Call me back

Login for newsletter

Nutrition Knowledge Base

Fruit Knowledge Base


The avocado is a fruit with a large single seed (pit), which grows on the avocado tree. The tree is native to Mexico and Central America, but today avocados are grown throughout the Mediterranean and in other warm climates including California and Florida. Many different cultivars exist, but Haas avocados are most commonly available and can be acquired year-round.

Identification

Avocados are generally oval and palm-sized (though they vary from small to large), with a thick, bumpy skin surrounding the flesh. The skin changes color as the fruit ripens, turning from bright green to a deeper, blacker color. The flesh inside is light to bright green, with a hard, round, brown pit in the center of the fruit.

Nutrition Info

One avocado (weighing 138g) contains 227 calories, 2.7g of protein, 21.0g of fat, 11.8g of carbohydrates, 9.2g of fiber, and 0.4g of sugar.

Avocados are also rich in magnesium, potassium, folate, vitamins K, B6, E, and C.  They can also increase the absorption of other fat-soluble nutrients (such as beta-carotene) when eaten together with other fruits and vegetables.

Note: Avocados contain mono- and poly-unsaturated fats – a type of “healthy” fat, which can lower cholesterol and support heart health, if eaten in place of saturated fats. The fat content of avocados also adds to satiety and an enjoyable eating experience.

Selection

You may choose to buy avocados that are still firm and not yet ripe. To do this, simply look for firm fruit with bright skin, which stands up to gentle pressing and feels heavy for its size.

If you wish to eat the avocado the same day you buy it, aim to find one that is perfectly ripe. Ripe avocados are generally darker in color: a deeper green or blackish hue. A properly ripe avocado should have gentle give to it when lightly pressed; you should feel the flesh give way slightly but it should not cave in or feel mushy.

One tip for finding a ripe avocado: locate the dried stem (a small brown nub) at the top of the avocado. If the nub pops off with a gentle flick of the finger, the avocado is likely ripe.

Storage

Avocados should be stored at room temperature to ripen; if they are already ripe they will last one or two days at room temperature. To preserve avocados longer, store them in the refrigerator.

Once exposed to air, avocado flesh will start to oxidize and turn brown. For this reason they are best eaten shortly after being cut.

Preparation

Slice the avocado in half, vertically, with a sharp knife. (The pit will prevent you from cutting all the way through the avocado). Twist and pull the two halves apart, then remove the pit.

Tip: To remove the pit, try this chef’s technique: hold the avocado half (with pit) in one hand. With the other hand, whack a sharp chef’s knife against the pit, and twist. The pit will come out attached to the knife. However, this can be intimidating for home cooks. Instead, give the pitted avocado half a gentle squeeze and if suitably ripe, the pit should easily pop out. If flesh is still attached to the pit, simply scrape it off with a spoon.

To remove the avocado flesh, you may scoop it out with a large spoon into a bowl to be mashed. If you wish to use slices or another particular cut of avocado, take a paring knife and cut the flesh into slices. (Slice again cross-wise to create a dice). Then scoop out the flesh gently with a spoon.

Avocados are usually best fresh and not cooked. Preparations are typically savory, not sweet.

To eat the avocado you have plenty of options: Guacamole (a mashed avocado dip or topping made with lemon, garlic, and sometimes tomato, onion, and chile) is probably the most famous use of avocados.

Avocados can also be sliced or diced and added to salads; mashed and used in place of mayonnaise in egg salad or tuna salad; or eaten simply on toast with a squirt of fresh lemon juice, drizzle of olive oil, and sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Note: Avocados are enjoyed around the world. For example, in Vietnamese, Filipino, and Indonesian cuisines they are blended as smoothies or milkshakes. In American-style sushi, avocado is often included in maki, such as the famous California roll. Mexican and Central American cuisine includes avocados in tacos, with rice, or as a side dish or topping for grilled meat.


Bananas are a starchy fruit that grow in clusters on trees in tropical locations.

The most common banana variety is easily recognizable for its bright yellow color and curved shape. But there are other varieties of bananas, too; they can be red, purple or brown; smaller or bigger; starchier or sweeter.

Because they are easy to hold and peel, bananas are usually eaten out of hand as a snack, or sliced and added as a topping for breakfasts like oatmeal, or desserts like pudding. They are also used in baking, and make a great addition to smoothies (or as we like to call them, Super Shakes).

Identification

Bananas are easily identified by their bright yellow color and curved shape.

Nutrition Info

One small-to-medium sized banana (100g) contains about 89 calories, 1.10g protein, 0.33g of fat, 22.84g of carbohydrates, 2.60g of fiber, and 12.23g of sugar.

Bananas are rich in potassium, vitamin C, and manganese.

Selection

To pick a banana that is ripe, or close to ripeness, first check the color. Common bananas start out green, turn yellow when ripe, and turn brown or black when over-ripe. Some bruising on bananas is common; a few brown streaks along the peel shouldn’t turn you off—but the banana should look firm and mostly yellow.

Next, check the texture. A ripe banana should yield slightly to gentle pressure. An unripe banana will feel very firm.

It can be tricky to find a perfectly ripe banana. In your search for a banana that is “just right” you may choose to go with one that is slightly on the unripe side with just a hint of green. This banana will be a little less sweet and a little more firm. On the other hand, a banana that is a little more ripe will have a stronger smell, taste sweeter, and have a slightly mushier texture.

Storage

Keep bananas on the counter (not in the fridge) and eat them as soon as they are ripe. Bananas will continue to ripen as they sit out: for this reason, you may choose to buy slightly unripe bananas if you want to eat them over the course of the week.

If your bananas turn overripe (dark brown or black and mushy), put them in the freezer. You can then quickly defrost them in the microwave and use them in baking or smoothies.

Preparation

The most obvious way to open a banana is to hold it with one hand, then grip the top stem firmly and pull down. The banana peel will naturally split open.

However, some bananas are stubborn and don’t want to open. In this case you may want to try peeling it from the opposite side. Grab the small, flat ridge tightly between your fingers (you may need to pinch it a little) and pull. (Fun fact: this is the way the monkeys do it!)

Eat the banana directly out of the peel, or slice it and add it to another dish. If you’re baking, you might need to mash the banana: assuming the banana is ripe, it will easily mash with a fork.


Before it was a smartphone favored by bankers and lawyers around the globe, it was a fruit.

The blackberry is a luscious, deeply pigmented berry that is part of the rose family.

Also part of the rose family is the blackberry’s close cousin, the raspberry. In fact, blackberries are sometimes confused with black raspberries, which in terms of both appearance and flavor, are quite similar. One simple way to tell the difference between a blackberry and a black raspberry is that, when picked, the core of the raspberry stays behind on the branch, yielding a hollow berry. When blackberries are picked, the (edible) core remains inside the berry.

Blackberry picking is notoriously perilous to skin and even denim; the sharp prickles on the tangled canes of the blackberry bush will tear both flesh and fabric. Prickle-free varieties have been developed through crossbreeding, although most wild varieties will bear some serious prickles, so wear proper protection.

Blackberries grow wildly and abundantly across Europe and in many parts of North America, but the world’s biggest commercial producer is Mexico.

Identification

The blackberry is a soft and luscious deeply pigmented midnight-purple berry.

The berry looks like it’s composed of tiny, glossy black beads, which fuse together in a domed shape. These delicate beads hold the punchy, sweet juice that give blackberries their flavor. The berry also contains many small, crunchy, astringent seeds as well as a soft white core called a torus, both of which are edible.

Nutrition Info

One cup of raw blackberries (about 144g) has 62 calories, 2g of protein, 0.7g of fat, 13.8g of carbohydrates, 7.6g of fiber, and 7.0g of sugar. Blackberries are a good source of vitamin C and vitamin K.

Additionally, like many dark pigmented berries, blackberries are very high in antioxidants. Notably, blackberries contain uniquely high amounts of protective polyphenol compounds such as ellagic acid and anthocyanins, the latter which is responsible for the berry’s dark color.

Selection

Whole blackberries are found in most grocery stores and fresh produce markets, either fresh or frozen.

Fresh blackberries are highly perishable, so examine the products carefully before purchasing. Fresh blackberries will usually come in plastic clamshells or baskets. Look for blackberries that appear dark and plump and intact. Pass over containers that have mushy or moldy blackberries.

Frozen blackberries are an excellent option and are much more reliable in terms of buying a fresh product. In this case, choose packages that contain only blackberries, with nothing else added.

Storage

As mentioned, fresh blackberries are highly perishable, so plan on eating your blackberries within a day or two of purchasing.

If you don’t plan on eating your blackberries as soon as you get home, follow these tips to prolong their freshness:

Open your container of blackberries and pick through to remove any mushy or moldy berries, as these will contaminate the rest of the batch. Place the unwashed “good” berries back into their container or into a new container. Spreading the berries out will help preserve them and prevent molding or spoilage. Place these berries in the fridge and eat within a day or two.

