New takes on 6 great foods

Suffering from favourite food burnout? Replace your pantry staples with these exciting new foods for a healthy boost

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coconut water

Old fave: Sports Drinks. New rave: Coconut water

Why coconut water is so great

With a growing list of Hollywood celebs raving about it, coconut water has never been more popular. It is extracted from young green coconuts and has only small amounts of natural sugars. Not to be confused with higher-fat coconut milk, it's fat free, tangy but slightly sweet tasting and full of the electrolyte potassium, which lowers blood pressure. In fact, a single cup (250 mL) has about 50 percent more potassium than a banana. And with only 46 calories per cup and no added sweeteners, it won't compromise your waistline as many sports and soft drinks can; a sports drink can have more than four times the calories. (However, sports drinks are better during and after intense exercise because they have more sugars, which exercising muscles need.)

How to enjoy it

Sip coconut water straight up (it's best cold) or try it in a smoothie blended with your favourite frozen fruit. Use it as a base for cocktails (coconut mojito, anyone?) or even as a replacement for plain-Jane water when you are cooking up a batch of rice.

Where to find it

Supermarkets, and health and natural food stores.

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soba noodles and broccoli

Old fave: Whole-wheat pasta. New rave: Soba noodles

Why soba noodles are so great

Soba noodles are made with buckwheat flour, which is rich in B vitamins, magnesium and fibre. Of course, whole-wheat or whole-grain pasta is also great for you; dietary fibre from grains reduces the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, according to researchers based at the U.S. National Cancer Institute. Buckwheat also contains rutin, an antioxidant that neutralizes cell-damaging free radicals. And soba noodles cook in about 30 percent less time than their whole-wheat counterparts. Buckwheat is also okay for those on gluten-free diets, but several soba noodle brands are made with a mixture of wheat and buckwheat, so if you can't eat gluten, be sure to check the label.

How to enjoy them

For a satisfying main dish, top soba noodles with pesto, tomato or meat sauce. Another idea: Toss them with sesame oil, diced chicken, edamame, sesame seeds and fresh herbs. They're also a great addition to broth-based noodle soups.

Where to find them

Health food stores, Asian markets and some supermarkets.

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arctic char fish

Old fave: Salmon. New rave: Arctic char

Why Arctic char is so great

For an alternative to salmon, try this traditional Inuit protein staple. Pink-hued Arctic char harbours about the same amount of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA as salmon, but is slightly sweeter and more delicate in texture than its cousin. On top of the numerous heart health bene¬fits of omega-3s, Harvard scientists found that women consuming them regularly had a significantly reduced risk of developing macular degeneration.

How to enjoy it

Arctic char can be used in any recipe calling for salmon or trout. Try serving cooked fillets with a Greek yogurt citrus sauce: ½ cup (125 mL) plain Greek yogurt mixed with two tablespoons (30 mL) orange juice and ½ teaspoon (2 mL) lime zest. Or chop up the char, mix in bread crumbs, an egg and some herbs, and form into nutritious burgers.

Where to find it

Seafood counters in major supermarkets, and fishmongers.

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avocado_268.jpg

Old fave: Olive oil. New rave: Avocado oil

Why avocado oil is so great

It contains lutein, which helps promote healthy vision, and it has a higher smoke point than olive oil, making it ideal for higher-heat cooking such as stir-frying. More than 70 percent of the calories in this buttery, green-tinged oil come from monounsaturated fat-about the same amount as olive oil. Why is that type of fat so good? For one thing, when researchers at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto put subjects on a high-monounsaturated-fat diet for a month, they found that HDL (or "good chol¬esterol") rose, while C-reactive protein (a compound that's a tip-off for heart-damaging inflammation) dropped.

How to enjoy it

Drizzle over roasted root vegetables, puréed soups and homemade pizza. For a vinaigrette, whisk together one tablespoon (15 mL) of avocado oil with balsamic vinegar and a splash of maple syrup.

Where to find it

Large supermarkets and most health food stores.

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salad lettuce

Old fave: Romaine lettuce. New rave: Escarole

Why escarole is so great

This hearty green is a member of the chicory family, with crumpled leaves that have a slightly bitter flavour (the lighter-coloured inside leaves are milder tasting). Similar to other leafy greens such as romaine, escarole is a good source of vitamin K for strong bones, vitamin A for healthy eyes, and folate, a B vitamin needed to make DNA and RNA-the building blocks of cells. It's more versatile than romaine since it lends itself well to cooking, rather than being mainly a salad ingredient.

How to enjoy it

Escarole can be a base for vegetable salads or cut into fine strips and used to brighten up soup (add it during the last couple of minutes of cooking so it does not get too limp). It also adds texture and flavour to pasta dishes and bean salads. The more robust darker outer leaves are ideal for braising or steaming.

Where to find it

Farmers' markets and large supermarkets.

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hemp

Old fave: Soy beverage. New rave: Hemp beverage

Why hemp beverage is so great

Made by blending hemp seeds with water, hemp beverage has a nutty flavour. Among non-dairy drinks including soy, almond and rice, hemp provides the most omega fats, which improve heart health. (However, soy has more protein, containing about seven grams per cup [250 mL], whereas hemp has two grams.) Hemp is also a natural source of iron. It's good for those who are lactose intolerant, and most brands are fortified with calcium. FYI: It's made from a different cannabis variety than marijuana, so it has none of the psychoactive ingredient THC.

How to enjoy it

Try it in smoothies, creamy soups, a bowl of cereal and scrambled eggs. Or make a rich hot chocolate by bringing one cup of hemp beverage to a simmer and stirring in a few squares of dark chocolate, a dash of nutmeg and cayenne pepper. If you have an ice cream maker, try it in sorbets and ice creams.

Where to find it

Health food stores and large supermarkets.

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