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You and Your Health

Top 11 Foods to Try in 2011

Top 11 Foods to Try in 2011

Photo: HSNews is happy to bring you our latest contributor Sylvia Meléndez-Klinger, MS, RD, LDN

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HSNews is happy to bring you our latest contributor, Sylvia Meléndez-Klinger, MS, RD, LDN. Meléndez-Klinger is founder of Hispanic Food Communications, Inc, a nutrition and food communications consulting company. She is a registered dietician of the American Dietetic Association and a licensed dietitian nutritionist. She was awarded Outstanding Dietitian of 2009 by the Illinois Dietetic Association - West Suburban Chapter.  The Chicago Dietetic Association honored her as “Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year” in 1994. She is an active member of the American Dietetic Association, and the Grain Foods Foundation Medical Advisory Board.


[Each year,] millions of people vow to lose weight.  Are you one of them?  If so, don’t let boredom sabotage your good intentions.  Experiment with your food choices and keep your meals interesting.  New flavors and textures will keep your meals exciting.  Best of all, the foods listed below provide lots of nutritional benefits per serving.

Image1. Chayote is a member of the squash family, common in Mexico, the Caribbean and South America.  In the US, it’s sometimes called mirliton. The pear-shaped gourd has pale green skin and a sweet, mild flavor.  Try it baked or roasted, pureed in soups or raw.  Chayote is high in fiber and is a good source of potassium and Vitamin C.

2. Guava is a round tropical fruit, with light green or yellow skin. The flesh is whitish, pink or yellow with lots of small seeds: the seeds and skin are both edible. Guava is an excellent source of Vitamin C, omega fatty acids and fiber.  It’s delicious raw or in preserves, jams, or jellies.  If you can’t find whole guava, look for guava nectar in the juice aisle.

Image3. Jicama is a root vegetable with brownish skin.  The texture is like a radish, but the flavor is sweeter – like an apple. To serve jicama raw, peel and cut into strips for salads, or into slices for dips. Jicama is low in calories and is a great source of fiber, potassium, iron, calcium and vitamins C and E.

4. Mangoes are delicious! There are more than 1,000 varieties of mango in world.  The yellow flesh of mango is juicy and sweet and can be eaten alone or mixed into fruit salads or smoothies.  Mangos are great sources of vitamins A, B6 and C – and they’re high in fiber.

Image5. Nopales, or cactus leaves, are common in Mexican and Southwest cooking. After removing thorns from the greenish, oval shaped pads, you can slice and simmer nopales or grill them whole.  If fresh nopales aren’t available, look for canned nopales in the grocery store.  Nopales help with digestive health since they’re high in fiber and magnesium.  They are also loaded with vitamins A, C and K, and provide calcium and potassium.  That’s quite a nutritional punch for this prickly vegetable!

6. Papaya, also known as paw paw,is an oval fruit with a yellow or orange peel.  It’s grown in Mexico, Central America and Hawaii. To serve papaya, peel the skin first.  The orange flesh and black seeds have a sweet-tart flavor.  Try papaya alone, mixed with pineapple in a fruit salad, diced in a salsa, or blended into a smoothie.  A serving of papaya delivers 150% of the daily value of Vitamin C.  It’s high in fiber and a very good source of Vitamin A, potassium and folate.

Image7. Passion fruit is a tropical fruit with a romantic name and a sweet-tart flavor.  Passion fruit is shaped like an egg, with purple or yellow skin.  Purple passion fruit is typically sweeter and juicer than yellow.  To eat passion fruit, slice in half and scoop out the pulp, juice and seeds.  Eat alone, mix in smoothies, spoon on top of yogurt or other fruits, or make jam. Passion fruit is a good source of vitamins A and C, plus potassium, calcium and iron.  It’s also high in phytochemicals, like carotenoids and lycopene.

8. Pomegranate is a round fruit with red leathery skin.  The seeds, also known as arils, are the edible part of the fruit.  To serve, slice off the crown of the fruit, then score the skin from top to bottom.  Break the sections apart and remove the seeds with a spoon or by hand.  It’s a little messy, but worth the effort!  Eat the sweet tart seeds alone or sprinkled in salads, on yogurt or desserts.  Pomegranates are high in vitamin C and antioxidants.

9. Pumpkin (also known as calabaza) isn’t just for pie! The orange-colored gourd can steamed, baked or roasted for a savory side dish, or pureed for soup.  Look for smaller pie pumpkins.  Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds. You can bake the pumpkin halves cut side down, or cut the pumpkin into chunks and boil/steam until tender.  Pumpkin is a good source of vitamin A, beta carotene, selenium and lutein, and pumpkin seeds provide omega-3 fats and phytosterols, which help lower cholesterol.

Image10. Root vegetables come in lots of varieties.  Instead of potatoes, try some other root vegetables like yuca (cassava) or malanga.  Yuca resembles a sweet potato.  Its brown skin is waxy and the bright white flesh is starchy and bittersweet.  Yuca is high in iron. Malanga has a rugged brown skin, and flesh that is reddish, beige or yellowish.  Its flavor is nutlike, and when boiled, the texture is smooth and creamy.  Malanga provides B vitamins and is very easy to digest.

11. Salmon is a super food! This fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which support cardiovascular health.  It’s also high in protein and vitamin A, and is a good source of calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, selenium and zinc.  Farm raised salmon are often orange-pinkish in color, due to natural antioxidants used as coloring agents in their food. Both wild and farm-raised salmon provide similar health benefits. Try salmon grilled, baked, broiled or poached. Remove the skin and bones before serving.

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