Give these seven nutritional powerhouses another chance

If you're looking to add some nutritional powerhouses to your diet, it may be time to revisit foods you've despised in the past. Your tastes do change over time. And the trouble could be how the food was prepared, not the food itself. Here are some polarizing foods to reconsider:

Sardines

Turnoffs: Strong, fishy taste. Tiny bones. Can be packed in tomato sauce. Reputation as a frugality food.

Turn-ons: High in vitamin D and loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which protect your heart and brain. Lots of protein, calcium and selenium. Inexpensive. Portable when canned.

How to eat them: Avoid sardines packed in vegetable oil, which is high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. Try "a squeeze of lemon, toasted red chile, extra-virgin olive oil and mixed green herbs over garlicky al dente whole wheat fettuccine,'' said Dr. John LaPuma, a chef and the medical director for the Santa Barbara Institute for Medical Nutrition and Healthy Weight.

Cabbage

Turnoffs: When overcooked, it produces the smell of rotten eggs. Too much cabbage may make you gassy.

Turn-ons: One cup of shredded, boiled cabbage has just 33 calories but has 4 filling grams of fiber. Loaded with phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals. May reduce your risk of cancer and has a protective effect on the brain.

How to eat it: Can be steamed, fried, boiled, braised or baked. Use it in corned beef and cabbage, soups and stews, and cold dishes such as coleslaw, said registered dietitian Dave Grotto, a spokesman for the American Dietetic Association.

Tomatoes

Turnoffs: Contain a slimy, jellylike substance around the seeds; thin skin, grainy pulp and seeds. Sweetness and acidity can vary, depending on the variety and how early they were picked.

Turn-ons: Lycopene-rich (red) tomatoes can help reduce your risk for heart disease and certain cancers, including pancreatic and prostate. Cooked tomatoes contain up to eight times more available lycopene than raw tomatoes. Excellent source of vitamins A, C and K, and a good source of potassium, fiber and other phytonutrients.

How to eat them: Eating tomatoes with fat helps the body absorb their lycopene. The whole tomato has the greatest health benefits, so get the tomato paste products with peels, LaPuma said.

Broccoli

Turnoffs: Sulfurous smell. Famously disliked by President George H.W. Bush.

Turn-ons: An abundance of antioxidants makes broccoli one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat. Aside from its anticancer properties such as sulforaphane, broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse that contains vitamins A, C and K, as well as folate and fiber. Has antibacterial properties that kill Helicobacter pylori, bacteria that cause ulcers and play a role in stomach cancer.

How to eat it: Use it in dips, casseroles, soups, lasagna, stir-fry and salads, suggested chef Dana Jacobi, author of 10 bestselling cookbooks.

Beets

Turnoffs: Earthy flavor, slippery texture, can turn urine a startling pink color (a phenomenon called beeturia). Dissed by President Barack Obama and excluded from the White House garden.

Turn-ons: An excellent liver tonic and blood purifier. Beets have both betaine and folate, which work to reduce homocystein, a naturally occurring amino acid that can be harmful to blood vessels. Contains the most sugar of any vegetable, yet is low in calories.

How to eat them: Baked, broiled, steamed or raw and added to salads.

Brussels sprouts

Turnoffs: Resemble tiny cabbages. Parents or grandparents cooked them into oblivion. Sulfur content gives them an unappetizing odor.

Turn-ons: Higher concentration of glucosinolates, a type of compound thought to have cancer-fighting properties, than any other plants in the cruciferous vegetable family. An excellent source of vitamins C and K.

How to eat them: Trim the sprouts, then toss with olive oil, salt and crushed garlic. Roast in a 400-degree oven for about 30 minutes until tender. Use as little water as possible when boiling.

Licorice

Turnoffs: Strong, tart taste and smell.

Turn-ons: Licorice root — the herb, not the candy — is known for having a soothing effect on mucous membranes in the throat, lungs and bronchial tubes. It can also be used to treat everything from athlete's foot to ulcers, according to James Duke, the former chief of the Medicinal Plant Resources Laboratory at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

How to eat it: Buy it as an herb and add it as a sweetener to aromatic teas, suggested Duke, the author of The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods. But long-term use has side effects; don't use it regularly for longer than six weeks, and don't take it if you're pregnant or under medical care.

Give these seven nutritional powerhouses another chance 01/15/10 [Last modified: Friday, January 15, 2010 3:30am]

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