Every year we are bombarded with a new set of superfoods to add to our diets, and every year it feels like you’re either going to have to try a bunch of foods that will either taste like cardboard or grass, or be ridiculed for not getting on board with the latest health regimen. Usually I end up forcing myself to eat things I don’t really enjoy for the simple reason that it’s supposed to have amazing health benefits, but this year I decided to take a look a few of 2014’s “it” health foods to see what makes them super, and to test out whether they can or should actually become a normal part of any human being’s diet.
If we look at the wild popularity that quinoa has gained over the last few years, it’s no wonder that amaranth would be on this year’s hit list for “it” foods. On looks alone someone might easily confuse the two, but quinoa and amaranth also share other similarities. They both seem like grains when they are actually seeds, they are both gluten free, and are both high protein foods.
Perks: Amaranth is a high source of iron, calcium, protein and fibre, and it also beats out many other gluten-free grains in each of these categories. It’s packed with oils and amino acids that are said to prevent cancer and lower cholesterol, and it can also prevent your hair from greying prematurely.
Prep: Amaranth can be boiled, popped, or used in soups and stews.
I decided to pop and boil my amaranth. Popped amaranth essentially tastes like popcorn and can be used as a cereal, in granola, or added to any energy/protein bar recipes.
Boiled amaranth, on the other hand, is a completely different animal. Unlike quinoa, I could not get amaranth to cook to the grainy texture I read about. Instead, it turned out extremely thick and congealed into a thick blob very quickly. Despite its texture, the amaranth had a fairly mild, earthy taste. I was able to save the concoction later by adding milk, strawberries, and cinnamon, which was actually pretty good.
Conclusion: I could get on board with amaranth, but it works best with other elements, rather than on its own. Based on the way it boiled, I imagine amaranth would work as a great way to make a thick soup or stew, and because it has such a mild taste, it could easily be added to many dishes.
Swiss chard is not new to grocery stores, but according to the Internet and health food experts, swiss chard will be in its prime this year. This one isn’t surprising. Each year we seem to raise the stakes on green superfoods, and with kale still holding the position as queen of the health food prom, it comes at no surprise that swiss chard, kale’s nutritional brother, would make a quick climb up the leader board.
Perks: Swiss chard offers high amounts of Vitamins A, C, and K, as well as iron, protein, fibre, and a crazy amount of antioxidants.
Prep: The cool thing about swiss chard is that you can actually do whatever you want with it. You can boil, steam, and roast it, and you can most definitely cook it right into dishes.
The Internet told me raw chard would taste peppery, but after trying it myself, I’m fairly sure that is just a nice way of saying “tastes like dirt.” So after trying a few bites of raw chard, I decided to make my life simple and just sauté the rest. I heated a pan with olive oil, added half an onion, some garlic, and the chard last. After cooking for a few minutes I added some vinegar which actually helped bring out some of the chard’s sweeter notes.
Conclusion: My swiss chard experience was an absolute success. It’s versatile and could be easily added to most recipes, but it also works well on its own. Prep time and cook time were also minimal, which was definitely a bonus.
If nothing else, nutritional yeast is guilty of having one of the most unappealing names on a food item, and though it’s gaining popularity, I can already imagine the skeptical look that has crept across your face since you read the title. Take a deep breath, and read on.
Perks: 1/2 a tbsp. of nutritional yeast alone will fulfil your vitamin B needs for the day. It contains a truck load of minerals and amino acids, and—pay attention vegans—a good portion of its vitamins and minerals are the same as ones you’ll find in meats and cheeses, including B-12. For those of you how have hopped on the gluten-free bandwagon or those with Celiac, N. yeast is gluten-free, and only 2 tablespoons contains 9 grams of protein
Prep: You don’t; it’s already prepared. All you have to do is pick a food and sprinkle it on. I chose to go with popcorn, but it can be added to potatoes, sautéed veggies, or just about anything else you can think of.
Conclusion: “Cheesy” is the best way to describe the smell of nutritional yeast, and when you pick it up, you may feel like you’re pinching fish food. Nutritional yeast tastes a bit like salt, and a bit like parmesan cheese, but a lot like nothing unless you’re really paying attention. If you’re vegan this seems like a great way to supplement some of the vitamins and minerals you’re missing, but honestly, nutritional yeast seems like one of those things you’d buy, and then it would sit in your cupboard because you’d never actually remember to use it. Seriously, it has that little taste.
Green powders are the new trendy way of getting all your vitamins, minerals, probiotics and everything else your body needs, from grasses, fruits, mushrooms, greens, herbs, algae, and a number of extracts. The idea is that you
can make up for all the fruits and veggies you aren’t eating throughout the day. The price tag that comes with this luxury obviously varies between brands, but my single serve pack cost $3.
Perks: This sort of depends on which green powder you use, but green powders are meant to promote “gut health” which promotes digestion and the absorption of nutrients. The one I picked up happened to be gluten-free, vegan, and 70% of it was made out of fermented veggies, which is a whole other trend we’re getting into this year.
Prep: Just add water.
Conclusion: Drinking a green powder drink was like the aftermath of chewing a Flinstones vitamin. It was chalky, and tasted artificially sweet. While the green powder I tried wasn’t the worst, I didn’t love it either, and I’m not convinced that another kind wouldn’t taste like I was drinking a grass milkshake. Despite looking at many different packages, each green powder had labels with size 6 font and were covered in writing. Although I’m sure this is supposed to convince users of all the nutrients packed inside, I really just felt like I wanted to know what I was drinking, which after some careful reading seemed to be a lot of roots and peels. I’m not surprised that this trend has started to pick up traction, but I’ll stick with homemade smoothies and whole fruits and veggies. This one doesn’t seem worth the money or the torture.