Alternatively, you can also freeze your berries after picking through them. In this case, rinse them gently with water and pat them dry with a clean kitchen towel. Then, spread them out on a baking tray and place them in the freezer. (Spreading them out ensures that the berries freeze separately; freezing them in a pile will mean they will freeze clumped together, making it hard to portion out the berries later.) Once they are frozen, transfer them to a resealable bag, where they may remain frozen for up to a year.

Preparation

Fresh blackberries, with a thorough, yet gentle rinse, are ready to be eaten straight from the container. They are also delicious topped over yogurt, cooked oats, or salads, or blended into smoothies. Frozen blackberries can also be blended into smoothies, or thawed out to be used in baked goods or other recipes.


The blueberry is a flowering plant. Native to North America, blueberries have been grown in Canada and the US for hundreds of years and still remain highly popular. In fact, 90% of the world’s blueberries come from North America, where their popularity among berries is second only to strawberries.

Their popularity may be due in part to their taste: blueberries are pleasantly sweet. They also require very little preparation, making them a convenient and tasty snack.

Blueberries grow on shrubs. As the name suggests, they are blue in color (typically an indigo shade once ripe). The typical cultivated variety grows on a high bush, while the “wild” variety grows on a low bush.

Blueberry season generally runs from July through August.

Identification

Blueberries are small and round with a little “crown” on one end. When ripe, they have a deep blue color.

Cultivated blueberries are about the size of a pea, though size will vary. Wild blueberries tend to be quite small and darker in color.

Nutrition Info

A ½ cup of blueberries contains 42 calories, 0.55g of protein, 0.24g of fat, 10.72g of carbohydrates, 1.80g of fiber, and 7.37g of sugar.

Blueberries contain plenty of vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, folate, vitamin A, vitamin K, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and calcium.

Blueberries are known for their antioxidant properties, which is due to the fact that they are rich in phytonutrients, most notably anthocyanin — the same property that makes their skin blue. For that reason they may support the nervous system and offer disease-prevention benefits.

Selection

Look for dark-blue blueberries — berries that are slightly reddish or green are not yet ripe. Watch for mold or other signs of deterioration.

Buy local blueberries, in season, if you can. The fresher and closer-to-home they were grown, the better your chance of getting maximum tasty flavor. In the summertime, a local farmers’ market can be your best place to buy them.

During the off-season, frozen blueberries can be a great choice.

When it comes to wild vs cultivated blueberries, the choice is largely personal preference. Cultivated blueberries are bigger and juicier, but wild blueberries usually have a more intense flavor. Because the wild berries are smaller, eating more wild berries may have a slight nutritional advantage since in the course of eating wild berries you will consume more blueberry skins, which is where their best nutritional punch comes from.

Storage

Keep blueberries covered in the fridge. Avoid putting them in the crisper/fruit drawer though: this part of the fridge is too humid for berries and may encourage mold.

Depending on freshness, blueberries may keep for a week or two. But as usual, you’ll get the best flavor and texture if you eat them as fresh as possible.

Don’t wash berries until you’re ready to eat them — that will help prevent them from getting moldy and going bad.

Preparation

Blueberries require very little prep. Just wash and eat them raw. They’re great as a snack, or you can add them to your smoothies, use them to make jam, syrup or a berry compot, or add them to baking, desserts or other recipes.

If you wish to freeze them, keep them unwashed, lay them on a baking sheet, then put the baking sheet in the freezer until the berries are frozen solid. Once frozen, transfer the berries to plastic bags and store in the freezer. Remember to wash them before eating.


The cherry is a stone fruit that grows on trees of the “Prunus” genus. Cherries grow on stems and contain a small, hard pit in their center. Surrounding the pit is juicy, tender, edible flesh.

Sweet cherries (sometimes called “wild cherries”) are the most common kind of edible cherry: as the name suggests, they are sweet and tasty.

Sour cherries (also called “tart cherries”) have a shorter growing season and may be harder to find. However, these are most suitable for baking.

Cherries are a summer fruit; depending on the climate they typically come into season between June, July, and August.

Identification

Sweet cherries have a deep, dark red color, and are plump and round in shape.

Sour cherries are smaller, like a little round ball. They are a bright red color and may have some yellow/green coloring as well.

Fresh cherries are usually sold in bags with their stems still attached.

Nutrition Info

A 100g serving of cherries contains 63 calories, 1.1g of protein, 0.2g of fat, 16.0g of carbohydrates, 2.1g of fiber, and 12.8g of sugar.

Cherries are packed with vitamin C and potassium. They also contain some calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron. As a bonus, cherries are high in phytosterols which can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Sour cherries also contain melatonin; for this reason, some people drink tart cherry juice before bed as a sleep aid.

Bonus: both sour cherries and sweet cherries offer an abundance of antioxidants.

Selection

Look for cherries that are bright in color and that are moist and juicy looking. Note that sour cherries lose their great vibrant color soon after picking; if you spot sour cherries that are very bright red you’ll know they are fresh!

Avoid cherries with major bruising, discoloration, and most importantly, signs of mold.

If you really want to get your hands on the freshest cherries, do a little research to find a “U-pick” farm near you, or visit a farm stand or farmers’ market.

Not cherry season but still want a taste? You may find frozen cherries in the freezer section of your supermarket. Alternatively, dried sour cherries can sometimes be obtained at bulk stores or gourmet food shops; these make a nice addition to salads, granola, and baked goods. (Try them in place of dried cranberries.)

Be wary of canned or jarred cherries: these may actually be cherry pie “filling” or maraschino cherries, both of which are meant for desserts and contain lots of added sugar and ingredients other than fruit. That said, if you enjoy the practice of preserving, you may try canning cherries (or making cherry jam or jelly) when cherries are in season.

Storage

Keep cherries in a loose, open plastic bag in the fruit crisper of your fridge. Wash them just before eating, as washed fruit will deteriorate more quickly.

If you prefer to wash cherries in advance, keep them in an open bowl in your fridge. Snack away: they are best eaten quickly and will probably keep a few days at most.

Preparation

Sweet cherries can be eaten out of hand: just wash, bite the fruit off of its stem, and spit out the pit.

To prepare cherries for baking or other use, you’ll need to remove the pit first. If you want a nice looking whole cherry with the pit magically removed, you can try a special tool called a cherry pitter. Or you can poke the pit out using a crab/lobster pick, a baking pipe tip, or a strong pair of tweezers. (Hint: This will take some finesse and experimentation.)

Alternatively, slice the cherry down the center with a paring knife. With your fingers, twist the two halves of cherry apart and pull out the pit.

Once pitted, cherries can be used in sweet or savory preparations. While baked goods are one option (cherry pie is a favorite!) you may also try adding cherries to a main course.

For example, roasted cherries pair well with with duck or pork, or make a great topping for baked brie. They also make an excellent marinade for grilled meat: simply mash cherries and add to fresh lime juice, fresh basil or rosemary, and olive oil.  An even easier option: roughly chop some cherries and add them to a salad with a little goat cheese and pistachio nuts.


Coconut is a fruit that grows on trees. The coconut provides a source of meat and water. Flour, sugar, oil, butter, and milk are also made from the fruit. This ‘Spotlight on Coconut’ focuses on the white, fleshy meat of the coconut.

Identification

The coconut consists of three layers around a hollow center. The outermost layer is green, red, or yellow at first, but turns brown as the coconut matures. The hollow part of the coconut is filled with coconut water. Once a coconut is split open and drained, the white meat lining the walls of the shell is revealed.

Nutrition Info

Coconut meat is commonly dried and desiccated. In this form it can typically be found in the baking section of grocery stores.

1/4 cup of dried, unsweetened, desiccated coconut has approximately 97 calories, 0.7g of protein, 11.0g of carbohydrates, 2.1g of fibre, 1.0g of sugar, and 6.0g of fat.

Coconut meat is rich in minerals including potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium.

Selection

If you purchase a whole coconut at the grocery store, first take the coconut and hold it up to your ear. Shake it up and down a little to see if there is water inside the coconut. If you don’t hear anything at all, the coconut is too ripe.

Once you’ve found a coconut with water inside, check that the coconut is intact by taking a close look at its exterior. Avoid any coconuts that are cracked or punctured (there should be no moisture leaking from its three dark eyes). Next, feel the weight of the coconut – a good coconut is heavy.

Storage

Store a whole coconut in the fridge for up to two months. Once opened, the coconut meat will last no more than several days. If you choose to grate the coconut meat, you can freeze it for 8 to 10 months.

