Remember when acai was the “it” food? Imported from the Brazilian rain forest, this antioxidant-rich berry went from exotic stranger to an ingredient in yogurt, juices and ice cream.
According to Forbes, Restaurant News, CNN and the Wall Street Journal, the next healthy South American import could be coming from Peru. If you want to stay ahead of the trend, pick up Peruvian Power Foods (Health Communications, $18.95) by registered dietitian Manuel Villacorta, which offers descriptions, nutritional benefits and recipes for 18 traditional Peruvian foods.
The health benefits of three of the more familiar and available super foods might surprise you:
Artichokes: Not the simplest vegetable to eat, but worth the effort. In addition to vitamin C, calcium, fiber and iron, the flavonoid silymarin makes artichokes a standout. Silymarin, a member of the milk thistle family, protects liver cells and is a natural detox food. Other foods with silymarin are turmeric root, coriander seeds, beet greens, peanuts and most berries.
Purple potatoes: This food of the Inca kings is now available to the rest of us. The rich purple color is the tipoff that these tubers are packed with anthocyanins. Serve with the skin for maximum benefit. Anthocyanins are absorbed directly into the blood stream, where they help decrease blood pressure and control blood sugar. Purple potatoes are also rich in folic acid, potassium and vitamin C.
Cacao: Dark chocolate is touted for its health benefits, but for maximum benefit, go to the source — the cacao bean. Adding cacao powder or nibs to coffee, trail mix or desserts is simple. Reach for cacao when feeling stressed. It contains the natural mood-enhancing nutrients phenylethylamine and theobromine. Phenylethylamine is known as the pleasure chemical and theobromine works with dopamine and adrenaline to improve mood. All the goodness without added sugar.
If you are hungry for more, stop in and listen to Manuel at noon on Nov. 23 at Miami Book Fair International; miamibookfair.com.
Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.