STSU1CUL">Sterling</a>) and The Herbalist’s Kitchen (Sterling, 2018). <a href="www.patcrocker.com">www.patcrocker.com</a>