Preparation

To open a coconut, use the dull backside of a cleaver (make sure the sharp blade end is not facing the coconut) and hold the coconut over a bowl. Tap the coconut firmly down the centre with the back of the cleaver, turning the coconut several times as you tap. Do this until you hear (and see) a crack open. Pry the two sides apart and drain the liquid in the bowl (be sure to reserve the liquid; it can be strained and enjoyed as a beverage).

Put the coconut halves on the middle rack of a preheated 400F oven for 20 minutes. This helps separate the meat from the shell. When the coconut halves have cooled, use a flathead screwdriver to wedge between the meat and the shell to pry them apart. Next, take a vegetable peeler and remove the brown skin covering the meat. Next, using a cheese grater or food processor, grate or grind the coconut meat until shredded.

To toast the coconut, spread the shredded coconut on an unlined baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350F oven for 12-18 minutes, stirring a few times while it’s cooking so that it toasts evenly. Thinner strips will toast more quickly than thicker ones. Toasted coconut can be used as a garnish or a snack. For example, it makes a great topping for yogurt or desserts, or an addition to homemade granola.

To make dried coconut, spread the shredded coconut on an unlined baking sheet and bake in preheated 200F oven for roughly 2 hours. Stir it occasionally to ensure that it dries evenly. Once it is dried, remove it from the oven and let it cool at room temperature. Stored in an airtight container at room temperature, the dried coconut can be kept for up to 2-3 months, or 6-8 months in the freezer.


Coconut butter is a rich spread made from pureed, raw coconut meat.

Identification

Coconut butter is white, thick, and creamy. It is soft at room temperature, but hardens when cooled. It has a rich coconut taste and aroma.

Nutrition Info

Two tablespoons of coconut butter have about 210 calories, 2.0g of protein, 8.0g of carbohydrates, 5.0g of fiber, 2.0g of sugar, and 18.0g of fat.

Coconut butter is rich in minerals including potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium.

Selection

Coconut butter comes in pre-packaged jars. You can find it at your local health food store with the nut butters.

Don’t confuse coconut butter with coconut oil; though similar, coconut butter has a richer, more fulsome texture. It also responds to heat differently and generally stays solid at room temperature (unlike coconut oil).

Much like nut butters, it’s easy to make your own coconut butter. Purchase a bag of unsweetened coconut (full-fat) and blend it in your food processor or blender for 5-10 minutes (the time depends on the power of your appliance). Once it’s creamy and smooth, transfer it to a mason jar or other sealed container.

Storage

Store coconut butter in the cupboard. Refrigeration is not recommended. Note that coconut oil separation may occur, causing a white, solid top layer. If this happens, simply stir the coconut oil and blend it all back together with a spoon (this is a similar to the oil separation of natural peanut butter). If you have trouble blending it, warm it slightly — try 5 to 10 seconds in the microwave.

Preparation

Coconut butter requires little to no preparation. Depending on the time of year or climate you live in, you may need to heat the coconut butter in the microwave for up to 10 seconds to soften it. Once soft enough to handle, you can spread it on toast, use it in recipes, enjoy with fruit, or add it to desserts.


Cranberries are a type of evergreen shrub that grows in acidic marshes in cool climates, such as parts of Canada and the US. Cranberries are farmed for the tart red berries they produce.

The cranberry shrubs produce flowers that are pollinated by bees. From the flowers, a round white berry grows. The berry turns deep red when ripe. These edible berries are mildly sweet, with a strong acidity and tart flavor that is made more palatable with the addition of sweetness.

Cranberries can be found in various forms: as jellies, jams or canned cranberry sauce; as cranberry juice; or as dried cranberries. Fresh or frozen whole cranberries are typically available in the fall and winter. Traditionally, in the US and Canada, they are eaten at Thanksgiving and / or Christmas dinners alongside roast turkey.

Identification

Cranberries are round, about the size of a small marble or large pea, and turn a deep red color when ripe.

You may find fresh cranberries in the refrigerated fresh produce aisle. Alternatively, seek out frozen bags of cranberries in the freezer section.

Nutrition Info

One cup of raw cranberries has 51 calories, 0.4 grams of protein, 13.4 grams of carbohydrates, 5.1 grams of fiber, and 4.4 grams of sugar.

Note: While cranberries are naturally low in sugar compared to other fruits, keep in mind that sugar is often added in preparations to balance out their tart flavor.

Cranberries are a good source of manganese, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin E, and copper.

Cranberries – particularly cranberry juice — are known for their ability to prevent or treat Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs). In addition, cranberries are heralded for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Some research suggests that cranberries may have additional health benefits ranging from immune support to cancer prevention. Research continues to explore the possible health potential of cranberries.

Selection

Fresh cranberries are typically sold in a bag, either fresh or frozen. If you can see through the package, take a peek at the berries inside: they should be deep red and generally consistent in color (no white berries), and they should be firm, not mushy or moldy.

Check the package for an expiry date – that goes for canned or dried cranberry products, too.

If buying pre-made cranberry sauce, be aware that most varieties are made with high fructose corn syrup, or similar sweeteners. You may find “gourmet” or “artisanal” varieties that contain less sugar and / or natural sweeteners. However, the best way to know what’s in your cranberry sauce is to buy whole cranberries and make the sauce yourself.

Cranberry juice deserves a similar note: cranberry ‘cocktail’ or cranberry ‘drink’ contains sugar and other ingredients besides cranberries, which you may prefer to avoid. If you want to drink cranberry juice for its health benefits, check the label and ensure you are buying 100% juice.

Storage

Store fresh cranberries in their package in the fridge and use before their expiry date. If you plan on storing them longer, keep them in the freezer, where they’ll last for about 3 months.

Store dried cranberries in an airtight container, and any canned cranberry products in the pantry. Once open, canned cranberries will last in the fridge for 4-5 days. As always, use them before the expiry date.

Preparation

Fresh or frozen whole cranberries can be added to smoothies, used as a topping for oatmeal, or mixed into yogurt (along with a drizzle of maple syrup for sweetness if you like).

Cranberries are excellent in baked goods such as muffins, crisps and cobblers, pancakes, or cookies.

Cranberries play nicely with savory flavors, too: try topping baked brie with cranberry compote, adding dried cranberries to a wild rice salad, making a red wine cranberry sauce for beef, or roasting cranberries along with turkey, chicken, or duck and serving with winter vegetables.

At Thanksgiving and Christmas, cranberry sauce is a standard addition to the holiday meal. Many people simply use canned cranberry sauce, but this side dish is actually easy to prepare from scratch, and quite delicious when made from whole cranberries (homemade is better nutritionally, too).

Because cranberries respond well to sweet and savory flavors, home cooks have plenty of room to experiment with flavors: for example, try mastering a basic recipe then adding fresh herbs like rosemary or dried spices like star anise; a squeeze of fresh orange juice; a dash of bourbon or rye whiskey; a drizzle of maple syrup; or a few slices of fresh ginger.


Dates are the sweet fruit of date palm trees.

Identification

Though they can be eaten fresh, dates are usually found dried. Dried dates are a deep brown color with a wrinkled texture.

There are several different date varieties; the size and flavor of dates differ depending on variety. Generally speaking, dates are the size of a small thumb and have a very sweet caramel-like taste. The most common varieties are medjool, deglet noor, and honey dates.

Nutrition Info

One fresh medjool date has about 66 calories, 0.43g of protein, 18.0g of carbohydrates, 1.6g of fiber, 16.0g of sugar, and 0.04g of fat.

Dates are rich in vitamin A and are a great source of minerals including calcium and potassium.

Selection

Fresh dates should be plump looking and have a glossy look to their skin. They shouldn’t feel hard or have crystallized sugar on their skins.

Dried dates come pre-packaged or can be bought in bulk. Simply check the expiry date on the bag before purchasing, or look for dates that have a glossy sheen and fragrant scent, with no mold or mustiness.

Storage

Store fresh dates in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four weeks.

Store dried dates in the fridge up to the expiry date on the packaging.

Preparation

Fresh dates don’t require a lot of preparation. Simply remove the pit from the center and enjoy.

For dried dates, enjoy them as they are or soak them in hot water to rehydrate them.

Dates are great on their own as a sweet snack. They can be served as part of a platter with cheese, nuts or natural nut butter, and other dried fruit. For a decadent savory-sweet treat, stuff the hollow centers of pitted dried dates with goat cheese or blue cheese, wrap them in bacon, then broil until the bacon is crisp. Serve warm.

Dates can be used in a variety of recipes, especially baked goods and desserts, due to their high sugar content. In fact, dates are a great substitute to refined white sugar.


The common fig is a species of flowering plant grown for its edible fruit. Technically, the fig is not a fruit but an inverted flower. It is grown in temperate climates, most notably in the Mediterranean.

