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Beans and Other Magical Foods

The budget cook's guide to superfoods

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While they might not turn you into Superman--or any superhero for that matter--certain foods known as superfoods can improve your health. Do you remember Mom telling you to eat a particular food because it was good for you? It seems she was right. In my case, Mom told me liver and dark green cabbage would make me strong and healthy. Neither liver nor cabbage made it to the list of superfoods -- thank goodness for that! And I'm happy to say that the new good-for-you foods aren't awful at all. Another plus is they're not the most expensive foods at the store.

Beans

When it comes to nutrition and value for money, beans get an A-plus. They're high in B vitamins and fiber, and all for just pennies a serving. They're also easy to add to everyday dishes. Plus, with so much variety, you'll never get bored. Try adding them to soups and stews and using less meat. Also, you can make bean burritos, tacos, and even bean dips.

Blueberries

With all the positive press blueberries are receiving, it's hard to overlook that these little berries contain more disease-fighting antioxidants than most other foods. And they're not hard to like. You can freeze them and eat them frozen as a snack, add them to your morning cereal, blend them into a smoothie, or even add them to your muffins, pancakes and waffles.

Broccoli

OK, now this one does remind me of the dark green cabbage, but it really is good for you. It's great for your immune system and supports cardiovascular health. Some people can tolerate eating it raw by combining it with a dip. But if that's a bit too much for you, you can use chopped broccoli in casseroles and soups and not even realize it's in there.

Oats

Oats are low in fat and an excellent source of fiber. If a bowl of oatmeal doesn't appeal to you, try adding oatmeal instead of breadcrumbs next time you make a meatloaf, or use it as a topping along with nuts for fruit desserts. And, yes, there's always the oatmeal cookie.

Oranges

We all know oranges are packed with vitamin C that helps boost our immune system. If you're thinking orange juice is a good way to get your daily requirement, try eating an orange instead. Eating a whole orange lowers the cost, means you'll be consuming fewer calories and carbs, and you'll be getting some fiber, too.

Pumpkin

It seems it's not just Thanksgiving when we should be enjoying this one. It's said to lower our risk of lung, colon and breast cancer. And apart from the usual pumpkin pie, you can add it to soups, make brownies with it, and even add it to rice pudding.

Salmon

This superfood is probably the most expensive one of the bunch. If your budget can't stretch to fresh salmon, maybe eat it just once a month, and for the rest of the time try the canned variety. Salmon can be used in place of tuna, in sandwiches, and a great way to use leftover mashed potatoes is to make salmon fishcakes.

Soy

Soy has certainly been in the news lately, which isn't too surprising with all the health claims it's been generating. Just about every supermarket sells soy products now. From veggie/soy burgers and soy milk, to edamame (soybeans themselves), and yes, if you don't mind it, there's also tofu.

Spinach

It seems Popeye was ahead of his time. I know most people pull a face when you mention spinach, but if you add it to dishes with lots of other ingredients, you'll hardly notice it's there. And as it's full of iron, calcium, folic acid and Vitamin K, definitely don't overlook it. I sometimes add just a little to minestrone soup, use spinach to make pesto, and often make a spinach and mushroom frittata.

Tea

With so many varieties on the market now, you're bound to find a tea you like. However, some of the herbal teas don't contain any real tea, and are just herbal infusions; so make sure you read the label to see exactly what's in it.

Turkey

If you think about pumpkin being on the list and now turkey, the Thanksgiving meal is really a super-healthy one. Once again, I probably don't have to tell you how you can add turkey to your meals, other than saying if you're thinking of putting chicken into a dish, opt for turkey.

Walnuts

I always use toasted walnuts for recipes like fruit cobblers, crumbles, and when I make homemade pesto sauce. You can also add them to muffins, or sprinkle toasted ones on your salad.

Yogurt

I know lots of people consider yogurt to be a food that falls into the "icky" category. I have one friend who considers it a food that tastes like it's already gone by its sell-by date, which she says makes it hard to believe it's good for you. Some yogurts are a lot more palatable than others, so you may have to do some taste testing. One way to get around the taste is to put yogurt in foods like smoothies. One brand I really like is Stonyfield Farms (www.stonyfieldfarms.com.) I particularly like their organic French vanilla, which is made with whole milk, with cream on top. I think this one will change your mind about yogurt. Another thing to look for when you're buying yogurt is to make sure you get one with active cultures. It should state this on the container.

And the list of super-good foods doesn't stop there. Dr. Steven Pratt, who has written the book SuperFoods Healthstyle (www.superfoodsrx.com), has also added the following good-for-you-foods to the list: apples, avocados, cinnamon, dark chocolate (so glad to see this one made the list!), extra virgin olive oil, garlic, honey, kiwifruit, onions and pomegranates.