We know that certain “superfoods,” such as blueberries, spinach and broccoli, are loaded with nutrients. But there may be other delicious superfoods that are as good for you, or even better, that you may not eat because you haven’t heard of them or don’t know how to use them. Here, what to do with the superfoods that you don’t know what to do with…
Better known as “seaweed,” sea vegetables are among the most nutrient-rich foods on the planet. Many Americans now are familiar with nori (used to prepare sushi rolls) and wakame (added to miso soup).
There are many other types of sea vegetables, including arame, which is high in iodine, iron and calcium. It helps to lower blood pressure, strengthens bones and teeth, and is beneficial for the thyroid.
Many varieties of sea vegetables are sold in dried sheets, which can be used as wraps or sliced and added to salads, soups and stews.
Arame rice: Toast one-half cup of pine nuts in a dry skillet until evenly browned. Set aside. Soak one-quarter cup of dried arame in water for 10 minutes. Drain, then cover with water and simmer in a small saucepan for 10 minutes. Drain again.
In a large bowl, combine the arame with three cups of cooked brown rice, one cup of cooked wild rice, two green onions (minced), one-half cup of fresh parsley (minced), one-half cup of fresh mint (minced) and one teaspoon of fresh thyme.
In a separate bowl, whisk together three tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil with two tablespoons of red wine vinegar and one teaspoon of ume plum vinegar. Add the dressing and pine nuts to the arame mixture. Toss well.
Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) has more protein and iron, and fewer carbohydrates, than any other grain. It’s rich in lysine, an amino acid that aids in tissue growth and repair (and helps prevent and treat cold sores from the herpes virus). Quinoa also is rich in magnesium, a mineral that reduces the risk for heart attack and stroke.
Bonus: Quinoa doesn’t contain gluten, so it can be eaten by those who can’t eat wheat or other gluten-containing grains.
Cook quinoa the same as you do rice. Add one cup of quinoa to two cups of water or broth, bring to a boil, then simmer with a cover until all the water is absorbed — about 15 to 20 minutes. It’s more flavorful than white rice, with a light, nutty taste.
Garlic quinoa: Chop half an onion, and add it to the quinoa cooking water. Cook quinoa, covered, until all the water is absorbed. In a small skillet, sauté six cloves of garlic (chopped) in a little olive oil. When the quinoa is done (and the garlic is just crisp), combine the quinoa with the garlic oil and toss well.
Parsley often is used by traditional healers as a diuretic to reduce water retention. It has a higher vitamin C content than citrus fruits, and it contains oils that can block the effects of some carcinogens, including those produced when grilling meats. The chlorophyll in parsley is a natural breath freshener that is particularly effective at countering the odor of garlic.
Curly leaf parsley has a milder taste than flat leaf. Chefs often keep a bunch of parsley with its stem tips in a jar of water on the counter. They snip it with scissors, which is easier than chopping. Parsley with the stems in water will last about two to three days at room temperature or a few days longer in the fridge.
Tabbouleh: Combine four cups of cooked quinoa with one cup of minced parsley, three green onions (chopped) and one cup of seeded, chopped plum tomatoes. In a small bowl, whisk one minced garlic clove with one-quarter cup of olive oil, the juice of one lemon and sea salt to taste. Add the dressing to the quinoa mixture, and toss well.
Canned salmon is more convenient than cooking fresh fish, and the nutrient content usually is comparable. The oils in salmon and other fatty fish have been shown to lower triglycerides (a type of blood fat), blood pressure and levels of homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood that has been linked to heart disease and stroke.
A fish-rich diet also can relieve the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune conditions.
Some canned salmon contains pieces of skin as well as bone. They don’t affect the flavor, but some people prefer to remove them. I leave them in because the skin provides extra omega-3s, and the bones are high in calcium.
Salmon salad: Make a salmon salad just as you would a tuna salad, by adding mayonnaise, onion and celery. Or you can toss the salmon with pasta, olive oil (in which you have sautéed some chopped garlic), fresh tomatoes and basil. I also like to add salmon to a green salad for a protein-rich light meal.
Kale is a slightly bitter, tough, leafy green vegetable that requires cooking. It is high in organosulfur compounds, such as sulforaphane. Studies have shown that these compounds inhibit tumor growth and may prevent colon cancer and other cancers. Kale also is high in calcium.
Sautéed kale: Wash and drain the kale, use a sharp knife to remove the stems, then add the leaves to a half-inch of water in a large skillet. Cover, bring to a simmer and cook until tender, usually six to seven minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking. Sauté some chopped garlic in olive oil, add the cooked kale and toss.
Or serve kale as a side dish seasoned with a dab of butter and salt and pepper to taste.