Many cultivars of figs exist. Black Mission figs are a popular variety. Dried, packaged figs are usually available year-round, but fresh figs come into season throughout early summer and late fall.

Identification

Figs typically have a plump, teardrop shape with a rounded bottom and short stem on top. The most common varieties, like Mission figs, are mostly deep purple in color. The inside of the fig is pink and fleshy looking, made up of tiny seeds.

Nutrition Info

One medium fig (about 50g), contains about 37 calories, 0.4g of protein, 0.2g of fat, 9.6g of carbohydrates, 1.4g of fiber, and 8.1g of sugar.

Figs are rich in fiber, and they also contain plenty of calcium (18mg per one medium fig). Mission figs are dense in a number of minerals and vitamins including magnesium, potassium, and vitamin K.

Selection

Fresh figs should feel plump and have a gentle give when pressed. Small cracks or wrinkles are acceptable, but avoid figs that are oozy or have bruised and broken skin. Fresh figs should have a fragrant scent.

Dried figs are usually sold in pre-wrapped packages. Check the expiry date on the package for freshness. If buying bulk, check for mold or discolouration. Dried figs should smell sweet not sour.

Storage

Fresh figs are fragile and will spoil quickly. They taste best at room temperature but can be stored in the fridge to extend their lifespan slightly. Generally they should be eaten within two or three days.

Figs can develop mold if they sit too long in moist conditions. To avoid this, keep them in a basket or container with proper air circulation and ensure there is space between each fig.

Dried figs can be kept for up to 6 months, well-wrapped. Keep dried figs in a sealed container or in their original packaging, in a cool dark place.

Preparation

The entire fig is edible, including its tender skin and the inner flesh, which is filled with tiny edible seeds.

Figs can be eaten out of hand. They are also frequently used in desserts, baked into cookies or tarts, or made into sauces, jams or compotes.

If preparing dried figs, chop with a sharp knife, rinsing the knife occasionally if it gets too sticky.

Tip: To make dried figs easier to slice, put them in the freezer for an hour before preparing them. This works well if chopping a large portion of dried figs for baking.

Fresh figs can be used in savory dishes or snacks. Preparations include grilling or roasting the figs, which caramelizes the fig’s sugars and accentuates its rich, sweet, and savory flavors.

Try adding figs to a cheese board: Add fresh figs, whole or sliced, to a selection of salty cured meats such as prosciutto, cheeses such as brie and blue, a drizzle of honey, and some pistachios and walnuts. The mix of salty, sweet flavours, and creamy and crunchy textures will accentuate the figs’ flavours.


Grapes are the fruiting berries of the Vitis plant species. Vitis is a deciduous, woody botanical, which grows clusters of grapes on its vines.

Grapes are enjoyed as raw fruit, and in their many transformations: notably wine, juice, jams and jellies, vinegar, grapeseed oil, and in their dried form, raisins.

The type of grapes used for eating and snacking are known as “table grapes.” One of the most common varieties of table grapes is the Thompson Seedless: a plump, tart-sweet seedless grape available in both red and green variations.

While grapes are available year round, true grape season is fall, when a wide variety of grapes are fresh and flavorful.

There are notable differences among the different varieties of grapes: Some, like concord, have thick skins, seeds, and a chewy flesh that gives way to a burst of tangy juice. Others, like champagne grapes, are lighter, sweeter, with thin skin and a delicate, sweet flavor.

Identification

Grapes grow in clusters, and this is usually how you’ll find them: in bunches, connected by their own wiry stems.

Grapes vary in size, shape and color, depending on the variety. In general, grapes are small and round (in some cases oblong), ranging in color from translucent green to purple to blue-black.

Nutrition Info

Approximately 1 cup of Thompson Seedless grapes contains 104 calories, 1.1g of protein, 0.2g of fat, 27.3g of carbohydrates, 1.4g of fiber, and 23.4g of sugar.

Grapes contain an antioxidant in the form of the phytochemical compound Resveratrol, which has been found helpful in the prevention of certain types of cancers, heart disease, and stroke.

Grapes also contain copper, iron, and manganese, and they are a good source of vitamin C and vitamin A.

Selection

Look for grapes that are plump and brightly colored, without blemishes or broken skin.

Avoid grapes with signs of mold but keep in mind that many varieties naturally have a soft white film on them; this is the grapes’ natural protective coating and not a sign of mold. If you notice thick mold, stem mold, or other questionable substances on the grapes, do not buy them.

Storage

Grapes should be wrapped loosely in an opened plastic or paper bag and stored in the refrigerator. This way, fresh grapes should last for up to a week.

Preparation

Wash grapes just before eating (washing them prior to that will decrease their lifespan). To wash grapes, rinse them in a colander under cool running water.

To get the best flavor from your grapes, let them come to room temperature before snacking.

Grapes can be a tasty snack on their own, or added to a platter of cheese and nuts. Get creative and you can add grapes to savory dishes like braised short ribs, duck confit, or a warm goat cheese salad. Grapes can also be transformed into jams and jellies, which in turn can be added to pies, tarts, or simply spread on toast.


What is the fruit that can be used to clean kitchenware, whose scent is used in aromatherapy to lift mood, and whose juice can cure the bleeding gums of pirates long at sea?

It’s lemon!

The ubiquitous lemon, versatile and practical, is a household staple. Both its juice and zest are used as culinary ingredients to add a tart brightness to dishes. Lemon also acts as a mild food-preservative, preventing food from oxidizing. The volatile oil extracted from its peel is used in aromatherapy to energize and uplift, or to polish wood. In cleaning agents, lemon acts as a deodorizer, disinfectant, and gentle bleaching agent. Significantly, its curative use on scorbutic sailors led to the discovery of vitamin C.

Perhaps most importantly, cheek-puckering lemons are the catalyst that launched the epic YouTube tag “Babies eating lemons”.

Lemons are thought to have originated in China or India, and today, the biggest producer of lemons is still India. Other top global cultivars include Argentina, Spain, Iran, and the US (primarily California).

Identification

While there are several varieties of lemon, the one most commonly found in North American grocery stores is the Eureka lemon.

The bright yellow Eureka lemon is oval-shaped with two little raised projections on opposing ends, and has a firm rind. If you look closely at this rind, it will appear to have “pores”. These pores are actually oil glands which store the volatile and highly aromatic lemon oil. Inside, the rind hosts fleshy half-moon segments which in turn are filled with tiny, delicate juice-filled capsules. Within these segments, interrupting your enjoyment, are a smattering of seeds.

Lemons are extremely tart, owing to their citric acid (vitamin C) content, and often create a pinching sensation at the salivary glands.

Some other fun and notable lemons you may find are Meyer lemons and variegated pink lemons.

The Meyer lemon is a cross between a lemon and a mandarin. It has a thinner, smoother, golden-yellow rind and is sweeter and less acidic than regular lemons.

The variegated pink lemon has a ribbed rind with alternating yellow and lime green stripes, similar to the coloring of a watermelon. The flesh inside is a blushing pink.

Nutrition Info

The juice of one lemon (about 1.5 oz) has 11 calories, 0.2g protein, 0.1g of fat, 3.3g of carbohydrates, 0.1g fiber, and 1.2g sugar. Lemons are an excellent source of vitamin C.

Although less commonly consumed, lemon peels are also a good source of bioflavonoids, a type of plant polyphenol that has tissue strengthening, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.

Selection

Fresh lemons are widely available at most grocery stores and fresh produce markets.

To pick a good, juicy lemon, choose those that are heavy for their size, with relatively finely textured skin. A ripe and ready lemon will be fully yellow, free of green tinges. An overly mature lemon may show signs of wrinkling, or have soft or hard patches, or be dull in color.

Non-organic lemons are likely sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, and may be coated with a fine wax (used to protect lemons against trauma during shipping), so if you plan to use the rind, wash them well with food-safe soap or a specialized fruit and vegetable wash.

Alternatively, you can choose organic lemons, which, while free of these coatings, may still need to be washed to avoid bacteria encountered during handling.

Storage

Lemons can be stored at room temperature, away from sunlight, for about a week. Or, lemons can be stored in the fridge for about a month.

Both lemon juice and lemon zest can be stored in airtight containers in the freezer for up to six months.

Preparation

Generally, it is the juice and zest of lemons that are consumed.

If you choose to eat an entire lemon, simply peel and eat as you would an orange.

To juice a lemon, you can either buy a fancy gadget from a kitchen accessory store, or perform the caveman method:

Roll the lemon under your palm over a hard surface to break up some of the juice capsules within, and then, using a sharp knife, slice the lemon in half. Over a loosely cupped (clean) hand, squeeze the lemon over a bowl. Your hand will act as a coarse sieve, catching the seeds but letting the juice drip into the bowl.

