Sunday, July 29, 2007

Take this trend... and eat it.

black tea brewed with jujubes

Recently, 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!


Theresa said...

Thank you. I hate hearing about Super Foods. Because you just know that, 2 weeks later, you'll find out they cause cancer. And everyone goes crazy and thinks that eating goji berries in the morning will make up for chowing down on fast food the rest of the day. The only Super Food is a combination of healthy, fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains.

My childhood superfoods include such delicacies as backyard blackberries, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries (organic and pesticide free, I might add); peanut butter and jam sandwiches; and the appropriately nicknamed 'super pickles', aka sliced cucumbers soaked in vinegar and salt for at least a week. We would polish off a whole tupperware of said Super Pickles in about, oh, a night.

KleoPatra said...

Bazu, what a great post! And also the one where you answered queries... wow, where to start?

You make some very good points about trendy foods and all that hype... Bazu, you know, it usually makes me crazy to see people get on the bandwagons with this sort of thing... superfoods, super nutrients, blah blah super blah blah... and diets, too! Whatever sounds good, the next big thing, the popular fads, people following blindly, believing w/out questioning reports of what's (supposed to be) good, no, make that GREAT for you! (Never mind looking in depth at who sponsors the findings... i.e. the "Milk Advisory Board" telling the world HOW GREAT MILK is for you... cough cough).

i like the Iranian health foods you show, how cool to see roasted hemp seeds. i never even knew they existed. The jujubes look really good!! Bet they have a stellar antioxidant count. And your mom looks like a genius! Again, i never even knew you could crack open apricot pits and eat the insides. WOW!

The only superfood from my childhood that i remember is not naturally made... it was (is) MorningStar Farms... they were the original faux meat company and we were buying their "sausage" and "bacon" and eating that instead of the "real" thing.

i don't think potato pancakes or matzoh ball soup will ever be considered "hot" unless yer talkin' about how they're supposed to be served!!!

(btw, i love the "fancy pants" title)

YOU ARE A ROCKIN' BLOGGER. i do not want to miss any of your posts, ever, Bazu, and that's a fact.

Edith Piaf - how cool are you??? i have one of her CDs, somewhere...

After reading your five things you'd do if you were a millionaire, Bazu, i honestly wish you would become a millionaire someday... soon.

I LOVE PIZZA CRUST!!! i don't get it when peeps leave 'em behind either. Come on people!!

i appreciate you bein' a book reader (and hope you read Sara's book, it really is excellent! And there are numerous references to LEGOs!!! Just an FYI to you, fellow Lego lover - and did you know we have "Legoland" here in San Diego County?)... i'm voracious about it as well.

i don't know "The Word Game" but it sounds excellent!!! Have you played Boggle? i think you'd like it. Sure wish i could have you over some night for a few rounds... maybe someday...

Nice blogging tips there. Never had seen a few of those!! Thanks, Bazu.

A fellow one-time Sun-In user (*yikes*),

P.S. Thanks for these great posts, and thanks for bein' you. You ROCK!

KathyF said...

Great post! Did you know that hemp seeds are second only to flax seeds in their ALA content, which is an omega-3 fatty acid? If fact, hemp seeds contain a balance of n-3/n-6 fatty acids that more closely mimics what humans need, and flax seeds actually contain too much for a long term diet.

More than you wanted to know, eh?

Food I grew up eating: broccoli. The workhorse of superfoods.

I hope they discover some health benefits to fried okra, one of my favorite guilty pleasures. I always order that at the Piccadilly cafeteria, located in my hometown in Louisiana. Okra is very high in calcium, I know, so maybe frying it isn't SO bad.

Frosted Flakes? Probably not gonna happen.

Peanut butter? I imagine it's been researched to death.

I guess Southern food isn't really due for a revival.

Anonymous said...

Ilike the Iranian health foods you show, that was new to me. well i grow up in a meat eater way, so not aqny super food there, but i did it lots of pinnaple, mangos and other fruits like oranges and grapefruit so im my opinion that fruits was the super food of today.

laura jesser said...

Bazu, this is such a cool post! I'll definitely be on the lookout for your Iranian superfoods--it would be so fun to try.

Umm, I can't think of any foods from my childhood that could ever hope to be touted as superfoods... sigh. My parents think I'm crazy anytime I try a new food and tell them about it and it's not completely mainstream.

Nicole said...

Excellent post!

I remember once when I was younger my Aunt tricking my Grandma into sending my Dad a Chia Pet for his birthday it's a joke that has stayed alive in our family for years. I think about that often when I use chia seeds and chia gel to make salad dressings or to replace flax seeds in anything.

As a kid I would have never thought you could eat the stuff that Chia Pets are made of and that it would be so good for you!

Anonymous said...

My childhood was filled with Frosted Flakes, Twinkies, white bread with grape jelly, hamburger, and all kinds of disgusting weight loss products. I certainly didn't consume many superfoods as a child. Sounds like you've been on the "right" track for a long time. I'm going to try to find jujubes. Such an interesting fact about apricot kernels. I can't wait to try them.

Emilie said...

Great post, thanks for it. It made me think of that Michael Pollan article that came out a while ago (here it is: in which he talks about food trends. His point is that we most often get buzz about specific nutritional elements in a food, like a particular vitamin or something few people actually even really know what it is, like antioxidants. Food packaging touts these elements of the food (or a lack of a "bad" element) and hypes it. He sort of says that this kind of marketing happens most with "non-food", by which he means non "whole" foods or foods that are processed, but it's clear that this happens with whole foods, even fresh fruits and vegetables have stickers and pointless packaging that touts some health benefit or another. I can't remember if this is a point he makes in the article or something that it prompted me to think about, but it's pretty amazing how obsessed people are in general with what they eat and what they "should" eat, and yet most people have diets that are broadly bad for them. A handful of blueberries or nuts here and there will not save you.

