You are what you eat, so why not eat super food?

Posted on Thursday, March 20, 2014
Red quinoa. / Photo: blairingmedia, Wikimedia Commons

Red quinoa. / Photo: blairingmedia, Wikimedia Commons

By Neale McDevitt

In recent years, a lot has been written about super foods – nutrient-rich foods that can help people feel better and live longer. Everyone from Jamie Oliver to Dr. Oz seems to have a list of their favourite, ‘must-eat’ super foods. The problem is that for many consumers, the items found on these lists are a little more exotic than the standard fare they might find in their corner grocery store. Sure a diet of goji berries, black soybeans and chia seeds sounds nutritious, but where is one supposed to find a pound of lingonberries on a Saturday night?

The good news is that not all super foods are sold only in specialty stores. Many can be found in local supermarkets – or even in one of the four McGill resident dining halls. “March is Nutrition Month and we’re featuring 10 foods – what we call The Perfect 10 – that are served every day in our dining halls,” says Monique Lauzon, Marketing and Nutrition Counselor at Student Housing and Hospitality Services. “We want to help students and staff make healthier choices – not just in McGill’s dining halls, but also at home.”

The Perfect 10

Kale. “Kale is high in vitamin K and fiber as opposed to regular greens – and it is loaded with cancer-fighting antioxidants,” says Lauzon. “It is very versatile and you can use it in all kinds of different applications For example, in our dining hall we use kale in our smoothies.

“A good rule of thumb for greens is the darker the green, the more nutritional bang you’re getting for your buck,” says Lauzon. “Spinach is great too, but kale is even better.”

Salmon. “Salmon is great because of it is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. It has anti-inflammatory properties and is great for your heart and brain,” says Lauzon. “In North America, we generally don’t eat enough omega-3 fatty acids. So including salmon twice a week in our diets is a really good idea.”

Avocado. “Avocado is great because it contains what we call ‘good fat,’ meaning polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats which help maintain good cholesterol levels and stave off heart problems,” says Lauzon. “What you’re trying to avoid is the saturated fats and trans fats found in so many processed food.

“Our bodies need fat, but you want to make good choices and avocado, for example, is a healthy alternative as a sandwich spread instead of margarine or butter.”

Almonds. “Almonds are great because they are so tasty and very versatile. A lot of people don’t know but they are also very high in fiber and high in the antioxidant vitamin E. They are a good source of magnesium – another good mineral for heart function,” says Lauzon. “They are also a good source of protein so they’re good for snacking because a handful of almonds – raw or roasted – will carry you that extra mile to dinner time.”

Lauzon warns against eating too many salted nuts, however. “Every day we eat so many foods that are high in sodium – we really don’t need extra sodium and all the other seasoning that comes with salted peanuts.Better to eat them roasted or in their raw form,” she says.

Lentils and chickpeas. “Two of my favorite legumes,” says Lauzon. “Both are great plant-based proteins that are low in fat and high in fiber. We talk a lot about fiber because the average Canadian doesn’t eat enough fiber and it’s hard to get the recommended daily dosage (about 25 to 35 g of fiber per day). But chickpeas give you a great, high-end nutritional boost.”

Oats. “Oats are great because of their high content of soluble fiber, which has a positive impact on blood sugars as well as your cholesterol levels,” says Lauzon. “I love oatmeal – it’s such a comfort food. Especially with the winter we’ve had,” says Lauzon with a chuckle.

Greek yogurt. “It seems like everywhere you turn someone’s talking about Greek yogurt. It’s a fairly new phenomenon and it’s extremely popular. I think every yogurt company has gotten on the bandwagon,” says Lauzon. “Greek yogurt has a much higher protein content than regular yogurt which makes it a great snack because the higher the protein the more full you’ll feel. A lot of athletes eat Greek yogurt after their workouts to replenish their protein stores.”

Sweet potatoes. “Like regular potatoes, sweet potatoes are high in potassium but much higher in vitamin A,” says Lauzon.

Quinoa. “One of my favorites,” says Lauzon. “It’s such a refreshing change to white rice or couscous. Quinoa is very high in protein and fiber. It is also very versatile and can be used hot or cold in lots of different applications.