Note: Lemons produce more juice if warm, so avoid refrigerating lemons you are about to juice. Although some people will suggest microwaving a lemon to yield the most juice, heating them to high temperatures will destroy much of their vitamin C content.

In order to zest a lemon, you will want to use a fine grater or a microplane. Be sure to wash your lemon first, then grate the colored surfaced of the fruit. The white pith just underneath is rather flavorless so focus on the zesting the yellow rind.


The lime is a cheek-puckering citrus fruit similar to a lemon, except more petite, bright green, and with a twang of bitterness.

Limes are thought to have originated in Southeast Asia, and through various crusades and migrations, eventually spread to the Middle East, Northern Africa, Southern Europe, the Caribbean, and other regions with hot and humid climates.

In the 19th century, British explorers, traders, and sailors, captive on long voyages at sea used vitamin C-rich lemons and limes to prevent scurvy. It is from this practice that the term “limey” originated. Originally used as a derogatory term for British sailors, it is now still cheekily used to describe a person of British descent.

There are many varieties of lime, such as the Key lime, the Persian / Tahitian / Bearss lime, the Kaffir lime, the sweet lime, and the desert lime, which all vary slightly in appearance and level of sweetness / sourness. In North American grocery stores and bar rails, the most commonly encountered species are the Key lime and the Persian lime.

And speaking of bars, a unique occupational hazard for outdoor bartenders working with limes is the scourge of the “margarita burn”. Chemicals in limes cause skin to be more photosensitive and therefore more prone to burning. When the skin is exposed to ultraviolet light after contact with lime peel or juice, a reaction known as phytodermatitis can occur, which, in rare cases, has resulted in severe second-degree burns.

We hope that freshly squeezed margarita was worth it.

Identification

While there are several varieties of lime, the most common species found in North America are the Key lime and the Persian lime.

Persian limes are generally larger and slightly oblong, often with a little projecting belly button on one end. Comparatively, Key limes are rounder, more petite, and turn yellowish when ripe. In flavor, Key limes are slightly more tart and bitterer than Persian limes.

All varieties have a glossy bright green peel which will appear to have “pores”. These pores are actually oil glands which store the volatile and highly aromatic essential oils of the fruit. Under the peel arranged in a circle are crescent-shaped segments filled with tiny juice-filled capsules. Some limes have tiny seeds, and some are seedless.

The primary flavor of limes is sour, similar to that of a lemon. However, unlike lemons, limes are also slightly bitter with subtle floral notes.

Generally it is only the juice and zest of limes that is used rather than eating the whole fruit.

Nutrition Info

One ounce of lime juice (about 30g) has 8 calories, 0.1g protein, 2.6g of carbohydrates, 0.1g fiber, and 0.5g sugar, and no appreciable fat. Limes are an excellent source of vitamin C.

Selection

Fresh limes are widely available at most grocery stores and fresh produce markets.

To pick a good lime with lots of juice, choose those that are heavy for their size, with relatively finely textured skin. A ripe lime will be bright green, or in the case of Key limes, slightly yellow. An overly mature lime may show signs of wrinkling, or have soft or hard patches.

Non-organic limes are likely sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, and may be coated with a fine wax (used to protect limes against trauma during shipping), so if you plan to zest the rind, wash it well with food-safe soap or a specialized fruit and vegetable wash.

Alternatively, you can choose organic limes, which, while free of these coatings, may still need to be washed to reduce bacteria encountered during handling.

Storage

Limes can be stored at room temperature, away from sunlight, for about a week. Limes can also be stored in the fridge for about two weeks.

Both lime juice and zest can be stored in airtight containers in the freezer for up to six months.

Preparation

Generally, it is the juice and zest of limes that are consumed.

The best way to juice a lime is to first roll it under your palm over a hard surface to break up some of the juice capsules within, and then, using a sharp knife, slice it in half. Over a loosely cupped (clean) hand, squeeze the lime over a bowl. Your hand will act as a coarse sieve, catching the seeds but letting the juice drip into the bowl.

Note: Citrus fruits produce more juice if warm, so avoid refrigerating limes you are about to juice. Although some people will suggest microwaving a lime to yield the most juice, heating them to high temperatures will destroy much of their vitamin C content.

In order to zest a lime, use a fine grater or a microplane. Be sure to wash the peel first, then grate the colored surfaced of the fruit. The white pith just underneath is rather flavorless so focus on the zesting the green rind.


Olives are the pitted fruit of an amazingly long-lived tree that grows best in Mediterranean climates. This fruit is also the source of a delicious and nutritious oil.

Olives are typically too bitter to eat straight from the tree, so they are usually pickled or cured. Water-curing, brine-curing, and lye-curing are the most common methods. Sometimes flavoring agents such as herbs and spices are added after curing.

Fun fact: The olive tree belongs to the same species as lilac, forsythia, and jasmine. Tended carefully, an olive tree can live hundreds and even thousands of years!

Identification

Although olives vary in size, most grow in length to about an inch or 1 ½ inches (or 2.5 to 3 cm). They are usually green or black. Their color does not necessarily relate to their maturity. Some start off green and stay green; some start off green and turn black; and some start off black and stay black. Curing may also change the color of the olive. Some end up looking reddish or brown.

Nutrition Info

Olives are sometimes described as the world’s healthiest food.

10 large canned olives (weighing about 44g) contain about 51 calories, 0.4g of protein, 4.7g of fat, 2.8g carbohydrates, 1.4g of fiber, and 0.0g of sugar.

80-85% of the olive is fat, but most is in the form of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that has proven benefits on cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

What’s more, the phytonutrient content of olives is nothing short of astonishing. A rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, olives are good for every system in the body.

Curing does reduce availability of some of the phytonutrients, particularly the phenol hydrotyrosol. But olives start out so high in this nutrient that they remain a better source than most foods, even after processing. In addition, they are rich in vitamin E, and a good source of vitamin A, dietary fiber, and several trace minerals such as copper and iron.

Selection

You can buy olives in jars, cans, or in bulk from barrels or bins. If buying bulk olives, ensure that you choose a market with a good turnover, where the olives are covered in brine (if cured moist).

One advantage of buying bulk is that it allows you to try different varieties. Different types of olives and different curing methods can affect the taste and texture of the fruit.

Water cured olives are soaked in water for several weeks. They often retain a more bitter taste. Brine cured olives are soaked in a salt-water solution, often for months. They sometimes ferment during this process, which can change the taste and phytonutrient composition. Lye-cured olives are submerged in a strongly alkali solution, typically in stages. Again, this affects their taste and texture as well as the available nutrients.

Most olives come with their pits still inside, but some are pitted and may be stuffed with almonds, pimento (red pepper), or garlic. They can be flavored with hot pepper, lemon peel, rosemary, vodka, wine vinegar, or any number of herbs and spices.

The curing method will affect an olive’s texture. Some are plump and moist, while salted olives will look wrinkled and dry, a bit like a raisin. Olives can range in color from yellow-green to darker green to brownish red, purple, gray, and ebony.

In general, look for olives that seem firm rather than mushy.

Storage

Store olives in your refrigerator in a sealed container. Canned olives will keep for a couple of weeks once opened. Bulk olives with their liquid or brined olives in a jar will keep for considerably longer—up to a few months.

Preparation

Olives come already prepared. All you have to do is eat them! But if you’re offering olives as an appetizer you might want to provide your guests with a dish for the pits, and a napkin for greasy fingers.

Olives are delicious in many recipes, from pizza to pasta sauces. If cooking with olives, you will probably want to remove the pits. This is easy to do by making a small slice lengthwise along the fruit and then “popping” the pit out. You can also remove the pits by pressing the fruit with the side of a broad knife.


The sweet orange is a citrus fruit that grows on trees. Oranges have a sweet flavor and juicy flesh.

In the US, oranges come into season during the winter; they are grown in warm-climate states such as Florida, Texas, and California.

Different cultivars exist; the “common orange” is primarily used for juice, while navel oranges are popular for eating. Valencia oranges are a late-season orange, which are enjoyed for juice, cooking, and snacking.

Identification

Oranges are firm and round, typically about the size of a baseball (usually about 2-3 inches in diameter).

They have a thick, bright orange rind. The inner flesh is also bright orange, with a white pith.

Some oranges, such as the Cara Cara variety, have a pink tint to them. Blood oranges are named after the reddish tint to their flesh and juice.

Nutrition Info

One raw navel orange contains about 69 calories, 1.3g of protein, 0.2g of fat, 17.6g of carbohydrates, 3.1g of fiber, and 11.9g of sugar.

Oranges are renowned for their vitamin C content: a single orange provides about 93% of the recommended daily intake. Vitamin C performs many important functions in the body, including providing antioxidant properties that may help fight off disease.

