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Cook on the Wild Side

Make mealtime an adventure


Want to turn dinnertime into a culinary adventure? Try exotic foods such as freekeh, sacha inchi seeds, cactus leaves, and sunchokes in these simple recipes.

Do you find yourself preparing the same meals for months on end? Is boredom becoming a constant dinner companion? If so, you can easily break out of your rut by becoming more adventurous with your healthy food choices. Here are four nutritious, somewhat esoteric foods bound to enliven your mealtimes.

Unusual suspects

Cactus leaves are the edible, oval-shaped leaves of the prickly pear cactus. In addition to fantastic flavour, they deliver a wealth of nutrients including vitamins A, C, and K; calcium; potassium; and disease-fighting polyphenols. Studies indicate cactus leaves can help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Thankfully, their distinctive taste is winning over fans, and they have become increasingly available at supermarkets across Canada.

Freekeh is wheat harvested when still green—then sun-dried, roasted, and rubbed. Used in the Middle East for millennia, the ancient grain is becoming popular in North America due to its excellent nutritional profile and delicious taste. Freekeh is chock full of cholesterol-lowering fibre and contains nearly five times the calcium of brown rice. You can purchase packaged freekeh online and in select supermarkets and specialty food stores.

Sacha inchi seeds were once the superfood of the Incas; however, they’re experiencing a renaissance—for good reason. The Amazonian seeds are literally teeming with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, protein, fibre, and the mood-boosting amino acid tryptophan. They are readily available in natural health food stores and can be purchased plain, caramelized, or covered in chocolate.

Sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) are tiny tubers that resemble a knobbly piece of ginger. The diminutive veggie is surprisingly nutritious, containing notable amounts of vitamins B6 and C, thiamine, potassium, iron, and phosphorus. In addition, they’re loaded with inulin, a prebiotic carbohydrate that promotes the growth of friendly bacteria in the large intestine. Native to North America, sunchokes are available at most large supermarkets.

Get your glycogen

Most of us know how important protein is post-workout, but did you also know that a good quality carb is also needed to create glycogen in the muscles, which is necessary for proper recovery? When we exercise we deplete the body’s glycogen stores, which provide us with sustained energy throughout the day. To replenish the body’s supply of these long-chain glucose polymers, fuel up with a good quality complex carb, such as freekeh, which also boasts dietary fibre, protein, and a host of vitamins and minerals.



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Matthew Kadey, MSc, RDMatthew Kadey, MSc, RD