Lauzon says while the Perfect 10 list is not exhaustive, “it is a great place to start.”

“Here at McGill anyways I find that people are quite sophisticated with regards to food and have pretty good nutrition knowledge,” she says. “If they have not incorporated all of these foods they certainly have for many of them.”

Lauzon suggests that when people add new food to their diet, they should give themselves a few chances to acquire a taste for it. “It’s like giving broccoli to your kids. They may not like the first time or even the second. But eventually they develop an appreciation for it,” she says.

She also says people don’t necessarily have to make wholesale changes to their diet. But a little tinkering might be very beneficial. “I would say North Americans generally weat too many meals that are animal-based. I think we should shift to incorporate more plant-based food and more whole foods,” she says. “Usually you see this big piece of meat or other proteins on a plate and then just a little bit of vegetables and whole grains. We need to change in paradigm to put the emphasis on more vegetables fruits and grains and have meat has sort of the side dish.”

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3 Responses to You are what you eat, so why not eat super food?

  1. Chris says:

    Please do not promote eating salmon in Montreal without a shred of accompanying education on the major sourcing problem this city has. Most of the salmon sold here is Atlantic salmon which is farmed in an entirely unsustainable way. Because we are so far away from the problems it causes, people here assume, or are easily fooled into thinking, that farming salmon is a good thing (like it is for some other fish, e.g. some trout and tilapia). Montrealers’ appetite for this unsustainable product is contributing to great harm to wild populations and to coastal environments in B.C., Europe, and elsewhere.

    Follow the link http://www.seachoice.org/fish/salmon-3/ to find more, including sustainable alternatives.

    Atlantic salmon is no superfood.

  2. Marianne says:

    Chris makes a good point. If you eat salmon, buy from sustainable sources OR eat other fish that are high in omegas – such as trout or mackerel.

  3. Oliver de Volpi says:

    Hello Chris, as the person who is responsible for sustainability for food service at McGill I would at least like to share with you what we are doing. Salmon being a very healthy choice (from a nutritional point of view) and a popular choice among our students we’ve decided to offer salmon in our units. Apart from salmon all of our fish comes from sustainable choices (we are MSC certified and we follow the SeaChoice recommended list for the balance). We also do offer MSC certified wild salmon in some of our dining halls.
    We went one year without offering salmon because of the same issues you bring up but were getting complaints from students that they wanted it back so here is what we decided to do: We looked into more sustainable choices for salmon and even asked one of the students from an applied student research group on sustainable seafood to help out. Together we decided to go with Heritage salmon from New Brunswick. Heritage salmon has a few things going for it that allowed us to compromise on the salmon farming issue.
    1. Heritage Salmon is BAP (Best Aquacuture Practice) certified, see the link : http://www.gaalliance.org/bap/standards.php. One of the criticism of Farmed salmon is the ratio of as much as 5 to 1 of seafood needed to get 1kg of farmed salmon. Heritage’s feed ratio in under .8 with the balance of .4 being made up of grains (and no growth hormones) much better ration then the industry and compared to beef Beef 8.7, Pork 5.9, Chicken 1.9, Heritage Farmed Salmon 1.2
    2. We purchase our salmon from NB where they are using Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture meaning they set up muscles and kelp around the salmon pens to help eat/absorb any waste from the salmon production, see the link: http://www.aquaculture.ca/files/species-multi-trophic.php. They are definitely using best practices in the field for Salmon farming and we chose to reward the company using the best practices.
    3. We try to reduce our carbon foot print buy purchasing local, for seafood the basic choices are Chili, the west coast, Alaska or any of the gulf coast, New Brunswick seems like a logical choice. They are a Canadian company and one of the top employers in NB.
    I think the best thing that we can do as a University is to set the example and I believe our commitment to MSC and Seachoice shows our position in the seafood choices and with salmon we provide industry leading product and allow student to make their own choices based on Health, cost and environmental impact.
    Oliver de Volpi, Executive Chef, Operations and Sustainability. McGill Student Housing and Hospitality Service.

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