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Top 10 Healthiest Canadian Fruits and Vegetables

If your fruits-and-veggies intake is sporadic at best, you might as well nosh a few healthy goodies that pack the most nutritional punch.

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Canada’s Healthiest Homegrown Foods

Looking for a healthy snack or a new addition to your meal plan? These ten fruits and veggies, all grown in Canada, are nutritionally dense and have plenty of benefits for your body and mind. Registered holistic nutritionist Peggy Kotsopoulos Bilse gives us the scoop.

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Mushroomsphoto credit: shutterstock

Mushrooms

“Tons of mushrooms are grown in Canada and they’re probably the healthiest food that we tend to overlook,” says Kotsopoulos Bilse. All mushrooms contain beta-glucans, which are polysaccharides that boost the immune system, regulate white blood cells (which fight illness) and prevent tumour development. They’re also great for cardiovascular health because they prevent inflammation in blood vessels, which can narrow blood flow. Don’t limit yourself to eating mushrooms. Reishi mushrooms can be consumed in an herbal tonic or in cappuccino form.

Where they’re grown: Mostly in British Columbia and Ontario

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Elderberries

Though not the most famous member of the berry family, elderberries are rich in antioxidants that boost the immune system and have strong anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, which means they combat “sore throats, sinus infections, tonsillitis, coughs, colds and flus,” Kotsopoulos Bilse says.

Where they’re grown: British Columbia, Ontario and the Atlantic provinces

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Mustard Greens

Mustard greens are a cruciferous vegetable, along with other more common veggies such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. Eat just one cup a day and you’ll meet your daily needs for vitamin A and K—both of which are important for healthy bones. “Mustard Greens are also rich in sulfur-containing glucosinolates,” Kotsopoulos Bilse says. “When ingested, these glucosinolates convert to isothiocyanates, which have the ability to eliminate toxins from our cells and can help prevent certain types of cancer.” Kotsopoulos Bilse recommends steaming the greens or sautéing them with olive oil and minced garlic. Find more ways to add them to your diet here.

Where they’re grown: Mostly small gardens; British Columbia and Ontario

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Apples

Apples may seem a dime a dozen, but with good reason. They’re filled with antioxidants and pectin, a soluble fibre that “blocks the absorption of cholesterol in the gut and reduces LDL (bad cholesterol) levels,” says Kotsopoulos Bilse. “They can also reduce plaque buildup in the arteries and minimize inflammatory markers, such as C-reactive protein.” Apples can also lower the risk of respiratory disease.

Where they’re grown: British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia

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Red Beets

Anthocyanin, the antioxidant that gives vegetables, berries and other fruits a red, blue or purple hue, “protects the brain from oxidative damage and age-related memory decline,” says Kotsopoulos Bilse. They also contain folate—and low levels of folate have been linked to “cognitive decline and dementia in the elderly.” In addition, red beets have nitrates, which increase blood flow to the brain. Talk about brain food.

Where they’re grown: Across Canada

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Garlic

Garlic contains allicin, which is a sulfur-based compound that helps to boost libido and lower cholesterol. “It’s also antifungal and antibacterial, which means it helps get rid of infection in your body,” Kotsopoulos Bilse says. The kicker? You have to mince, chop or crush garlic in order to produce the allicin, which is created by mixing alliin (on one end of the clove) with the enzyme allinase (on the other end of the clove). Leave the garlic to sit for a couple minutes, and then eat it raw to reap its benefits—in a salad dressing, for example.

Where it’s grown: Across Canada

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Wild Blueberries

Blueberries are great, but you know what are even better? Wild blueberries! “They’re rich in anthocyanin, which helps reduce inflammation in the brain while boosting cognitive functioning and protecting the brain from short-term memory loss,” says Kotsopoulos Bilse. Their polyphenolic compounds also fend off decreases in neural function—loss of memory, poorer cognition and motor skills—as we age. Try adding them to your smoothie or use them to bake a delicious crumble.

Where they’re grown: Quebec and the Atlantic provinces

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Sour Cherries

Sour cherries have two main benefits: “The Montmorency variety in particular is one of the highest plant-based sources of melatonin,” says Kotsopoulos Bilse. “The consumption of tart cherry juice without additives significantly reduces the severity of insomnia and the “wake periods” after sleep onset. Although it won’t necessarily get you to sleep quicker, once you fall asleep, it’ll keep you there.” Sour cherry juice also has antioxidants and strong anti-inflammatory properties, which can reduce muscle damage and speed up recovery in athletes. It’s even been shown to minimize pain in people with osteoarthritis.

Where they’re grown: British Columbia and Ontario

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Butternut Squash

Since butternut squash is an excellent source of beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A when ingested, “it has strong anti-aging benefits and protects against oxidative stress and UV damage,” says Kotsopoulos Bilse. As if that wasn’t enough, the vitamin also fights acne and inflammation and encourages new skin cell growth. Kotsopoulos Bilse recommends eating butternut squash with a healthy fat such as extra virgin olive oil or coconut butter to help with beta-carotene absorption.

Where it’s grown: Ontario

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Black Currants

Would you believe that black currents have more vitamin C than oranges and contain more antioxidants than blueberries? Crazy, right? The high level of vitamin C “boosts immune function and reduces the impact of stress on the body, plus it helps heal wounds,” says Kotsopoulos Bilse. Black currants also have plenty of gamma linolenic acid, which is an essential fatty acid that helps with muscle recovery and joint and muscle pain, much in the same way as sour cherries.

Where they’re grown: Across Canada