Anyway, there are the health trends and the trendy trends and sometimes they're quite caught up with one another. Goji berries, right now, for sure. I'd have to hunt it down, but I remember not long ago someone blogged about goji berries in much the same way as you just did about hemp seeds. Her mom had always eaten them and they seemed a standard part of her diet. Her daughter had eschewed them until they popped up as a food trend, only to have her mom point out that she tried to have her eat them years and years ago.

The thing that I grew up with that seems unimaginably popular right now is durian. This might be a trend that is relegated to raw foodists at the moment, but maybe it will spread. Durian is a s.e. Asian fruit that stinks like rotting garbage and has the consistency of a pouch of congealed slime. I grew up in Malaysia and used to run from it, but now I've seen it made much of in raw food circles and been in more than one raw restaurant that smacked me in the face with the smell of durian. Don't know what the rationale about why its good for it is, but I'm sure there's something.

Mikaela said...

That was a fun post! :D

Remember the Lycopene craze a little while ago? All of a sudden Heinz ketchup is good for you - please don't mind the high fructose corn syrup!

Growing up we ate lots of quinoa and cous cous, which we used to have to go to the health food store to buy. Now that they're trendy, they're everywhere.

Vegan_Noodle said...

How cool that you were eating super foods as a child and you didn't even know it. Score for your mom!
I find it so hilarious when I'm out with friends and they have jumped onto some superfood bandwagon. Especially when it's things like a special kind of yogurt of fish oil or something like that (well, that saddens and frustrates me more actually).
Hmmm, superfoods from my parents were awesome about always having fruit at dinner. I remember not waiting to spoon it onto my plate and just picking it up with my fingers, much to my parents chagrin. I also used to eat tons of raw carrot sticks before they showed up in supermarkets as the baby carrots everyone loves. And then there were the superfoods my mom so desperately wanted me to try that I love today and wish I hadn't been so stubborn, including sweet potatoes, green beans, avocados, and brussel sprouts.
Thanks for a great post! What fun reading...

Monika K said...


I'm not clear on the whole "tagging" thing - am I supposed to answer questions or something? I'm totally willing to be tagged, I'm just not exactly sure what that means...[sheepish grin]. Nice post, by the way. (-:

Courtney said...

Aren't moms smart?! My mom's superfoods that she "forced" us to eat were, like you, pomegranates, as well as cous cous, whole wheat EVERYTHING (no one would trade with us in the lunch room!), kiwis (way before they were trendy), and blue corn chips. Yes, we were weird!

Great post!

Tofu Mom (AKA Tofu-n-Sprouts) said...

Oh I LOVE LOVE LOVE your post! This is awesome and I couldn't agree more. Superfoods... give me a break! I remember the whole oat bran thing... it seems so 90's now...

Not exactly "superfoods", but growing up, we were frugal and had six kids to feed so my mom grew a HUGE garen. The rule for dinner all summer was "Only food from the garden" and we did EXACTLY that. Breakfast might be eggs, pancakes or toast, but dinners were ALL VEGETABLES.

Sometimes four or five different kinds - sure we had butter and salt and such to go with... but went several months eating JUST veggies for dinner and we were always stuffed!

My Mom grew (and still does!) things the neighbors had never heard of - black-eyed peas (we lived in Washington State), soybeans, kohlrabi, amaranth, kale (40 years ago, kale was unusual!)eggplant, artichokes, daikon, fennel, parsnips, as well as the standard corn, beans, lettuce, etc.

I definitely learned to know, love and cook with a variety of veggies.

urban vegan said...

I loev to hear more about Iranian superfoods and Iranian food in general.

Growing up Polish, we didn't eat much healthy. But we did eat a lot of fruit and veggie. As a kid, when I was hungry, myu mom would hand me a raw cucumber and the salt shaker. That was my snack.

Celine said...

I was lucky to have a mom who made us completely nutritious and delicious meals, except that at the time, they still included meat. but my brain is fried for now and I cannot come up with great examples like yours. ;p

Judy said...

Whew! At first I though you had brewed tea with candy jujubes, and I was beginning to think "ok Bazu, now you've lost it!" But luckily it's just a food I've never heard of!

My greatest 'discovery' was stevia....still in love with it!

Vincent Guihan said...

I don't think anything I ate as a child was a superfood, except cherries I suppose and it would have been by accident. My father was one of those guys who would insist on boiling cheap steak and then trying to make us eat the fat (so, we were a really health-conscious family!). The apricot kernel stuff is interesting.

vko said...

This is a SUPERPOST- I feel all the antioxidents coursing through my body just by reading this!

Superfood that I enjoy now but did not when I was growing up is preserved/fermented tofu- otherwise known as "stinky tofu". As a kid, it was gross to look at and the taste too strong for my kiddy palette. Lo and behold, I can polish it off by the jar full. It's got a strong cheesy consistency and in the fermentation part of the tofu is where the good stuff is created- like with tempeh. Yum stinky tofu and good for you, especially the spicy kind!

I emailed you about getting together in NYC! hurray!

dreamy said...

Yes, I agree! All foods have their good properties it's all the propaganda that's making some foods "health foods". And sometimes scientists find this wonderful component in certain foods and the health food industry hype it up so much when other foods unexplored by scientists can contain the same component.
Thanks for the post, I didn't know that you can crack the pit and eat the kernels :)