What happens in March besides the birds chirping us awake, dammit? Let’s just say that the health-conscious among us have some idea. In case you’re still drowning in comfort food, we’re luring you out of your shell to greet National Nutrition Month. It’s a 30+ year old campaign designed to focus on bettering food choices and developing improved eating and physical activity habits for Canadians. That’s us.
According to StatCan in 2014, 20.8% of Canadians over 18 were classified as obese, with poor eating choices acting as a major contributor. To help incorporate more nutrient-based items into Canadian diets, Victoria-based raw foods chef Heather Pace shares five lesser-known ingredients that pack flavour and function into everyday recipes.
5 Lesser-Known Foods To Incorporate Into Your Diet
WHY WE LOVE IT: With over 20 amino acids (including eight essential amino acids), this South American root, that’s also known as Peruvian ginseng, is great for libido, fertility, memory, focus, and energy. Known as an adaptogen, this root helps with the body’s response to stress.
HOW WE EAT IT: It can be purchased in powdered form and has a pleasant malty taste that can be used in desserts, smoothies and other drinks.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Most famously known for its anti-inflammatory properties and high iron content, this spice from the ginger family also helps balance blood sugar and loosen stiff joints.
HOW WE EAT IT: Turmeric is commonly used in curry powder and has a strong taste, but can be added to most soups, dips, salad dressings, tea, smoothies, and even desserts. It can be used fresh or in powdered form.
3. Avocado Oil
WHY WE LOVE IT: Dubbed “the healthiest new oil” for its lack of cholesterol, trans fats and high content of vitamin E, avocado oil comes from the fruit flesh, rather than the seed like most oils. Avocado oil assists the body in absorbing important nutrients and has been found to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
HOW WE EAT IT: Because of its neutral flavour, avocado oil is a great option for salad dressings, dips, baking and cooking.
HOW WE EAT IT: A source for natural energy, chaga can be made into a tea that has vanilla and maple properties to it. Chaga can also be added to smoothies or used in desserts like cheesecakes, puddings and pies.
5. Hibiscus Tea
WHY WE LOVE IT: High in vitamin C and iron, hibiscus is a tropical flower with a tangy, cranberry-like flavour. Also high in antioxidants and an abundance of minerals, hibiscus helps to boost immunity, decrease inflammation, and works as a natural diuretic.
HOW WE EAT IT: In its dried form, the flower can be used in a variety of smoothies and desserts like this lemon hibiscus raspberry cheesecake!
Now let’s get REALLY NUTRITIOUS…
Raw Chocolate Superfood Shake
WHAT YOU NEED
- 1/2 cup chilled chaga tea
- 3-4 tablespoons cashews
- 1 small frozen chopped banana
- 1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons cacao powder
- 1 tablespoon maca powder
- 1 tablespoon lucuma powder
- 1 tablespoon coconut sugar or yacon syrup
- 1 teaspoon mesquite
- 1 teaspoon chia seed
- 1/4 teaspoon ashwaganda root powder
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean powder
- 4-6 large ice cubes
- 1-2 teaspoons cacao nibs, optional
WHAT YOU DO
1. Blend the chilled chaga tea and cashews until smooth, creating a milk.
2. Add remaining ingredients (starting with 4-5 ice cubes) except cacao nibs and blend until smooth, using the tamper of the vita mix to push down. The mixture is thick. Taste.
3. Add more ice if you like, or a few drops stevia if you want it sweeter. Depends how much cacao powder you add.
4. Add cacao nibs and blend for a few seconds to break them down.
5. Drink immediately!
Heather Pace owns a raw vegan dessert company in Victoria, British Columbia called Sweetly Raw Desserts. She teaches raw food classes and yoga, and is the author of the cookbook Sweetly Raw Desserts.