Canadians are adopting healthy foods from other cultures into their diet as a result of international travel, ethnic diversity and restaurants. Weird and wonderful delicacies from around the world can be found at most supermarkets and green grocers. “As our ethnic diversity has grown, our food choices have also become more global and it’s having a profound effect on our diet,” says Paul Uys, Vice President, Loblaw Brands, Fresh and President’s Choice who has been tracking food trends for over 20 years. He says their Thai, Chinese and East Asian ranges are now regarded as mainstream by Canadians. So too Indian Naan bread, now a top selling bakery item. And President’s Choice Indian Butter Chicken is their biggest selling single serve entrée. The Canadian palette has become attuned to global foods, many of which are nutrient-rich, health-boosting superfoods. You’ll be reaping extraordinary health benefits by adding a few of these super grains, beans, fruits and spices to your diet daily.
Acai (ah-sigh-ee) is a small, round, black-purple berry, similar in appearance and size to a grape, that grows high atop towering palm trees in the lush Amazon Rain Forest of South America. This berry is said to have 10 times the antioxidants of grapes and twice the antioxidants of blueberries. Acai is also rich in anti-inflammatory omega-9 fats, essential fatty acids, iron, calcium, fiber, vitamin A, and a multitude of trace minerals.
Bulgur is made from steamed, dried, and cracked wheat kernels and has a granular texture and nutty flavour. It’s a good source of vitamins B and E and has more fiber than quinoa or oats. A Middle Eastern favourite, it is often sold as a pilaf, “tabbouleh” or “tabouli” mix.
Coconut Water is the clear liquid found inside the young green coconut fruits which grow atop coconut palms. It has long been a popular drink in tropical countries. Fresh coconut water contains potassium, sodium and glucose. It’s a natural isotonic beverage, with the same level of electrolytic balance found in our blood, making it an ideal beverage for rehydrating after exercise.. Called ‘the fluid of life”, coconut water was used as an intravenous fluid during the Pacific War of 1941-45 to give emergency plasma transfusions to wounded soldiers, and is still used in some countries where medical saline is unavailable.
Edamame, (ay-duh-may-may) which means “beans on branches,” are fresh green baby soybeans in the pod, commonly found in Japan, China and Korea, that are typically prepared by boiling in salt water and served whole. Edamame contains protein that helps stabilize blood sugar, and omega-3 fatty acids shown to combat depression. Soy protein may also help prevent the accumulation of belly fat in postmenopausal women, according to a study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Farro, also known as emmer wheat, has a delicate, nutty flavor. This grain grows in the mountainous regions of Europe and Asia. It’s rich in fiber, protein, and vitamins A, B, C. and E. Farro, which is low in gluten and easily digested, is often used in Italia n soups and in place of Arborio rice in the risotto-like dishes.
Goji berry, also known as wolfberry, is small, pink-red in colour, dried and a little like a raisin without the sweetness. Renowned in Asia as a highly nutritious food, they have been used by the Chinese for centuries to help strengthen muscles and bone, enhance liver function and help the eyes. It contains a high concentration of Beta-carotene, vitamins C, A, B1, B2, B6 and E.
Guava is a tropical fruit that ranges in colour from yellow to purple or green. The inner pulp may be sweet or sour, off-white to deep pink with seeds in the central pulp. A cooperative study by the USDA and Thai scientists found that guava has as much antioxidant activity as some well-known super foods like blueberries and broccoli. A single guava fruit contains over four times the amount of vitamin C as an orange and also good levels of the dietary minerals, potassium, magnesium, and essential nutrients.
Mangosteen from Southeast Asia has a deep reddish purplish coloured rind
and edible interior circle of wedged shaped (like tangerines) flesh that is described as sweet and tangy, citrusy with peach flavour and texture. This fruit that is infused with xanthones, powerful compounds under study for potential anti-disease effects.
Passion Fruit is round to oval in shape, yellow or dark purple in colour, with a soft to firm, juicy interior filled with numerous seeds. They are grown in New Zealand and Brazil. A terrific source of lycopene, it also has more cancer-fighting polyhheonols than mango and grapefruit. Fresh passion fruit is known to be high in vitamin A, C, potassium, and dietary fiber.
Pomegranate, which means ‘seeded apple’ in Latin, has a thick reddish skin and edible seeds called arils surrounding the pulp, ranging in color from white to deep red. The pomegranate berry contains very high levels of polyphenols compared to other fruits and vegetables, even higher than red wine and green tea. They are also high in potassium, fiber, vitamin C and niacin. A 2006 Loma Linda University research suggests that a daily glass of pomegranate juice could halve the build-up of harmful proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Quinoa (keen-wah), a whole grain with a delicate nutty flavour, originates in the Andean region of South America. It’s a super-grain because it is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids necessary for human growth and development. It’s the only vegetable source recognized by the UN Food Association as a complete protein.
Tulsi, also known as holy basil, is a green or purple leaf herb from India that’s brewed to make tea with a strong aroma and astringent taste. Tulsi is a powerful adaptogen, which means it helps our bodies adapt to different forms of stressors– environmental, physical, mental and emotional– by either toning down the activity hyper-functioning systems or strengthening the activity of hypo-functioning systems. Tulsi also contains hundreds of beneficial compounds known as phyto-chemicals. Working together, these compounds are said to possess strong antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, adaptogenic, and immune-enhancing properties that promote general health. One study showed Tulsi to be an effective treatment for diabetes by reducing blood glucose levels. The same study showed significant reduction in total cholesterol levels with Tulsi.