26 May, 2009

The stealth superfoods

Realize the life-extending properties of Five unfashionable foods.

1 Prunes
You know them as... nature's wrinkly little pipe-cleaners.

Health credentials
Its appearance is not very attractive and its health-giving reputation has none of the luster of a more glamorous fruit like apple. The humble dried plum is in dire need of some positive sales pitch. So here it is: prunes are packed with neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acids, antioxidants particularly effective at combating the cell-damaging "superoxide anion radical".
How to eat it
As a starter: wrap a thin slice of chicken ham around each prune and secure it with a toothpick. Bake at 200 degree centigrade for 6 to 10 minutes until the meat has turned crispy. Tell guests they are "dried plum and chicken canap├ęs", not ham and prune rolls.

2 Swiss chard
You know it as...Eh? Something not available in Indian bazaars?
Health credentials
The bitter vegetable isn't actually Swiss. It's native to the sunnier climes of the Mediterranean and is a favourite among people in eastern India, who call it 'pui'. It's packed with lutein and zeaxanthin, two compounds that protect your retina by absorbing shortwave light, Harvard University researchers found.
How to eat it
Swiss chard goes well with grilled chicken or as a base for fried fish. Wash and dry it, then chop the leaves and stems into 3cm pieces. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and add two peeled, crushed garlic cloves and the vegetable. Fry for five minutes, until the leaves wilt and the stems are tender. Alternatively, cook it as saag and have it with rice.

3 Beetroot
You know it as...the pickled nemesis of white tablecloths, or a salad ingredient
Health credentials
Think of beetroot as a more colorful spin on spinach. Beetroot is one of your best sources of both folate and betaine. These nutrients work together to lower your levels of homocysteine-an amino acid produced by the body when digesting certain foods, particularly fish. This is very good news, since by damaging arteries and increasing heart disease risk, this inflammatory compound does about as much good for your health as a tall glass of liquid fat.
How to eat
Ideally, fresh and raw. If that doesn't exactly get your taste buds going, just remember that beetroot is naturally sweeter than any other vegetable and heating it up will only decrease its nutritional powers. For a simple salad, grate it on the widest blade of your grater. Toss with olive oil and fresh lemon juice and that's it.

The leaves and stems of beetroot are not to be sniffed at, packed as they are with a life affirming amount of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. Stir-fry the stems in olive oil until tender, and add salt, pepper and lemon.

4 Guava
You know it as... the post-school snack sold on wheel cart with salt-andchilli garnished slices
Health credentials
Guava has the highest concentration of lycopene-kryptonite to prostrate cancer-according to US Department of Agriculture. And yes, that includes tomatoes, so you can put the Domino's menu down. Still not feeling fruity? As well as the lycopene factor, 100gm of this super fruit packs 300mg of muscle-building, sodium-neutralising potassium.
How to eat it
Just down the whole thing- rind, seeds and all. It's all edible and nutritious. The rind alone has more vitamin C than you'd find in the flesh of an orange.

5 Pomegranate juice
You know it as...the previously unidentified breakfast drink you were given the morning after you pulled a vegan yoga fanatic
Health credentials
Israeli scientists from Rambam Medical Center found that men who downed 60ml of the rubyred nectar every day for a year dropped their systolic blood pressure by 21 per cent and significantly improved blood flow to their hearts.
How to drink
You could try mixing vodka with pomegranate juice or, if you reside in the real world, try 100 per cent pomegranate juice without mixing anything.