‘Superfood’ tastiest closest to home


Staff Writer

Nutrient-rich “superfoods” have the most “superpowers” and nutritional benefits when they’re not wearing a can for a cape, according to a local chef.

Those superpowers also diminish the further the foods travel from the farm or garden, and those grown and purchased locally are going to have the most nutrients, said Chef Chris Kefauver, associate professor of culinary arts at West Virginia Northern Community College. Those foods are also going to be fresher and taste even better.

Superfoods are defined as food items containing more vitamins, minerals and disease-fighting antioxidants than other foods. Among items considered superfoods are kale, blueberries, beets, broccoli, black beans and tomatoes. Fish products high in Omega 3 acids, such as sardines and salmon, also can be superfoods.

And these delectables can taste very good — especially if combined with a favorite recipe, Kefauver said. Haters of a particular food may actually learn to love it … or at least like it.

“I introduce a lot of food to students, and my suggestion always is to take one of your favorite recipes and make it with this food,” he said. “With the black beans, you can do a black bean chili or a lasagna that uses black beans as part of the marinara and filling. It can just be a simple substitution.”

Kale can also replace lettuce on a sandwich, Kefauver suggested.

“Just do a quick saute with onions and maybe add some bacon,” he said. “It can be just as good, and maybe better. The trick is introducing a food you don’t like with something you do like.”

But Kefauver questions whether a food item unto itself actually contains an overabundance of nutrients, and he explained nutritional value can be affected by its preparation.

“Tomatoes are a superfood, but when they are part of a marinara cooked for hours and hours into a sauce, they’re not necessarily a superfood anymore,” he said. “Fresh tomatoes on a sandwich with avocados and mayonnaise would be healthier.”

He also said superfoods are not found in a can.

“Superfoods are not processed,” Kefauver said. “Tomatoes are a superfood because they are rich in nutrients, but canned tomatoes aren’t necessarily superfoods because of the processing.”

And the buyer must be aware of the origin of their food.

Tomatoes purchased out of season likely are brought in from California or from another country such as Belize, and at the very least these tomatoes lose nutrients in their journey.

Produce purchased locally, directly from a farmer or a produce market — such as Grow Ohio Valley in Wheeling — provide the freshest, tastiest and most nutritional option, according to Keyfauver.

“If you’re buying something and not knowing where it came from, it’s hard to really say it is a superfood,” he said. “With the vendors I use, I can track back to what kind of dirt they used to grow them in if I need to.”

Likewise, food buyers should be cautious of the words “gluten free” on packaging. Often these foods come into contact with glutens during processing or are affected by the crops grown around them through cross-pollination, he said.


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