Packing a Punch

Nearly all foods are good for you in moderation, but do some pack extra punch?

A recent survey by the International Food and Information Council (IFIC) states that 55% of Americans believe there’s so much available diet information that it’s impossible to know how to eat “healthy.” There’s no common definition for “healthy food.” Fresh fruits and vegetables are nutrition powerhouses, but don’t have food labels to tout their benefits.

Here are 10 “power” foods that pack a punch when it comes to nutrients and/or phytochemicals (plant substances) and can fit into your operation’s healthy menus. These foods and others (see chart below) may help prevent chronic diseases (like cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension and osteoporosis), promote a better quality of life with aging, boost mood and preserve memory.

1. Broccoli—A cruciferous vegetable, broccoli contains many anti-cancer compounds (e.g., sulforaphane, indole-3-carbinol) and antioxidants like Vitamin C, beta carotene and selenium. Broccoli also provides fiber, calcium, potassium and folate.

Add broccoli to salads, soups, pizza, stews, sauces (puree broccoli first), casseroles or pasta. For flavor and crunch, add broccoli sprouts to sandwiches and salads.

2. Berries—All berries are rich in Vitamin C (strawberries have the most), fiber (e.g., pectin) and phytochemicals (e.g., anthocyanins, ellagic acid) which account for their bright colors. Cranberries and blueberries help prevent urinary tract infections.

Add a variety of berries to cereals, pancakes, low-fat yogurt, smoothies (use unsweetened cranberry juice concentrate), fruit soups, relishes, sauces and desserts like baked goods.

3. Squash—Summer squash (e.g., zucchini or yellow) is over 95% water, so it has fewer calories and nutrients than winter squash (e.g., acorn, butternut, pumpkin). All squash contain Vitamin C, potassium, magnesium and fiber. Zucchini also provides lutein and zeaxanthin which may protect against macular degeneration (leads to blindness) and cataracts. Winter squash also contains B-vitamins like folate, iron and beta-carotene.

Add squash to soups, stews or chili. Shred zucchini or yellow squash for a slaw. Incorporate mashed winter squash into pies, muffins or quick breads.

4. Oranges—Citrus fruits (e.g., oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes) provide Vitamin C (there’s almost a full day’s recommended allowance in one cup of orange juice or one medium orange), carotenoids, folate, potassium, calcium and fiber (none in juices). Tangerines contain more beta carotene but less Vitamin C than oranges.

Use orange slices as garnishes or add mandarin oranges to salads like spinach. Add orange juice to smoothies, tomato sauce, salsa, salad dressings and marinades.

5. Fish—Fish provides high-quality protein, B-vitamins, Vitamin D (fatty fish) and minerals (e.g., iron, iodine, phosphorus). Salmon and sardines with bones also contain calcium. Fatty, cold-water fish (e.g., salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel, trout) are the richest in omega-3 fats. They may protect against heart disease, stroke, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease and help treat rheumatoid arthritis, too.

Serve baked, broiled or grilled fish fillets at least twice a week. Use fish for soups, stews and pasta salads.

6. Spinach—Spinach provides fiber, lutein, zeaxanthin, many vitamins like folate, Vitamins C, E and K and beta-carotene, and minerals like potassium, calcium and iron. But, oxalic acid in spinach limits absorption of calcium and iron.

Add raw spinach to salads. Incorporate cooked spinach into vegetable soups, stews, quiche, pizza and casseroles like lasagna.

7. Tomatoes—Rich in the antioxidant lycopene, tomatoes may reduce risk of cancer (e.g., prostate). Cooking tomatoes (e.g., sauce, pizza, soup) releases more lycopene. Lycopene is fat-soluble, so it is better absorbed when vegetable oil is added (e.g., tomato sauce). Tomatoes also contain Vitamin C, beta carotene, potassium, B-vitamins and fiber.

Add tomatoes to salads, soups, stews, casseroles, sauces, pasta, beans and rice.

8. Beans—Rich in fiber, beans provide protein, B-vitamins like folate and minerals (e.g., iron, potassium, phosphorus, calcium). Isoflavones may reduce risk of cancer (e.g., breast) and osteoporosis. Only soybeans contain omega-3 fats and complete protein.

Offer soy foods like milk, yogurt, nuts, burgers, tofu, miso soup or edamame (green soybean pods) as a snack. Combine beans (or nuts) with grains like rice to increase protein quality. Add beans to soups, salads, stews, casseroles, chili, sauces, dips (e.g., hummus), pasta and grain dishes.

9. Nuts—Nuts are high in calories (about 160 calories per ounce) and fat, but the fat is mostly heart-healthy unsaturated fat. Walnuts contain omega-3 fats. Almonds are rich in calcium and Vitamin E, while Brazil nuts contain selenium. All nuts provide phytochemicals, fiber, folate, Vitamin E, calcium, potassium and magnesium.

Use nut butters for sandwiches, smoothies, stews or soups. Add some nuts to salads, baked goods, cereals, pancakes, yogurt, casseroles, soups, stuffing, rice and vegetables.

10. Whole grains—Rich in phytochemicals and fiber, whole grains (e.g., oats, bulgur, buckwheat, quinoa, brown rice) also provide B-vitamins, Vitamin E, iron, zinc, magnesium, calcium, potassium and other minerals.

Offer whole-grain breads, cereals like oatmeal or bran, whole-wheat pasta and brown rice. Add whole grains to soups, stuffing, casseroles, salads, cereals or yogurt.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The School District of Philadelphia and Baltimore City Public Schools are the latest districts in the Urban School Food Alliance to switch to compostable plates.

The move to the eco-friendlier products will save 19 million polystyrene products from landfills, according to a news release .

Schools often use polystyrene products due to their low cost. Polystyrene trays cost on average around 4 cents apiece, while compostable plates cost an average of 12 cents each. The Urban School Food Alliance’s collective buying power enabled them to create a compostable plate that costs...

Managing Your Business
allergies

Guy Procopio got a taste of the future when Michigan State University hosted a Boy Scout event in 2015. Out of 10,000 participants at the East Lansing, Mich., campus, Procopio, the director of dining services, received 1,400 requests to meet special dietary needs, including a wide spectrum of allergies, gluten intolerance or insensitivity, and other new or unusual hyper-specialized diets.

This dining trend isn’t letting up, at least in America: Food allergies in children increased approximately 50% from 1997 to 2011. They now affect one in 13 children in the United States,...

Industry News & Opinion

Students of Broward County Public Schools in Florida were treated to a special meal by celebrity chef Aria Kagan during lunch last week.

The chef and former contestant on “The Next Food Network Star” prepared her farm-fresh pesto panini in front of students at McNicol Middle School in Hollywood, Fla.

Her visit was part of the district’s Chefs Move to Broward initiative, through which a chef from nonprofit Wellness in the Schools visits district cafeterias each month to prepare a healthy meal. The chef then teaches cafeteria staff how to make the dish so it can be...

Managing Your Business
woman alone in kitchen

In a post-Harvey Weinstein world, there’s an awful anticipation over which star’s worst-kept secret will be outed next. The outpouring of claims of sexual harassment and abuse helped popularize the #MeToo social media campaign, encouraging women to share their stories and spurring allegations against upwards of 60 high-profile men. In October, the movement’s momentum hit the foodservice industry. Since, behemoths such as Mario Batali, John Besh and Todd English were forced to confront accusations of alleged sexual harassment or misconduct.

For many women, the scope of the industry’...

FSD Resources