black tea brewed with jujubesRecently, I was inspired by Susan's post about fickle food trends. It got me to thinking how crazy the world of food is. Remember when it was "discovered" that cherries were the best fruits you could eat? Except then it was blueberries. Which were supplanted by pomegranates. Only now we're finding out that kiwis have more antioxidants than all of those fruits put together. Each time some new ingredient is "found", the wheels of the commercial food machinery go into gear to market the superfood du jour. 10 years ago, you couldn't have found pomegranate juice, pomegranate vinegar, pomegranate molasses, pomegranate smoothies, pomegranate cereal, pomegranate tea, pomegranate supplements, pomegranate face cream... etc. in every market the way you can now. It's the same with white tea. Or was it red tea?
My point is this- there is nothing new under the sun. We should not fall into the trap of thinking of some foods as superfoods and others as worthless. The fact is, all fruits and vegetables have their benefits, and our goal should be to consume vast quantities of them all, preferably in combination. Your diet should never depend on only one source for its nutrients, and besides, most nutrients work best in combination with others.
But, it is also fun to think of trendy foods. I remember "discovering" balsamic vinegar and pesto in high school, but my friend who had grown up in an Italian household had been eating them her whole life. Similarly, I'm pretty amused by the mad rush for all things pomegranate, since I grew up in an Iranian household where the fruit was ubiquitous.
So, just for fun, I thought I would show and tell some Iranian health foods that are ripe candidates for becoming the next "superfoods." When you see them on the shelf at your local market, let me know!
Exhibit A: roasted hemp seeds
I remember a few years ago, I "discovered" the health benefits of hemp seeds, how they are high in essential fatty acids, and nutrient-dense. I called my mom to tell her about them. She didn't know what hemp was, so she asked me to describe it. Finally she said, oh hemp seeds? I've been snacking on those since I was a kid. It turns out that hemp seeds, along with sesame and poppy seeds, are one of the most popular snacks in Iran. The omega-3's are probably better preserved by eating raw hemp seeds. The roasted salted ones are fun to snack on or include in trail mixes, though!
Exhibit B: jujubes
These fruits, (not to be confused with the candies of the same name!) are popular all along the silk road, especially in China, where they are made into candies and pastries of all kinds. In Iran, they are most often eaten dried, and it's traditional to brew black tea with them. (You can see a photo of this at the top of this post) They give the tea a subtle sweet flavor, and when you're done drinking, you can eat the reconstituted fruit. I wonder what their antioxidant counts are?
Exhibit C: apricot kernels
When we were kids and we would eat apricots, my mom would get out the nutcracker and crack the pits, giving us the bittersweet almond-looking nuts on the inside to munch on. Little did I know then that apricot kernels are packed with good fats and nutrients- I just liked the way they tasted! I was very surprised back in March when Daiku and I went to a health fair and got sampels of "the newest thing" a trail mix consisting of goji berries and... apricot kernels! Mom, it looks like you were right again. You can try this at home next time you have fresh apricots- just crack the pits like a nut! (Caution, don't try this with peach or plum pits, they are bitter and probably not good for you.) You can also buy apricot kernel oil in health food stores.
What about you? What are the foods of your childhood or your heritage that are now marketed as "hot" or "superfoods" or "fancy pants"? Leave a comment and tell me all about them, I don't want to be left out of the trendy loop!