The super 7 power foods

We went on a culinary crusade to find the foods that will fight for your family's health with vitamins, minerals, fibre and essential fatty acids.

 

power foods

Blueberries
Blueberries have become good health’s poster berry, and it’s easy to see why. Blueberries help aging memories while fending off free radicals to protect young and old. Plus, they’re packed with fibre, helping prevent constipation, relieving diarrhea and protecting against urinary tract infections.

Speedy Blueberry Sauce
Heat 1½ cups (375 mL) frozen blue-berries, 2 tbsp (30 mL) sugar and the finely grated peel (no white pith) of half a lemon in a small pot at medium, stirring constantly for about 4 minutes or until sauce comes to a boil. Pour sauce over pancakes, French toast and waffles. Or blend it with vanilla yogurt and a banana for a terrific smoothie.

Read more: Blueberry recipes: 16 tasty treats>

Sweet Potatoes
This spud’s MO is similar to that of its pale cousin — providing oodles of vitamin C and lots of fibre in one compact serving. In addition, sweet potatoes are loaded with carotenoids that help fight cancer, protect heart health and boost immunity. One small sweet potato (77 g) provides more than twice the recommended daily amount of vitamin A, while also supplying vitamin C, copper, dietary fibre, vitamin B6, potassium, iron and good-for-the-bones manganese.

Tip: Much of a sweet tater’s fibre is in the skin or the surface directly below it. Choosing organic means you can serve up the skins without fretting about pesticides. Keep sweet potatoes out of the fridge, storing them in a dark, cool cupboard.

Cinnamon Sweetie Fries
2 lb (1 kg) sweet potatoes, about 2 large or 4 medium (peeling is optional)
2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
2 tsp (10 mL) cinnamon
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Slice sweet potatoes into ½ in (1 cm) thick sticks and place in a large bowl. Pour in oil, mix well, then toss with cinnamon. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, arrange potatoes in a single layer. Bake 15 minutes, remove from oven and turn over. Bake another 15–20 minutes or until golden brown. Season with salt.

Salmon
Salmon is bursting with omega-3 fatty acids that help nourish growing brains and play a key role in development. Let this fish come to the rescue, not only as a brain booster but for heart protection too. Plus, salmon is high in protein, a good source of iron, and full of calcium when it comes out of a can (thanks to all those bones).

Tip: Choose wild salmon to avoid the contaminants associated with farmed salmon (most canned salmon is wild).

12-Minute Salmon
2 tbsp (30 mL) Japanese mirin, cooking sherry
or white wine
4–5 peeled, quarter-sized slices of fresh ginger
1 lb (500 g) boneless salmon fillets
1 tbsp (15 mL) soy or tamari sauce
1 tbsp (15 mL) toasted sesame oil
pinch sugar
2 green onions, green and white parts, chopped

Fill a large frying pan with an inch (2.5 cm) of water, the mirin and ginger. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Add salmon fillets, cover with a lid and poach for 12–15 minutes, depending on thickness. (It’s done when the fish flakes and is no longer opaque.) Using tongs, transfer fillets to a serving dish and remove ¼ cup (50 mL) of the cooking liquid, discarding the rest. In a small bowl, whisk together reserved cooking liquid, soy sauce, sesame oil and a pinch of sugar. Drizzle sauce over the fillets and garnish with chopped green onions. Serves 4.

Read more: Super salmon recipes your kids will love>

Oatmeal
Thanks to high levels of beta-glucan soluble fibre, mighty oatmeal flakes not only help lower bad cholesterol and protect kids’ hearts, but stabilize blood sugar levels too. And oatmeal’s stick-to-your-ribs quality means kids burn up these complex carbs slowly, translating into better performance and behaviour during school mornings. Plus, a recent Dutch study showed that increased consumption of whole grains (like oats) and fish could reduce the risk of childhood asthma by as much as 50 percent.

Easy Oatmeal
Add 2 parts water to 1 part oats in a pot, add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, uncovered, until the oatmeal is soft, stirring occasionally. The sky’s the limit when it comes to healthy, yummy toppings (such as defrosted frozen blueberries), walnut crunch (see Maple walnut crunch), chopped apples, dried fruit, toasted seeds, plain yogurt or even a drizzle of maple syrup.

Broccoli
Broccoli is your body’s BFF: bone-building strength via vitamin K and calcium, plus immune-boosting ability (vitamin C, beta carotene, zinc and selenium). Broccoli is also great for kids’ eyes due to all the lutein and zeaxanthin, which are just some of the mighty nutrients broccoli packs. One of the healthiest ways to cook broccoli is to steam it, preserving these nutrients. Got some leftover broccoli? Here are three quick recipes for this versatile veggie:

Fast Salad
Toss broccoli with some cooked quinoa, chopped cukes, diced red onion and crumbled feta. Drizzle with vinaigrette and enjoy.

Easy Stir-fry
Heat up the wok with some oil and sauté some chopped green onions and firm tofu. Add cooked brown rice and broccoli, then stir-fry until warmed through. Season with tamari sauce and it’s done.

Fast Frittata
Heat up 4 to 6 beaten eggs in an oiled frying pan. Add broccoli and some grated cheese. Cook on low until eggs set, then place under the broiler for a minute or two for a golden-brown top.

Walnuts
Because a walnut looks similar to the brain, the Chinese traditionally believed it was brain food. Turns out they were on to something. In fact, the omega-3s in walnuts help a kid’s neurons fire, communicate and keep moving. These same essential fatty acids also help ward off cancer, protect the heart and lower cholesterol.

Tip: Make sure your little gourmand gets the sweetest nuts possible — buy fresh in small amounts and store in the fridge or freezer.

Maple Walnut Crunch
A little bit of maple syrup goes a long way in this recipe that boasts sweetness and kid appeal. Mix 1 cup (250 mL) raw walnut pieces with 1 tbsp (15 mL) maple syrup and a pinch of salt. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 325°F (160°C) for 20 minutes, turning once halfway through baking.

Red Kidney Beans
Most kids love Mexican foods — and that is where red kidney beans fit in effortlessly. You can tuck them into a kid-friendly nacho or burrito. Half a cup (125 mL) of kidney beans has 7.3 g of fibre, helping a kid feel full and stay regular. Add its protein, iron and folate, plus high levels of antioxidants, and you have one super bean!

Red Bean Veggie Burgers
1½ cups (375 mL) red kidney beans, mashed smooth
1 cup (250 mL) grated sweet potato
1 cup (250 mL) grated sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup (125 mL) quick oats
¼ cup (50 mL) chopped red onion
¼ cup (50 mL) chopped fresh coriander
1 tsp (5 mL) each salt, roasted cumin and chili powder
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil

In a large bowl, combine beans, potato, cheese, oats, red onion, coriander, salt, cumin and chili powder. Add the egg, mix and form 6 patties. Heat oil in a large frying pan, cook patties 5 minutes per side, or until heated through and golden brown.

Originally posted in September 2010. 

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