Tried and True: Super-food Favourites

Old favourites are taking their rightful place in the food spotlight.

In the past five years, the health-food industry has offered up a dizzying array of exotic new “super-foods” all touted as health-promoting miracles. From acai berries to chia seeds and vegan protein powders, these new foods have garnered a lot of media attention and created a buzz among health-conscious consumers. But thanks to recent research, some familiar old favourites are making a comeback and taking their rightful place in the nutritional spotlight. Here are four currently taking centre stage.


If you’ve sworn off oatmeal because you have bad memories of choking down the bland mush your mom served at breakfast, you need to rethink your decision. A recent scientific review conducted by a team from the University of Kentucky found that the link between eating oatmeal and cholesterol reduction is even stronger than once thought. In addition, other new studies have revealed that oats contain unique compounds that can help to reduce early hardening of the arteries. Clearly, oats are one heart-friendly grain—and prepared properly, with steel cut or Scottish oats and not the flakes—they are neither bland nor mushy. Surprisingly they are also hip! Steel-cut oats have become the au courant muse of food bloggers worldwide, and the Internet is ripe with innovative recipes featuring the humble grain. Two of my favourites are oatmeal risotto and mango, pine- nut, ginger porridge.


Once vilified for its artery-clogging saturated-fat content, cheese is now being labelled a health food. Why the switch? A new German study suggests cheese is actually a potent cancer fighter. Surprisingly, cheese is a rich source of menaquinones, a type of Vitamin K that switches on genes in the body that knock out cancer cells. And when German researchers tracked the health and diets of more than 24,000 people for up to 10 years, they found that those who ate the most cheese reduced their risk for fatal cancers by 28 percent! But before you pick up that block of Gouda, consider this—the biggest cheese eaters in the study didn’t overindulge—they ate a sensible 29 grams (about one ounce) of cheese per day. Regardless, any suggestion that one can indulge in cheese on a daily basis, with complete impunity, is cause for celebration. And with so many scrumptious artisan cheeses being produced here in B.C., we now have a perfect excuse to sample each and every one of them.


Ever since researchers from Tufts University in Boston discovered that prunes contain more antioxidants than cultivated blueberries, their nutritional status has increased. It’s about to climb even higher. A recent study from the University of Florida showed that eating 10-12 prunes per day could help postmenopausal women prevent the bone loss associated with menopause. And there is more good news. The wrinkly little fruit contains some unique antioxidants that have been shown to help prevent prostrate, lung and colorectal cancer. And you thought they just helped Grandma stay regular! Prunes are actually sweet, succulent treats that possess amazing versatility in the kitchen. If you have just been stewing them for breakfast, you need to expand your prune repertoire. Savvy chefs are using them in tagines, stews, salads and desserts. You can even use prune puree to replace some of the fat in your baking. You certainly can’t say that about acai berries!


Vinegar has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. Hippocrates is said to have used it as an antibiotic. Samurai warriors used it as a tonic for strength and power. Now modern medical evidence is confirming its health benefits. In recent years, research has shown that the main chemical in vinegar, called acetic acid, can help control blood pressure and blood sugar. But the news gets even better—studies conducted in both Japan and America have shown that vinegar appears to turn on genes that help fight fat. These studies indicate that as little as two tablespoons of vinegar per day can help you shed those unwanted pounds and keep them off. If you’ve limited your culinary use of vinegar to salad dressings and pickles, you’ve missed out on some tantalizing concoctions as well as an opportunity to get those two slimming tablespoons per day. Some of B.C.’s most innovative and renowned chefs are using locally produced, complex, artisanal fruit vinegars in entrees, sauces and desserts. Visit British Columbia’s Shady Glenn Enterprises at for delectable vinegars and recipe ideas. (On Vancouver Island, Spinnakers and Merridale Estate Cidery also make quality vinegars.)

—By Pam Durkin


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