We all know about kale, fish, yogurt, whole grains and all the other foods that are good for us, but there are lots of others that are amazingly healthful, relatively easy to prepare and should be on your shopping list.
Here's a list of 10, in no particular order, drawn from health experts in the Rogue Valley: Dr. Robin Miller of Triune Integrative Medicine in Medford; Christy Morrell, Medford nutritionist; and Annie Hoy, outreach director of Ashland Food Co-op.
1. Brussels sprouts. These tiny, cabbage-like veggies are cancer fighters and contain essential sulfur compounds, says Hoy.
To prepare: Hoy tosses them in a mixture of Dijon-style mustard, salt, pepper and a little honey and oven-roasts them at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. They can also be steamed, added to soups or cooked like other vegetables.
2. Blueberries. When you hear antioxidant, think anti-cancer, then think blueberries. Easy to find frozen year-round, they're "the number one, super-high-in-antioxidants food," says Miller.
To prepare: Serve on oatmeal or cereal or in smoothies with yogurt, juice, protein powder and other nutrients.
3. Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, pickles or kimchi. They're high in enzymes which have all but disappeared from modern diets. Fermenting of cabbage and cucumbers was done before the development of canned foods and was a great source of enzymes. Fermented foods, says Morrell, contain lactobacillus, which improves digestion and absorption of vitamins — and it's an antibiotic and anti-carcinogen. Kimchi originates in Korea and contains such veggies as cucumber, radish, onions, garlic and scallions.
To prepare: Good as a side dish with meals or on burgers.
4. Brazil nuts. They're high in selenium, an anti-carcinogenic element found to be effective against breast and prostate cancer, and they also contain high levels of magnesium and thiamine.
To prepare: Good as a snack.
5. Flaxseed. They're high in fiber, lignans, omega-3 fatty acids (also found in salmon); they lower bad cholesterol and ease blood pressure. Recent research has also found them to be effective against breast and prostate cancers, heart problems and diabetes.
To prepare: Grind seeds in a coffee mill, mix into oatmeal, smoothies, muffin dough or sprinkle on salads. Grind fresh, as the seeds can go rancid in a week. One tablespoon of ground seeds can substitute (with added water) for one egg in recipes.
6. Turmeric. An Indian spice, part of the Ayurvedic tradition, it's anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and anti-arthritic, says Miller. It's used for autoimmune disorders and is said to forestall Alzheimer's disease.
To prepare: It usually comes powdered and is used as a spice. It's a component of curry powder and can be used in curried dishes. (See Michael Altman's column about turmeric in the March issue of Oregon Healthy Living or read it online at www.oregonhealthyliving.com)
7. Shiitake mushrooms. Anti-viral, anti-tumor, immune-booster, anti-allergen, anti-arthritic. Other mushrooms, including maitake and reishi are equally potent and rich in minerals and amino acids.
To prepare: Use in soups, salads, stir-fries, burgers or on top of a pizza. Especially good in miso soup. Miso, also considered anti-carcinogenic, is soybean paste and, along with mushrooms, can be loaded up with many other veggies — a quick, tasty and easy-to-make health cocktail.
8. Burdock root. A blood purifier, good for the liver and will clear up skin, says Morrell. It has lots of potassium, calcium, amino acids and fiber. We especially have to love this plant because its seeds, which hook onto your clothes like mad, were the inspiration for Velcro.
To prepare: It comes as long, sweet-tasting roots. Cut up and sauté with onions and carrots, says Morrell, or use as any other root vegetable, such as in soups.
9. Acai berry. Has lots of antioxidants, omegas, protein, amino acids and fiber, says Hoy. Credited with increased energy, lower cholesterol, better immune function and digestion.
To prepare: It's from Brazil and is found as a juice or supplement at health-food stores.
10. Chocolate. Yes, chocolate. Although most health-conscious or weight-watching people have scratched this off their shopping lists, think again. Dark chocolate (it will list its cocoa content as over 70 percent) is considered an anti-carcinogen and good for circulation. Excessive milk chocolate, however, may contribute to obesity and poor vascular health.
To prepare: Sit and look at it for at least 10 seconds, until mouth waters, then place in mouth. Don't chew (seriously, says Miller). For best effect, let it melt in your mouth. Then smile and let the happy vibes multiply the nutritional effects of the cocoa.