Oranges are also good sources of vitamin A, fiber, potassium, and choline. Much of their nutrition is contained in the white pith and the orange flesh, so eating a whole orange is a better nutritional choice than drinking orange juice.

Selection

Choose oranges that are firm, smooth skinned, and feel heavy for their size (this signals a high juice content).  Avoid oranges that have any mushy or moldy spots.

Oranges do not have to be uniform in color to be good. Keep in mind that the shade of skin will reflect the variety: blood oranges, for example, tend to have a reddish tint that can be seen in the peel, as well as the flesh.

Storage

The best way to store oranges is in the refrigerator. Keep them loose; don’t seal them in a plastic bag or they could develop mold. Whole, fresh oranges should last for about two weeks this way.

If you choose to pre-slice or juice your oranges, the cut flesh and/or juice will last for two to three days in a sealed container in your fridge.

Preparation

Even though you’re not eating the peel, it’s best to wash oranges before cutting into them. This way you avoid transferring any outer dirt into the cut flesh.

There are a few ways to prepare an orange for eating or cooking:

  • Orange slices. Cut the orange in half, then quarter each half. You can cut each of those quarters into smaller slices if you prefer.
  • Peel and section. This works best for thin-skinned oranges. Simply peel off the rind, then section the orange with your fingers, letting each section naturally separate.
  • Grapefruit style. Half the orange, then use a paring knife to score the flesh away from the white pith. This way you will separate small sections of flesh which can be eaten grapefruit-style, with a spoon.
  • Chef style. Cut away the peel and pith with a paring knife, then you can segment, slice or dice the orange flesh as needed for your recipe or personal preference. Avoid any pith or white separation points for a smooth texture and appearance.

If you wish to make fresh-squeezed orange juice, you can use an electric juicing machine, or simply use a plain juicer and squeeze the juice by hand. Depending on how many glasses of juice you want, you may need a lot of oranges!

If you’re just looking to add a hit of fresh orange juice to a recipe, try this chef trick: hold a cut orange over the dish that needs the juice. In your free (bottom) hand, hold your fingers just slightly apart. Squeeze the juice into your bottom hand, letting the juice fall through your fingers into the dish, while catching the seeds in your palm.

While oranges are most commonly enjoyed as juice or a snack, you can cook and bake with them too. Try roasting chicken breasts with slices of orange. Add chopped oranges to a roasted beet salad. Spike your marinades or sauces with fresh orange juice and zest. Anything that could benefit from a sweet, slightly acidic hit of flavor, can probably appreciate a bit of orange.

Don’t throw out that orange peel! It’s great for orange zest. The zest has a slightly sweet, bitter, and acidic quality. In other words, it provides a great flavor boost. To get orange zest, first wash and dry the orange. Then take a fine rasp-style grater (such as a Microplane) to the peel. Zest is best soon after it’s made, but you can keep it in a sealed container in the fridge for a day or two, or you can keep it in a freezer bag in your freezer for weeks. Zest is a great addition to baked goods, meat marinades, grilled fish, compound butters, or even as a topping for yogurt or creamy desserts.


Peaches are a stone fruit. They grow on trees and come into season mid-to-late summer.

There are several peach varieties. The most common are yellow flesh and white flesh peaches. The red or “blush” colour of a peach is an indicator of the peach’s variety.

Identification

Peaches are round and have a juicy yellow flesh and pinkish-yellow, soft, fuzzy skin. They range in size and taste very sweet.

Peaches contain a large inedible pit in the center. Most peaches available are classified as “freestone,” which means the flesh can easily be separated from the pit.

Nutrition Info

One large peach (2-¾” diameter) has about 58 calories, 1.4g of protein, 14.3g of carbohydrates, 2.2g of fiber, 12.6g of sugar, and 0.4g of fat.

Peaches are rich in vitamins C and A. They are also a good source of minerals including potassium and phosphorous.

Selection

When selecting peaches, look for a creamy gold to yellow undertone. A ripe peach is not too firm and not too soft; look for peaches that are soft to the touch but not mushy. When feeling for softness, do so gently as peaches bruise very easily. Avoid peaches that are mushy, have visible damage to their skin, or look moldy.

Bigger and heavier for its size is usually better when it comes to peaches. Larger sized fruit tends to be sweeter and more flavorful.

Smell the peaches as you select them; peaches should have a pleasantly sweet fragrance. A good smell likely indicates a flavorful peach.

Storage

Store firm peaches on the counter at room temperature and they will ripen within about two days. Ripe peaches should be refrigerated and eaten within one week of purchase.

You can freeze peaches: to do so, slice them up and place them in a freezer bag. Frozen peach slices make for a delicious summer treat and are also great in smoothies or baking. Peaches can be kept in the freezer for up to six months.

Preparation

Peaches can be enjoyed raw. Be sure to wash the skin carefully, and then enjoy eating out-of-hand.

Note that peaches have a large pit in the center that is inedible. Eat around the pit, or slice the peach up to remove the pit.

In addition to being enjoyed raw, peaches can be used in a variety of recipes including smoothies, pies, muffins, and more. To prepare a peach for baking, simply chop it up, remove the pit, and follow the recipe. If a recipe calls for the skin to be removed, score the skin lightly with a knife and place the peach in a bath of simmering water to cover for about 40 seconds. Remove and place the fruit in an ice bath. When it is cool enough to handle, peel.


Pears are the fruit of the pear tree (or the genus Pyrus), which grows in cool temperate climates.

Fall is pear season. Some varieties ripen in late summer and stay in season through spring, but in general pears are thought of as an autumnal fruit, known for their tender, juicy flesh, and sweet flavor.

Bartlett and Bosc are probably the most common varieties; they are enjoyed raw or used in cooking and baking.  Other types include Anjou, Comice, and the small, squat Seckel variety.

Identification

Pears have a distinctive teardrop shape. (Suitably enough, often known as ‘pear-shape.’) Of course, there is some variation among the different pear types: some are short and plump (Seckels), others are longer and leaner (Bartletts), and certain other varieties have more of a rounded, apple-like shape (Nashi, or Asian Pear).

Pears have a thin skin that changes color as the pear ripens; most are greenish when young, then take on a brown, golden and/or reddish color as they mature. The exact colors and markings depend on variety.

On the inside, pears have white flesh with a small core containing brown, teardrop shaped seeds.

Nutrition Info

One small pear typically has 84 calories, 0.5g of protein, 0.2g of fat, 22.5g of carbohydrates, 4.6g of fiber, and 14.4g of sugar.

Pears are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and copper.

Pears are sometimes cited for their antioxidant properties; this is especially true of pears’ skin, which contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory flavonoids.

Due to their anti-inflammatory properties, some studies are exploring pears’ ability to decrease risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Selection

If buying pears from the supermarket, you may find it tricky to find a perfectly ripe pear. This is because pears are often picked well before they are ripe, as they continue to ripen after they are picked. Fortunately, you can pick up firm, unripe pears at the market and allow them to ripen on your countertop until they’re ready to eat.

Because of their tender flesh, pears bruise easily. Avoid pears that have big, noticeable bruises, cuts or dents.

To tell if a pear is ripe to eat, gently squeeze the fruit along its neck. The flesh should yield in response if it is indeed ripe. Alternatively, gently poke your nail into the body of the pear. If your nail easily penetrates the skin, then the pear is ripe; if the pear feels very firm, then it likely needs a bit more time to ripen.

In addition to fresh pears, you may find pears canned or jarred (sometimes with syrup). Pears are sometimes dried, made into jam, or turned into juice. (If buying pear juice, you may wish to choose the ‘cloudy’ type of juice which contains actual pear pulp, as it is known to contain more health benefits than the filtered kind.)

Storage

Allow un-ripe pears to ripen on your countertop; this process could take up to several days, depending on the pear’s maturity.

Do not put un-ripe pears in the refrigerator – they will not ripen that way.

Pears, once ripe, should be consumed as soon as possible. You can keep them in the refrigerator to extend their life once ripe, although the longer they sit the more nutrients – and flavor – they may lose. Nonetheless, you can keep them in an open bag in the fruit crisper for about 5 days.

Preparation

Pears can be eaten out of hand – simply wash and eat the fruit. (Leaving behind its stem and inner core, of course.)

To slice a pear, first cut it in half. Then, using a paring knife or a melon baller, gently but firmly slice or scoop away the core. Place the flat sides of the pear flesh-side down on a cutting board and slice lengthwise according to your desired thickness.

Once you’ve cut into a pear it’s best to eat it soon; otherwise it may start to brown.

Pears can be used in both sweet and savory dishes.

Fresh and raw, they may be added to salads or cheese plates, but pears also respond well to cooking and baking, including savory preparations.

For example, try sautéing pears with leafy greens, including them in a butternut squash soup, or roasting them alongside Brussels sprouts.

