Friday, 20 June 2014

Food Friday - TOPS Ten Under-appreciated Superfoods

I was flipping through some older TOPS magazines this week looking for some inspiration for a Monday meeting idea when I came across this TOPS Ten list of Under-appreciated Super Foods.  The topic seemed to go hand in hand with my blog post (meeting notes) from this past week, so I thought I’d share it here for this week’s Food Friday.

This list was published in the TOPSNews November 2011.


For centuries, many cultures have used these diminutive giants as a keystone for their cuisine.  Beans are nutritional superstars and an excellent source of protein and complex carbohydrates, as well as fiber and important vitamins and minerals.  Eating beans has been proven to help with lowering cholesterol levels, body weight, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and some types of cancer.  Supplement you meal planning with any of the many varieties of beans that are available in fresh, frozen, canned, and/or dried form.


Do not overlook the many benefits and uses for this simple vegetable.  Celery contributes important vitamins, minerals and nutrients that can help reduce cholesterol and protect against cancer.  This easy-to-use vegetable is quite versatile and can be added quickly to your favourite dishes, including soups, stews, meat, side dishes, casseroles, and more.


A very important bulb, there is much more to garlic than its characteristic flavour and fragrance.  Its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant phytochemical compounds protect against heart disease, reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, and provide anti-clotting activity.  Garlic should be a staple in every kitchen in order to add a supply of vitamins C and B6, manganese, and selenium to a variety of foods.


This seemingly old-fashioned, commonplace staple can be sliced, diced, chopped, pureed, and added to virtually any menu item requiring pungent flavour and a nutritional punch.  Enjoy the benefits of these bulbs, including fiber, minerals, and vitamins C and B6.  Scientists are still ascertaining onion’s polyphenol and sulfur-containing compounds that may reduce the risk of some cancers, as well as help boost immune function and heart health.


Meal plans rich in green and yellow vegetables (including green peas) have been associated with heart disease prevention.  No matter your favourite variety of peas (garden, snow, snap, dried, field, etc.), these plump gems are loaded with vitamins A, C, K, and B, minerals; fiber; and protein.  Peas are also a great source of eye-healthy compounds beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.  Include peas in your favourite soup or stew, toss them into a salad, eat them as a side dish, or snack on them fresh from the garden.

Canned Tomatoes

This versatile food is a powerhouse of anti-oxidants, packed with good-for-you nutrients such as lycopene, Vitamin C, fiber, potassium, and iron.  Available all year long, keep some handy for enhancing pasta/rice dishes, soups, stews, casseroles, ethnic favourites, and side dishes.

Black Pepper

This unsung hero of the spice rack is simple, yet significant.  Black pepper adds no calories to your favourite dishes, but can noticeably enhance flavour.  Capsaicin – the substance that gives pepper its heat – is well known for its anti-cancer effects and the reduction of inflammation, which is a root of chronic disease.  Use and enjoy black pepper in its ground, cracked, and whole versions for variety.

I actually did a Friday Food post on the health benefits on black pepper over a year ago at

Sunflower Seeds

These nutty seeds are as intriguing as their large and cheerful flower.  They are a powerhouse of heart-healthy polyunsaturated oil, anti-oxidant vitamin E, protein, B vitamins, and important minerals such as manganese, magnesium, and selenium.  Sunflower seeds are also one of the best sources of phytosterols, a compound known to reduce blood cholesterol levels.  Add them to breads and salads, or enjoy them as a healthy snack.

Sesame Seeds *

Sesame seeds are one of the oldest condiments known to mankind.  Generations have benefited from the nutty, nutritious crunch they add to a variety of dishes.  These tiny treasures should be a staple in your pantry to supply your with large levels of important minerals, vitamins, protein, and fiber.  They also provide a flavourful source of cholesterol-lowering phytosterols and lignans.

Bell Pepper **

This singular food item comes in an array of vibrant colours, including green, red, yellow, orange and purple.  Remember that your meal plans should include veggies in a variety of colours for well-rounded health benefits.  Peppers are packed with powerful anti-oxideant vitamins and minerals, which can help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of certain cancers.  Add sliced or diced, cooked or raw peppers to some of your favourite dishes to aid in the battle against cell-harming free radicals.


The following was not part of the original TOPS article, but falls under the category of personal edification … otherwise known as …

How did I not know that?????

** I was curious as to any difference in nutrient values for the different colours of pepper.  The TOPS article seemed to imply that there were different nutrient levels in the different colours of peppers.  I always assumed they were the same and chose the various colours from “eye-appeal”.  Here’s what I found …

Bell peppers are members of the Nightshade family of vegetables along with potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants. Like chili peppers, bell peppers originated in South America where seeds of a wild variety are believed to date back to 5,000 B.C. The various colored Bell Peppers all come from the same plant, but differ in their level of maturity:

Green bell peppers are harvested before they are fully ripe, one reason they are less expensive than other varieties. Green bell peppers will continue to first turn yellow and then red if they are left on the plant to mature. They have a slightly bitter flavor and will never have the sweet taste of their red, yellow and orange counterparts.

More mature than green bell peppers, yellow and orange peppers have a fruity taste but are not as commonly found in local markets as green and red bell peppers.

These are more mature than green, orange or yellow bell peppers. They are rich in carotenoid phytonutrients and contain almost eleven times more beta-carotene than green bell peppers as well as one and a half times more vitamin C. Red Bell Peppers have a sweet, almost fruity taste. Pimento and paprika are both prepared from red bell peppers.  There are also other varieties that have a more tapered shape and do not have the lobes characteristic of the green, orange yellow and red varieties.

The above information supplied by

** I like sesame seeds and I like sesame seed oil.  I never gave it a passing thought before but today I wondered where sesame seeds come from … so I checked it our and they DO grow on plants!  Why had this never occurred to me before?  They are seeds after all!  Oh the things I learn when I least expect it.

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