Super Foods

Fall 2007 CSANews Issue 64  |  Posted date : Oct 17, 2007.Back to list

When I was a kid, my mom would always repeat, "Eat your spinach. It's good for you." Somehow, my mom knew instinctively that spinach was a super food. I should have realized its power, given Popeye's love for it.

I was too busy indulging my immature palate with corn, macaroni and cheese, chocolate, pizza, potato chips and French fries (Yippee!!). I was laying the groundwork for my carbohydrate addiction. Unfortunately, there's no 12-step program for this gut-expanding, flab-producing, artery-blocking, childish diet program.

I've recently learned that incorporating super foods into one's diet will aid in boosting our immune system and fighting disease.

Dr. Steven Pratt is considered the superman of super foods. He is a world-renowned authority on the role of nutrition and lifestyle in the prevention of disease and optimizing health. He is also a senior staff ophthalmologist at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California, and an assistant clinical professor at the University of California at San Diego. Pratt is the author of "SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen Foods."

According to Pratt, about 14 super foods are better for you than others. He says, "Each food (in the adjacent chart) was selected based on gold-standard research of healthy dietary patterns around the world. These foods are an integral part of all the recognized healthy dietary patterns that prevent disease and extend our health span, and perhaps our life span, as well."

Here is Pratt's list of 14 foods:
  • Beans: A great low-fat, low-calorie source of protein and an easy way to help control your weight and your blood sugar.
  • Blueberries: The best food on the planet to preserve a young brain as we mature.
  • Broccoli: The best food on the planet to prevent cancer.
  • Oats: A sure-fire way to lower your cholesterol.
  • Oranges: The most readily available source of vitamin C which, in turn, lowers the rate of most causes of death in this country, for example, heart disease and cancer.
  • Pumpkin: Loaded with phytonutrients, which keep our skin young and help prevent damage from sunlight.
  • Wild salmon: A guaranteed way to lower your risk for cardiac-related death.
  • Soy: The only complete vegetarian source of protein.
  • Spinach: The best food on the planet to prevent cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, thereby ensuring a lifetime of good vision.
  • Tea – green or black: The easiest and cheapest no-calorie way to avoid heart disease and cancer.
  • Tomatoes: One of the easiest ways for men to avoid prostate cancer is the consumption of tomatoes and tomato-based products.
  • Skinless turkey breast: The leanest meat source of protein on the planet.
  • Walnuts: Consuming walnuts is an easy, tasty way to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Yogurt: A tasty, easy way to boost your immune system.
While Pratt does not list wine as a super food on his list, I certainly include it on mine. I'm not a doctor, but I do know my wine and I know about its super benefits.

Studies now show that red wine, consumed in moderation and with meals, contributes to a healthy lifestyle. So there's absolutely every reason why you should include red wine as a super food. You can boost your intake of super foods, cut down on fat, calories or carbohydrates and still enjoy a glass of the fermented red grape.

Research shows that where the diet is high in fat, those who drink red wine with meals have a lower incidence of heart attacks. So if a super food is one that helps to prevent disease, red wine helps to prevent heart disease and therefore, should be included.

Red wine contains compounds, such as antioxidants, that aid in protecting our hearts and reducing the risk of strokes. Resveratrol is the most famous antioxidant found in red wine. It is believed to be good at mopping up chemicals responsible for causing blood clots, the primary cause of heart disease. Guercetin is another antioxidant believed to help prevent lung cancer. Red wine also has a flavanoid known as catechin that contributes to the reduction of heart attacks.

Add to this the fact that a glass of red wine after a stressful day acts as a natural tranquillizer, reducing anxiety and tension. Wine also aids in our digestion and contributes minerals and vitamins to our bodies.

A glass of red wine is also okay if you're on a low-carbohydrate diet. A 3.5-ounce glass of red wine contains only 1.8 grams of net carbohydrates. If you're reducing your caloric intake, you'll be happy to know that this same glass of wine only contains 74 calories.

While it is always pleasant to include a glass of red wine with your evening meal, it's an experience of the senses to choose one that harmonizes with your main entrée.

There are basically three styles of red wine. The first is light, fruity red wines, which include those produced from grape varieties such as Gamay or Pinot Noir. These wines tend to be refreshing and fruity, with some sourness. For this reason, it is best to chill your light reds for a half-hour in the refrigerator before serving. Light, fruity red wines go nicely with ingredients offering sourness as their predominant building block. Foods highlighting sourness are cheeses, such as fresh chèvre and feta, as well as sour cream and cream cheese. When it comes to fish, tuna and salmon work nicely with light, fruity reds.

Red wines with forward fruit character is another wine style. Wines that fall into this category include shiraz, Zinfandel and Merlot. These wines tend to be low in sourness and low in bitterness, with lots of berry fruit flavours. Pair these wines with roasted meats and vegetables, pasta or pizza with roasted tomato sauce, chicken or beef.

Austere red wines are heavy with lots of pleasant bitterness from the tannin and fattiness from their high alcohol content – about 13.5 to 14%. Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are two grape varieties fermented into austere red wines. These reds work well with game meats and beef. Due to their bitterness, you can also pair them with foods offering bitterness, such as olives, radicchio and blue cheese.

Here's a healthy pumpkin soup to warm you during the cool autumn evenings, with matching wines…

Curried Pumpkin Soup Recipe
Serves Four
2 tbsp    25 mL    olive oil
2     2    cloves garlic, chopped
1     1    medium onion, chopped
2     2    stalks celery, cut into 2-inch lengths
3     3    large carrots, peeled and sliced (1/4 inch/6 mm) thick
2 lb    1 kg     pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch/2.54 cm) dice
3 cups    750 mL    low-salt chicken stock
1     1    bay leaf
2 tsp    10 mL    curry powder
1 tsp     5 mL    turmeric
Sea salt to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup    50 mL    shelled raw pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp    25 mL    chopped fresh parsley
fat-free sour cream (for garnish)

In a large pan over medium heat, heat 1 tbsp (15 mL) oil. Add the garlic and onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 6 minutes. Add celery and carrots. Sauté for 5 more minutes. Add pumpkin, chicken stock, bay leaf, curry, turmeric, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small sauté pan, over medium heat, heat remaining 1 tbsp (15 mL) oil. Add pumpkin seeds and season with salt. Fry, shaking pan, until seeds are golden. Remove from heat. Fold parsley into vegetables and broth. In a food processor or blender, add 2 cups (500 mL) of vegetables and broth. Puree until smooth. Stir smooth mixture back into pan. Adjust seasonings. Place soup in bowls garnished with a dollop of sour cream and pumpkin seeds.

Wine Suggestion: California Zinfandel or Australian Shiraz
Choose a red wine with soft tannin (bitterness) and lots of ripe berry flavour. The soft tannin will not contrast with the curry spice. Its high alcohol gives the wine enough weight to match the weight of the pumpkin. Its fruitiness also pairs nicely with the pumpkin's subtle sweetness.