2011 may be the year of the rabbit according to the Chinese calendar, but there is much more we could all learn from this ancient civilization this year. Sure, the Chinese are known for their holistic approaches to medicine like acupuncture and herbal therapies, but as we eat our way through this earthly zodiac, let us not forget the nutrition secrets of this extremely healthy and incredibly vibrant culture. The following 5 foods are “nutritional must-haves” for 2011 as they score high points for their vitamin and nutrient content, and of course, their tantalizing taste.
1. Bok Choy
A distant relative to cabbage, bok choy is also known as Chinese-white cabbage and is very popular in Chinese cuisine. Aside from its delicious taste and relatively mild flavour, it is chock full of vitamin C, calcium, and iron. Whether you choose the “baby” version or the regular, this powerful vegetable is easy to find and can certainly add a nutritional punch to your diet.
2. Nappa Cabbage
Commonly referred to as Chinese cabbage, nappa cabbage is readily available in Asian and non-Asian grocery stores alike. This delicious vegetable is high in vitamin C and vitamin A and can be eaten raw in salads, or cooked in stir-fries and soups. In case you aren’t totally convinced, nappa cabbage also contains phytochemicals – compounds that may help you ward off certain illnesses.
3. Lotus Root
Few may have heard of the lotus root, but it has health benefits that make it a nutrient powerhouse! From the root of the lotus flower, this sweet and crunchy tuber is loaded with potassium, vitamin C, and fibre - which helps manage blood sugars and helps you feel fuller longer. This super food is also easy to cook (and find in Asian grocery stores) and can be used to boost the nutritional content of soups, salads, or even healthy desserts.
4. Winter Melon
Don’t let its name fool you; the winter melon is hardly a fruit! It belongs to the gourd family – the same group that brought us squashes and pumpkins. Naturally low in calories, the winter melon is a good source of vitamin A and vitamin C and can be used to make soups. Have a look in your local Asian grocery store and I guarantee you’ll easily find this nutritionally generous gourd.
5. Bean Sprouts
Don’t underestimate a sprout! Bean sprouts, usually germinated from the mung or soybean contain vitamin C, but what’s really great about this little giant is that it is predigested as a result of undergoing germination. The result: bean sprouts are easy to digest and can help keep your digestive system functioning well.
Although we must wait to see what the rabbit brings us in 2011, you’re in luck because this week’s “takeout message” is available right now: expand your mind and your palate by incorporating these super foods in your diet. Gung hay fat choy!
About Renee Hughes:
Renee Hughes holds a Master of Health Science in Nutrition Communication from Ryerson University in Toronto. She also holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in Food and Nutrition from Ryerson University and a Bachelor of Arts in Crime and Deviance from the University of Toronto. As a passionate nutrition and food writer, Renee has written articles for dietitians, non-profit agencies, and has developed community based nutrition workshops in Toronto. To contact Renee, please send an email to: email@example.com