As pears cook, their sweetness intensifies; feel free to balance that sweetness with spicy, salty, and/or bitter flavors. Or enhance their existing sweetness in a dessert.


The pineapple is a rather fancy-looking tropical fruit plant. Although they are thought to originate from South America, pineapples are now also cultivated in warmer climates all over the world.

The pineapple is a plant with a slow gestation; it takes about a year for a single fruit to mature. The fruit actually starts off as a clump of purplish blossoms that, over the course of about a year, mature and fuse together to form the fruit of the pineapple, which then grows and turns yellow as it ripens.

Pineapples get their name due to their resemblance to the pine cone (thus, pine apples).

Identification

The pineapple plant is a large shrub with sword-like leaves, with the pineapple fruit growing at its nucleus. The fruit itself has a nubby, yellowish, oblong body topped with a hat of tiered, spiky foliage.

The fruit of a ripe pineapple is very juicy but slightly fibrous, and ranges from pale to bright yellow in color, with a punchy, sweet, and slightly tart taste.

Nutrition Info

One cup of pineapple chunks (about 165g) has 82 calories, 0.9g protein, 21.7g of carbohydrates, 2.3g fiber, 16.3g sugar, and 0.2g of fat. Pineapples are an excellent source of vitamin C, and a good source of manganese, and copper.

Also of nutritional note, raw pineapple contains a unique enzyme called “bromelain”. Bromelain is a type of proteolytic enzyme, which may promote digestion and reduce inflammation in the body.

Selection

Pineapples don’t ripen much further after harvesting. Therefore, pineapples found in stores should already be ripe. A good quality, ripe pineapple will be heavy for its size, and it should smell sweet and fruity near the base. Avoid pineapples that smell musty or fermented, or ones that have dark or soft spots, which may indicate bruising or spoiling.

Pineapples, in addition to their whole fruit form, can also be found canned, frozen, or desiccated in chunks or rings. In order to get the most nutrition and avoid the excess sugar often added to preserve canned or dried pineapple, fresh or frozen forms are recommended.

Storage

Pineapples can be left at room temperature for a day or two after purchasing. If you are not planning to eat the pineapple within this time frame, store it in the fridge for another three to five days, or cut it up into chunks and freeze for up to six months.

Preparation

In order to access the sweet yellow flesh within, a pineapple must be carved.

First, using a large sharp knife, remove the tufted crown of leaves at the top. Then, standing the pineapple firmly on one end, slice off the outer husk in sections, being careful to preserve as much of the central yellow fruit as possible. At this point, you may want to go in with a smaller knife to carve out the small “eyes” of the fruit, which are tough and fibrous. The pineapple also has a fibrous core at the center of the fruit which must be removed. Slice the fruit off around it, then discard the core. Cut the resulting fruit in desired shapes, and consume, or store in the fridge in an airtight container for three to five days.

Tip: The flesh at the base of the pineapple is the sweetest and most tender part of the fruit, so you can save that for yourself, or for another person you like.


The plantain is a fruit with two faces.

The first face is presented in the very early stages of ripeness, when the skin of the fruit is green and the flesh inside is tough and starchy. The second face comes weeks later, after the skin turns from yellow to spotted to black, and inside the starches convert to sugars and the fruit becomes soft.

Most importantly, both faces are delicious.

Plantains are quite obviously related to bananas (obvious because plantains just look like big bananas), except unlike bananas, plantains are typically eaten cooked. Particularly in the early stages of ripeness (when the peel is green) plantains also have more starch and less sugar than a banana.

Plantains are native to Southeast Asia and Australia and they are a dietary staple in Africa, Central America, coastal South America, and the Caribbean islands. In these regions they are often served fried into chips or in thick slices, or boiled.

Identification

Depending on the stage of ripeness, a plantain will go through various permutations of appearance, texture, and flavor.

A green plantain is very firm and typically requires a knife to peel. Inside, the fruit is pale yellow and must be cooked in order to be eaten. Once cooked, green plantains have a dense starchy texture and a flavor similar to potatoes, with a subtle hint of banana.

A ripe plantain is nearly entirely black, and while it still holds its shape, it is very soft. As it ripens, the skin thins and becomes easier to peel, and the fruit inside sweetens and darkens to a light peach color. Ripe plantains can be eaten raw, although in the cultures where they are most popular, they are still typically cooked. At this stage, plantains will be soft and taste much more like a conventional banana. Due to the sugar content, a ripe plantain, when fried, will caramelize and produce the most wonderful flavors.

Nutrition Info

Just as the appearance and flavor of a plantain changes depending on the stage of ripeness, so too will the nutrition.

One cup of green plantains, fried in oil (about 118g) has 365 calories, 1.8g protein, 13.9g of fat, 58g of carbohydrates, 4.1g fiber, and 4.3g sugar.

One cup raw, ripe plantain (about 148g) has 181 calories, 1.9g protein, 0.6g of fat, 47.2g of carbohydrates, 3.4g fiber, and 22.2g sugar.

Plantains are a good source of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), and in their raw form, vitamin C. Green plantains are also rich in resistant starch, a type of fiber that benefits gut health.

Selection

Depending on where you are, plantains may be sold on every street corner, or, if you are in North America, perhaps only at larger grocery stores or specialty ethnic stores.

Plantains are available whole, and they are also commonly found packaged as chips. In the latter case, read the ingredients and choose packages with little more than plantain, oil, and salt as ingredients.

When buying plantains whole (which is likely the most wholesome way to consume them), consider the ripeness you desire. If you want green plantains, choose specimens that are firm and evenly green. If you want yellow plantains, choose specimens that yield to gentle pressure when squeezed, and have a bright yellow peel, perhaps with some brown or black spots. If you want ripe plantains, choose specimens that are evenly dark brown to black and soft, yet still have integrity.

At any stage, if the peel shows signs of cracking or molding, pass it over.

Storage

Plantains may be stored as you would bananas: At room temperature until you want to halt the ripening process, at which point they may be moved into the fridge.

Green plantains, when stored at room temperature will turn very ripe in a matter of weeks.

Plantains may also be peeled and then placed in a well-sealed container or bag in the freezer, where they will keep for about six months.

Preparation

Whether you have green or ripe plantains on hand, a very traditional and most delicious way to prepare them is to fry them.

Here’s how to do it:

First, peel your plantain. If using a green plantain, a paring knife may help as the peel will be somewhat fused to the fruit. Then, cut your plantain in ¼- ½ inch slices on the diagonal. Prepare a frying pan with oil (coconut oil works well here) and heat to medium-high. When the oil starts popping, lay the plantain slices down in the pan, and cook on one side until lightly browned (about five minutes), and then flip them over to repeat on the other side. If using green plantains, you may want to squash them flatter with the back of a spatula to cook them all the way through. Once they are cooked, sprinkle them with salt and serve immediately.


A pumpkin is a large, round type of winter squash, native to North America, which grows on a vine.

Inside its thick, smooth shell, a pumpkin contains seeds, stringy pulp, and pumpkin flesh. The seeds and flesh can be eaten, as can the flowers, which grow on the vine.

In the US and Canada, pumpkins are often used for decoration during Halloween, and baked into pies at Thanksgiving. However, many edible varieties of pumpkin exist and can be enjoyed in a multitude of preparations. Sometimes other types of winter squash are referred to as pumpkins.

Identification

Pumpkins are typically round with a yellow-orange shell and similarly colored flesh.

Pumpkins range in size and flavor; some varieties, such as sugar pie pumpkins, are small and prized for their sweet, tender flesh, which is ideal for baking.

Some varieties have a different color than the typical bright orange; for example, green or black pumpkins can be found. However, they are usually used for decorative rather than culinary purposes.

Nutrition Info

1 cup of mashed, cooked pumpkin (boiled and drained, without salt) contains approximately 49 calories, 1.8g of protein, 0.2g of fat, 12.0g of carbohydrates, 2.7g of fiber, and 5.1g of sugar.

Pumpkin packs in healthy amounts of vitamin K, A, C and E as well as potassium and magnesium. Pumpkin is also an excellent source of carotenoids (beta-carotene).

Selection

Canned pumpkin is a convenient and common way to purchase pumpkin. If purchasing canned, look for 100% pure pumpkin with no added ingredients. Choose cans that are not dented and check the expiry date before buying.

If seeking fresh pumpkin, you may consider going straight to the source: the farm, or alternatively, the farmer’s market. This is where you can get better acquainted with the varieties available and even ask the farmer for recommendations based on how you plan to cook the pumpkin.

When choosing a pumpkin, pick one that’s a smaller size: they tend to have tastier flesh. Make sure its stem is attached and the skin is unblemished — avoid pumpkins with any weepy or deeply bruised spots. Look for a dull finish (a shiny shell indicates it was picked too soon).

