5 comfort foods you need in your grocery cart today
I’m all for buying local; in fact, it’s become a passion of mine. Buying local means that your food is fresher, cleaner, and greener, and that your money stays in your community, supporting local growers. That being said, there’s a thing or two to be said for a weekly trip to your local supermarket.
One of the best aspects of today’s grocery stores is the wide availability of everything from tropical fruit to international food staples. The ability to provide your family with a culturally diverse and interesting meal has never been easier. Also, the natural foods section in many supermarkets has grown exponentially in response to the demands of today’s educated consumer, and many stores sell locally grown produce and meats when possible. It’s important to note that stores will stock more of these items upon popular demand, so go ahead and ask your supermarket manager to stock that locally raised, pastured, organic poultry you’ve purchased from your farmer’s market and loved.
So let’s talk supermarket superfoods, and a bit about why you ought to have them in your cart.
First, let’s warm things up with a little ginger. Ginger was my best friend during all three of my pregnancies. Its anti-nausea properties made life tolerable during my first trimesters. I grated about a teaspoon into two cups of boiling water, steeped for ten minutes, strained, and then sipped throughout the morning. What I didn’t know at the time was that ginger also reduces intestinal gas and painful spasms, and inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. Ginger ramps up your circulation, which is a must for this time of year. Even more appealing is the fact that ginger inhibits the growth of rhinovirus, which can cause the common cold.
Who doesn’t love pomegranate? Happily for our immune systems, that list is very short. Winter is prime pomegranate time, and I’m all for eating fruit in its season. Pomegranate seeds are naturally sweet and delicious. They’re also rich in antioxidants, high in fiber, and low in calories. Toss those seeds into your salad, fix a small bowlful for healthy grazing while you catch your favorite show, or sprinkle over organic coconut milk ice cream for a delicious treat. The downside, if you can really call it that, is that those seeds are packed in good and tight. Like all good things, it requires effort to get the good stuff. Happily, I’ve found a handy little life hack that not only eliminates the pain of the seed quest, it’s also a great stress buster.
What’s better on a cold winter night than a piping hot bowl of homemade chili? Not much! And when you realize that a nutritional powerhouse is tucked into each little kidney bean, you can feel even better about it! Whether you prefer vegetarian chili or like it loaded with meat, be sure your chili is packed with kidney beans. These little guys are loaded with fiber, lower your heart attack risk, and contain significant amounts of folate and magnesium. They stabilize blood sugar, load you up with iron, are packed with anti-oxidants, and even improve memory and energy level.
Next up, (brace yourself – you’re gonna love me) dark chocolate. Yes, I said dark chocolate. Dark chocolate (60% cocoa or more) is made from cocoa seeds, one of the best sources of antioxidants on earth. It’s also loaded, and I mean loaded, with minerals. We’re talking 67% of the RDA of iron, 58% of the RDA of magnesium, 89% of the RDA of copper, and 98% of the RDA of manganese. Also of note is the bounty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium swimming in all that dark, luscious goodness. Look for high quality, organic, dark chocolate, and try to find fair trade, if possible. Keep in mind this luxury is high in calories, so consume within reason . . . if you can.
Let’s round up our list of supermarket superstars with teff. Heard of it? No? That’s not surprising. Teff is relatively new to the North American palate, but it’s been an Ethiopian comfort food for hundreds of years, and nutritionists claim it’s about to become one of ours. Teff is a tiny, gluten free grain about the size of a poppy seed, but don’t let it’s diminutive size fool you; this little seed packs a nutritional punch capable of positioning it squarely in the ranks of superfood stardom. Teff is very high in calcium, and is an excellent source of vitamin C. It’s helpful at managing blood sugar, and contributing to colon health. Its mild, nutty flavor makes it versatile for a variety of uses, from warm breakfast cereal to side dishes to main courses. There are numerous recipes online to try, so why not find a new comfort food? Now you can consider yourself super-grain savvy!
Of course, there’s a flip side to all this nutritional diversity and convenience. The supermarket is a veritable Pandora’s Box of brightly colored, temping offerings, designed to snag your attention and appeal to shopper’s hunger. Also, beware of ‘healthy’ food choices that pack a hidden wallop of sodium and a litany of unpronounceable chemicals and additives.
The simplest of rules are the still the best. First, read those labels, and pack a magnifying glass in your purse if you must. Yes, you will embarrass your kids, and yes, that’s okay. It’s even okay if they begin referring to you as ‘Sherlock,’ as mine have recently done. Second, steer your cart away from the center aisles, and concentrate the bulk of your shopping on the outside perimeter of the store. The aisles beckon with sugary cereals, packaged side dishes, syrupy canned fruits, and the dreaded snack section are all clustered in the middle of the store. The perimeter of the store is where you’ll find produce, natural foods, meats, dairy, and the freezer section. Third, don’t shop on an empty stomach. I keep a container of raw almonds in my purse to stave away the munchies. They’re packed with vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber, and recent studies suggest that raw almonds lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease, a leading cause of death for Canadian women. The bonus? They’re delicious! Toss a few of these in your cart, as well!
Of course, this list represents a mere fraction of the fabulous foods available in your local supermarket. Diversity is the spice of life, so strike out and discover something new, wholesome, comforting, and green this week!