By Stephanie Prideaux, dietetic technician, registered
Good food is a powerful thing. Take a moment, if you will, to remember the last time you had a bite of something truly amazing. Maybe it was your mom’s apple pie, Abuelita’s Christmas tamales, or something you only eat at the county fair. Did time seem to stop? Did you almost cry? Did it seem to nourish your soul (or inner child)?
This National Nutrition Month®, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is calling on all of us to celebrate food traditions and all the simple pleasures they add to our lives. Eating right is not only delicious and a smart way to live, but something that can be done with infinite creativity. There are more foods and combinations of flavors around the world than we can imagine. Taking part in the traditions of other cultures is easy and very healthy.
Benefits of Intercultural Foods
It is well known that a balanced and varied diet provides benefits throughout life. Foreign foods are no exception. In fact, many ingredients used worldwide are great sources of micronutrients, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals that protect health.
Used extensively in Indian, Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian cooking, the yellow spice turmeric is a good source of manganese and iron. It is currently being researched for its anti-inflammatory properties.
Hibiscus flower tea (or punch) is consumed in Mexico, the Caribbean, southern Europe, the Middle East, India, the Philippines and some parts of Africa. This drink) is high in iron and vitamin C as well as being a good source of vitamin A. The tea’s purple-red color reveals the antioxidant content. It has some documented effectiveness in treating mild hypertension.
Where to Go
When looking to try new flavors, Orange County is an incredible place to start. Many residents have no idea about the cornucopia of flavors, ingredients, and social experiences waiting to be discovered—often right down the street! Check out the list below for a few of the great types of markets in our community where you can explore new flavors.
Mexican Markets- great for fruits, vegetables, herbs, meats, and bulk dried beans, chilies, and flowers.
Asian Markets- great for exotic fruits, vegetables, herbs, meats, seafood, vegetarian items, pickled foods, rice, and noodles.
Middle Eastern Markets- great for fruits, vegetables, fresh beans, bulk spices and nuts, exotic dairy products, lamb, and goat.
Try this easily customizable hibiscus punch recipe for refreshing and sugar-free hydration:
Agua De Jamaica (Hibiscus Water)
- 2 cups of dried hibiscus flowers (flores de Jamaica)
Found in bulk or in packets at Mexican markets.
- 3 quarts water
Optional Ingredients (to taste):
- Fresh ginger slices
- Lemon juice
- Cinnamon sticks
- Allspice berries, ground or whole
- Ground cloves
- Ground nutmeg
- Boil all ingredients, and then reduce to a simmer.
- When water is a deep red, strain liquid into a pitcher to remove the flowers—pressing out as much liquid as possible.
- Add ice and refrigerate to cool or overnight for best flavor.