1. Quinoa is out; pulses are in.
The United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses (dry peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas). These little superfoods are packed with flavor, protein and nutrients. They’re a healthy, affordable and delicious staple that can feed millions. An added bonus? Pulses are sustainable and kind to the planet. Pulses enrich the soil where they grow, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers. Plus, they can grow in harsh environments and hardly require any irrigation because they’re water-efficient.
Curious as to what earned pulses their spot as food of the year? Pulses are:
- Nutritious (packed with protein, fiber, iron, potassium, antioxidants and more)
- Protein-rich (one-half cup cooked pulses delivers nine grams of protein)
- Versatile, tasty and used in everything from salads and soups to entrees and desserts
- Affordable—one of the most cost-effective proteins, at only 10 cents per serving
- Sustainable and leave a low-carbon footprint
It may not sound familiar, but if you’ve eaten curry in an Asian, African or Indian dish, you’ve likely enjoyed turmeric’s flavor and your body has benefited from its antioxidants. In fact, these cultures have been using turmeric in their recipes for more than 4,500 years. Today, turmeric has become quite the food buzzword and chefs don’t hide that they include this warm-tasting, bitter spice in their curries and stews. Likewise, food manufacturers boast about it on the packaging for snacks like grain bowls, chips, cold-pressed juices, turmeric lattes and teas. And even turmeric milk has found a spot on many grocery shelves. Registered dietitians (including us) couldn’t be happier, and we’re sprinkling it onto and grating it into meals for its incredible flavor and benefits.
Here’s why you should embrace turmeric (if you haven’t already):
- It’s one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory spices, thanks to its key component, curcumin. This means that turmeric has potent healing properties, slows the cell damage that comes with the aging process and helps to control inflammation that plays a key role in chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
- Turmeric has been shown to help with joint pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, and with digestive disorders such as Crohn’s Disease.
Keep in mind that your body responds to poor food/drink choices and toxins with inflammation. So if you have a bout of unhealthy eating, you may want to include turmeric in your meals. This mighty spice can not only help lessen inflammation, but it can also alleviate stomach distress. We have our clients include turmeric in their diets the day after overindulging in alcohol.
When you head to the store, look for turmeric as a ground spice as well as in its fresh root form. Both will pack the nutritional punch you’re looking for. The powdered spice will lose its flavor over time (but that won’t matter if you use it often with our recipes below). If you use the root, it will look a lot like ginger until you peel it to reveal its bright orange hue. Grate fresh turmeric just like you would fresh ginger.
You can also make your own turmeric latte by mixing nut milk (e.g., almond milk) with juiced turmeric root.
Also called “dulse,” this nutrient powerhouse and sea vegetable is no longer relegated to miso soup or wrapped around sushi—it’s now being used to flavor numerous foods and to replace unhealthy snack foods, like chips. Here’s why you should include seaweed in your diet:
- While there are many varieties of seaweed, they all provide essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, E, C and K, plus copper, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc, which help keep your body healthy, boost immunity, strengthen bones and fight disease and aging.
- It’s one of the foods with the greatest sustainability—it doesn’t even need fresh water or fertilizer to flourish.
- It’s a good source of iodine, which can only be found in seafood or iodized salt and is critical for the regulation of the thyroid gland.
- It may assist in weight loss. A natural seaweed fiber called alginate, found in kelp, may help suppress fat digestion in the gut, which has weight-loss researchers intrigued.
Replace salty foods with seaweed. Sprinkle seaweed on salads, grains and pastas instead of pouring on the salty dressings and condiments. You’ll get a delicious, salty flavor while slashing sodium and the bloat that comes along with it. Plus, you’ll lower blood pressure and get a punch of potassium, which also helps lower blood pressure.
Look for seaweed in natural foods markets and try buying it in either flakes or in bags of dried strips. Crumble it over soups or salads to get your dose!