Eight new foods to try this year

 

A New Year means new tastes to experience. Well, that’s always my New Year’s resolution, anyhow! If you are getting bored of a repetitive meal cycle, try adding one of these nutritious ingredients into the mix. They’ve been hand-selected because they have the perfect balance of tasting good while being good-for-you too.

Sorghum: This member of the grass family grows readily in Africa, where it’s a staple grain. Hardy and drought-tolerant, it is becoming more popular in North America for its nutty flavour and versatility. In addition to being a great side dish when boiled like rice, sorghum grains can also be popped like popcorn (just smaller!) and make a great snack.

Sorghum is naturally gluten-free, and is a great replacement for pasta, couscous or bulgur. If you have celiac disease, this grain is a fun addition to your diet. High in fibre and rich in antioxidants, it’s a great base for grain salads.

Pomegranate: This beautiful red fruit opens to reveal sparking red jewels called arils, which are eaten by the handful. Prized for its antioxidant content, pomegranate is sour-sweet and very juicy. The key is knowing how to cut into it properly to save the arils, and this video shows you how (seriously though – it shaved 10 minutes off my pomegranate prep time!)

Add the precious seeds to salads, yogurt, dishes or eat them as a snack. Studies show that pomegranate is associated with beneficial effects on heart health and blood pressure, likely due to its high antioxidant content. Try any of these fantastic pomegranate recipes.

Kefir: You may know that yogurt contains beneficial probiotics, but have you tried yogurt’s cousin kefir? It’s an effervescent dairy-based drink that’s loaded with beneficial probiotics, which help boost the immune system and keep the digestive system working well. It also has anti-inflammatory effects and may help improve tolerance to lactose.

Choose plain (unflavored) kefir rather than a vanilla or strawberry version, which have tons of added sugar. Drink it as a snack or with breakfast. You can also make your own kefir at home with this recipe.

Lentils: If you want to eat more pulses or legumes, lentils are the best place to start. They are quick to cook (red lentils are ready in 15 minutes) and make an amazing soup. Lentils are chock-full of protein and iron, so they are a great replacement for meat if you are aiming to enjoy more plant-based meals.

Lentils are also high in fibre, which is linked to a decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Eager to try a variety of lentil recipes? Find lots here.

Chia seeds: They may look like large poppy seeds, but these mighty little wonders pack a surprising nutritional punch. A one ounce serving (about two tablespoons) provides 10 grams of fibre, 5 grams of protein, and lots of healthy monounsaturated and omega-3 fats. They are great for digestive and cardiovascular health.

Chia forms a gel-like substance when mixed into liquid. Try it and see – it’s really cool. Toss a teaspoon of chia into a little bowl and add a teaspoon of water. In a few minutes, you’ll have gel. This helps chia act as a gentle laxative. If you are a bit backed up, mix a tablespoon of chia into your morning oatmeal or yogurt.

Fresh turmeric: This ingredient is popping up everywhere, from warm turmeric lattes to smoothies to salad dressing. As the main spice in curry, it’s responsible for that bright yellow hue. But take heed – that colour is difficult to remove from white countertops, cutting boards and fingertips. Wear gloves!

The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and is being studied as part of treatment protocols for cancer, Crohn’s disease, liver disease and more. Turmeric isn’t well-absorbed unless it’s matched with piperine, an antioxidant found in black pepper – so add a shake to whatever you make.

Broccoli stems: Broccoli is so much more than the florets! You have another vegetable hiding in there and you may not even know it. After you remove the dark green florets, peel the outer fibrous layer of the long stem to reveal a succulent, tender broccoli stem. Cube it and eat it raw, or add it to stir-fries for a delicious crunch.

You can also make broccoli slaw out of the stems. You reduce food waste (bonus!) and the stems still have a fair bit of folate and vitamins A and C.

Hemp seeds: Yep, hemp comes from the same plant as marijuana. But let’s clear up that first question right away: no, you will not get a buzz from eating hemp seeds. They come from a different part of the plant, and do not contain any THC.

Hemp seeds, also known as hemp hearts, look like sesame seeds with specks of green. They are super-loaded with omega-3 fats, fiber and protein. Try adding them to homemade granola, parfaits, cookies, or in savoury dishes like this Buddha Bowl.

All of these foods are available in the local grocery store, with the exception of sorghum, which I tend to find only in health food stores. As demand increases, this will change (10 years ago, grocery stores didn’t carry quinoa either!) Fresh turmeric is hit and miss in mainstream grocery stores – but it’s definitely available at Asian specialty stores.

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Cara Rosenbloom is a Registered Dietician, celebrated author and international columnist, active as a food blogger, recipe developer and nutrition educator.

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