On July 1, 2021, Canada turns 154, and we’re celebrating all things Canadian, including some top-notch healthy foods that come from our home and native land. Dig in to these homegrown nutritional powerhouses.
Saskatoon berries are native to the Canadian Prairies, B.C. and Northern Canada. These little gems are not only delicious but also loaded with vitamins, such as C and folate, and minerals, such as potassium. They’re rich in antioxidants that help reduce inflammation and age-related oxidative stress, a factor in both reducing your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and fighting cancer. Similar to blueberries in size and colour, they have their own unique flavour. Well-known as the stars of saskatoon berry pie, they’re also tasty baked into crisps, muffins, cookies and pancakes. You can whirl them into your breakfast smoothie too.
Arctic char is Canada’s northernmost freshwater fish, inhabiting rivers and lakes in our rugged north country, as well as subarctic coastal waters. It’s a mild fish, similar to salmon and trout, and a rich source of protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Fortunately, since it’s farmed in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Quebec and the Yukon Territory, it’s available fresh year-round. It has very good eco-credentials, having earned a Best Choice designation from Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. Broil, bake, barbecue or even smoke it, as you would salmon. You can up the Canadian quotient with a luscious baste of maple syrup.
The Yukon Gold potato, prized by chefs worldwide for its smooth, eye-free skin and light yellow flesh, is a truly Canadian product. Although named for the Yukon River and gold rush country, it was developed by Gary Johnston in Guelph, Ont., in the ’60s. Before you say that potatoes are loaded with calories and not much else, let me reassure you that one potato has only 110 calories and provides generous amounts of potassium, fibre and vitamin C, and even some iron. Whether boiled, baked, grilled or roasted, Yukon Golds are delicious and one of the only potatoes that doesn’t scream out for butter. While competing varieties have sprung up, we can be proud that our Yukon Gold is still the superstar.
Every fall, I look forward to my first bite of a crispy, tart McIntosh apple. While it’s well-known as the national apple of Canada, you may not have heard that it was the inspiration for Macintosh computers too. Jef Raskin, who worked for Apple in the late ’70s, conceived of and started the Macintosh project, which he named after his favourite fruit. The name was already trademarked, so he tweaked the spelling slightly to Macintosh instead of McIntosh.
Apples are a rich source of soluble fibre, which helps lower cholesterol. They contain a variety of plant chemicals with disease-fighting properties too. Often called “nature’s toothbrush,” a raw apple will stimulate your gums, increase saliva flow and reduce buildup of cavity-causing bacteria as you crunch on it. Apples are tasty baked into crisps and pies, but consider slicing or dicing them raw to add to tuna or peanut butter sandwiches, yogurt and turkey stuffing. Or simply bake them beside roast pork or chicken.
Eat up on Canada Day
Of course you want to enjoy healthy and delicious Canadian food, but sometimes you just need one of our national treats. Here are some Canuck classics.
Ketchup potato chips
Did you know?
The Caesar cocktail, created by Calgary bartender Walter Chell, is Canada’s national cocktail. A mix of vodka, Clamato juice, Tabasco sauce and Worcestershire sauce, it’s the Canadian take on a bloody mary.
Red River Ceral
Many of us grew up eating Red River Cereal, a delicious porridge made in Canada with three whole grains (wheat, rye and flax). Sadly, it’s no longer available. And while a clone is in development, it just won’t be the same for me.
Canada is one of the largest producers and the largest exporter of lentils in the world. In 2018, our country grew 33 per cent of the world total, and Saskatchewan was the most productive lentil-growing region in Canada. While we didn’t create them, we sure know how to produce these incredibly healthy legumes!