By Neale McDevitt
In recent years, a lot has been written about super foods – nutrient-rich foods that can help people feel better and live longer. Everyone from Jamie Oliver to Dr. Oz seems to have a list of their favourite, ‘must-eat’ super foods. The problem is that for many consumers, the items found on these lists are a little more exotic than the standard fare they might find in their corner grocery store. Sure a diet of goji berries, black soybeans and chia seeds sounds nutritious, but where is one supposed to find a pound of lingonberries on a Saturday night?
The good news is that not all super foods are sold only in specialty stores. Many can be found in local supermarkets – or even in one of the four McGill resident dining halls. “March is Nutrition Month and we’re featuring 10 foods – what we call The Perfect 10 – that are served every day in our dining halls,” says Monique Lauzon, Marketing and Nutrition Counselor at Student Housing and Hospitality Services. “We want to help students and staff make healthier choices – not just in McGill’s dining halls, but also at home.”
The Perfect 10
Kale. “Kale is high in vitamin K and fiber as opposed to regular greens – and it is loaded with cancer-fighting antioxidants,” says Lauzon. “It is very versatile and you can use it in all kinds of different applications For example, in our dining hall we use kale in our smoothies.
“A good rule of thumb for greens is the darker the green, the more nutritional bang you’re getting for your buck,” says Lauzon. “Spinach is great too, but kale is even better.”
Salmon. “Salmon is great because of it is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. It has anti-inflammatory properties and is great for your heart and brain,” says Lauzon. “In North America, we generally don’t eat enough omega-3 fatty acids. So including salmon twice a week in our diets is a really good idea.”
Avocado. “Avocado is great because it contains what we call ‘good fat,’ meaning polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats which help maintain good cholesterol levels and stave off heart problems,” says Lauzon. “What you’re trying to avoid is the saturated fats and trans fats found in so many processed food.
“Our bodies need fat, but you want to make good choices and avocado, for example, is a healthy alternative as a sandwich spread instead of margarine or butter.”
Almonds. “Almonds are great because they are so tasty and very versatile. A lot of people don’t know but they are also very high in fiber and high in the antioxidant vitamin E. They are a good source of magnesium – another good mineral for heart function,” says Lauzon. “They are also a good source of protein so they’re good for snacking because a handful of almonds – raw or roasted – will carry you that extra mile to dinner time.”
Lauzon warns against eating too many salted nuts, however. “Every day we eat so many foods that are high in sodium – we really don’t need extra sodium and all the other seasoning that comes with salted peanuts.Better to eat them roasted or in their raw form,” she says.
Lentils and chickpeas. “Two of my favorite legumes,” says Lauzon. “Both are great plant-based proteins that are low in fat and high in fiber. We talk a lot about fiber because the average Canadian doesn’t eat enough fiber and it’s hard to get the recommended daily dosage (about 25 to 35 g of fiber per day). But chickpeas give you a great, high-end nutritional boost.”
Oats. “Oats are great because of their high content of soluble fiber, which has a positive impact on blood sugars as well as your cholesterol levels,” says Lauzon. “I love oatmeal – it’s such a comfort food. Especially with the winter we’ve had,” says Lauzon with a chuckle.
Greek yogurt. “It seems like everywhere you turn someone’s talking about Greek yogurt. It’s a fairly new phenomenon and it’s extremely popular. I think every yogurt company has gotten on the bandwagon,” says Lauzon. “Greek yogurt has a much higher protein content than regular yogurt which makes it a great snack because the higher the protein the more full you’ll feel. A lot of athletes eat Greek yogurt after their workouts to replenish their protein stores.”
Sweet potatoes. “Like regular potatoes, sweet potatoes are high in potassium but much higher in vitamin A,” says Lauzon.
Quinoa. “One of my favorites,” says Lauzon. “It’s such a refreshing change to white rice or couscous. Quinoa is very high in protein and fiber. It is also very versatile and can be used hot or cold in lots of different applications.
Lauzon says while the Perfect 10 list is not exhaustive, “it is a great place to start.”
“Here at McGill anyways I find that people are quite sophisticated with regards to food and have pretty good nutrition knowledge,” she says. “If they have not incorporated all of these foods they certainly have for many of them.”
Lauzon suggests that when people add new food to their diet, they should give themselves a few chances to acquire a taste for it. “It’s like giving broccoli to your kids. They may not like the first time or even the second. But eventually they develop an appreciation for it,” she says.
She also says people don’t necessarily have to make wholesale changes to their diet. But a little tinkering might be very beneficial. “I would say North Americans generally weat too many meals that are animal-based. I think we should shift to incorporate more plant-based food and more whole foods,” she says. “Usually you see this big piece of meat or other proteins on a plate and then just a little bit of vegetables and whole grains. We need to change in paradigm to put the emphasis on more vegetables fruits and grains and have meat has sort of the side dish.”
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