Storage

Store canned pumpkin as you would any canned product. Store any remaining canned pumpkin in an airtight container (not the can it came in) for up to five days. Alternatively, you can freeze canned pumpkin in an airtight container for up to three months.

Store a whole, fresh pumpkin in a cool, dark place — avoid anywhere humid or damp.

Preparation

One of the easiest and most versatile ways to use pumpkin is to make pumpkin puree. The puree can then be used in sweet or savory preparations.

To make pumpkin puree, simply take a 1 lb pumpkin (such as a sugar pumpkin) and cut into quarters. Meanwhile, heat oven to 350F.

Rub pumpkin flesh with a drizzle of olive oil or coconut oil. Roast on a baking sheet lined with foil, flesh side up. Cook until flesh is soft and can be easily mashed with a fork.

When cooked, remove flesh from the pumpkin shell. Let cool slightly. Puree in a food processor until smooth.

Use in your preferred method — the possibilities are endless. For example: for breakfast, try mixing the pumpkin puree into yogurt and granola, adding it to pancake batter, or including it in a protein shake. For dinner, turn the pumpkin puree into a soup or stew with fresh ginger and nutmeg. Finally, pumpkin makes for delicious desserts: pumpkin tarts, pumpkin cheesecake, even pumpkin ice cream are all tasty ways to enjoy pumpkin.

Tip: Reserve your pumpkin seeds to turn them into a tasty, healthy snack. To prepare toasted pumpkin seeds, heat oven to 250F. Lay seeds out on a baking sheet to create a single flat layer of seeds. (Make sure they are not stacked in a pile or they won’t dry out properly.) Roast, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour. When done, sprinkle with sea salt and any other spices you like, and enjoy!


Raspberries are the edible fruit of a prickly, woody-stemmed plant in the Rubus genus, which makes them part of the rose family.

Grown in temperate climates around the world, raspberries are a popular commercial fruit crop (though they can also be found wild).

While different varieties exist — including black, blue, golden and pink ones — the most common raspberries are bright red when ripe. Seasonal from about May to November, depending on climate, they are juicy, fragrant, flavorful, and sweet.

Identification

Common raspberries are bright red, and have a rounded cone-like shape. (Note that other varieties can range in color and have a tighter, more rounded shape.) Inspect a raspberry closely and you’ll see that each berry is made up of sections of juicy pulp.

Nutrition Info

A half cup of raspberries contains 32 calories, 0.74 g of protein, 0.40g of fat, 7.34g of carbohydrates, 4.0g of fiber, and 2.72g of sugar.

Raspberries are also a good source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, some iron, and plenty of potassium. They are also rich in vitamin C, along with folate and vitamin K.

Plus, raspberries contain antioxidants, which may support the nervous system and help with disease prevention.

Selection

Look for red, ripe berries. (Not only are ripe berries the tastiest, they also pack the biggest nutritional punch.)

Avoid berries that appear moldy, wet and mushy, or severely blemished. Raspberries are delicate and go bad easily, so look for those that have been tenderly handled.

During the summer months, a farmers’ market can be a good place to find fresh, local berries that have been handled with care.

Storage

Because raspberries are delicate, they do not store well.

Do not wash raspberries in advance; rinse them gently before eating.

They will go moldy quickly, so it’s important to keep them as free from moisture as possible. Pick through the raspberries before storing, and discard any decayed berries. Place them in a shallow bowl and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Do not keep them in your fruit drawer/crisper as this humid environment will quicken the molding process.

Eat them as soon as possible: ideally, within a day or two.

If you have an abundance of berries, you may choose to freeze them. Lay unwashed berries on a baking sheet, put them in the freezer until frozen solid, then transfer to freezer bags for longer freezing. Remember to wash before using.

Preparation

Gently rinse raspberries just before eating. Because of their great flavor, they are easy to enjoy on their own, with no adornments.

Alternatively, include them in smoothies, use them in jam, add a handful of them to oatmeal, or use them in baking (such as muffins or cheesecake). If you want to get a bit fancy, puree raspberries and add them to a balsamic and olive oil vinaigrette, or turn into a raspberry sauce for a sweet drizzle over dessert.


Strawberries are a type of berry. They are grown in warmer climates and make for a delicious and juicy summer treat!

Identification

Strawberries are red and range in size from the size of your thumbnail to your entire thumb. The top of strawberries have green “hulls” which should be removed before eating.

In the US alone, hundreds of different strawberry varieties are grown. Depending on the variety you choose, the shape, colour, and taste of the strawberry will differ. Typically, smaller berries taste more intense, while larger strawberries tend to contain more water and so their flavor is slightly diluted.

Nutrition Info

One cup of whole strawberries has about 46 calories, 1.0g of protein, 11.1g of carbohydrates, 2.9g of fiber, 7.0g of sugar, and 0.4g of fat.

Strawberries are a good source of vitamins C, A, and K. Strawberries are also rich in minerals including calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium.

Selection

Choose brightly coloured strawberries with their hulls intact. Look for dry, plump, and firm berries. Avoid soft, moldy, and shrivelled berries.

Storage

Do not wash or hull strawberries until you are ready to eat them. You can store strawberries for 2 to 3 days in your fridge placed on a paper towel in a tightly covered moisture proof container.  Strawberries can also be frozen whole or in pieces. If you choose to freeze them make sure to wash and hull them before freezing.

Preparation

First begin by washing the berries. Place them in a large colander and rinse them gently with cool water. Lay the berries in a single layer on a clean kitchen towel or layer of paper towels and pat dry.

Once washed, the strawberries need to be hulled. This means that the inedible green leafy part of the berry needs to be removed. To hull, use a strawberry huller or place the tip of a knife at the base of the hull, insert it gently to remove only the soft white part at the base of the hull, and slowly turn the strawberry. Once you come full circle, the top leafy green part will pop off.

Once washed and hulled, the strawberries are ready to be eaten or used as part of a recipe.


Tomatoes are the edible fruit of a plant in the nightshade family. Native to South and Central America, they were first domesticated in those regions and were widely cultivated by the Aztecs. It’s believed they traveled to Europe with the Spanish conquistadors.

Because of their connection with nightshade, tomatoes were feared as poisonous in Europe when they were introduced there. But they grew exceptionally well in the sunny Mediterranean climate and it wasn’t long before they were enthusiastically embraced. Delicious, nutritious, and versatile, tomatoes are now associated as much with Italian and Spanish food as they are with Mexican. In fact, there’s hardly a cuisine in the world that does not depend on “love apples,” as they used to be called.

Today, tomatoes represent the eighth most important agricultural product worldwide, and are extensively cultivated in China, India, United States, and Turkey, among other countries. In addition to their importance as a commercial crop, tomatoes are fun and relatively easy to grow in a home garden. While they’re perennial plants in their native habitat, they’re grown as annuals in cooler climates and can be started from seed in greenhouses.

Identification

Tomato plants are usually anywhere from two to ten feet tall, with a weak, vine-like stem that often requires staking, and a small yellow or white flower.

While tomatoes are technically a fruit, their savory taste ensures they’re used more often as a vegetable. There are thousands of different types, and at least five or six main categories of tomatoes—from the large, fleshy beefsteak to the small, juicy cherry tomato and the even tinier grape tomato.

Typically red when ripe, some heirloom or special cultivars may be yellow, pink, orange, purple, black, green, or even white.

Tomatoes taste slightly acidic, and have a fresh, pungent smell.

Nutrition Info

One large raw tomato contains 33 calories, 7.1g carbohydrates, 1.6g protein, 0.36g fat, 4.8g sugar, and 2.2g fiber.

Tomatoes are a good source of potassium and an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin A.

In addition, they are especially rich in the carotene lycopene, a crucial phytonutrient with antioxidant properties. Diets rich in lycopene have been linked to many health advantages, from improved cardiovascular function to better protection against cancer to stronger bones.

Selection

Choose tomatoes that are firm with a little give. Those that feel heavy for their size are likely to be juicy. Contrary to what you might think, they don’t have to be uniformly colored to be delicious, but pale fruit is rarely ripe, so look for vibrant tones. Sniff tomatoes if you can— when ripe, they should smell sweet and a little earthy.

Don’t worry if they aren’t perfectly round; it won’t affect the taste. Even cracked skin may be acceptable, as long as it is not leaking juice.

Avoid wrinkly tomatoes or those that are bruised, darkened in spots, or too soft.

If buying canned tomatoes, check to see that they don’t have added sugars or too much salt. Italian plum tomatoes make the best sauces, particularly the Roma and San Marzano varieties.

If you eat a lot of preserved tomatoes, consider buying those stored in glass jars rather than tins. Because tomatoes are highly acidic, the risk of BPA migration from cans may be higher than with other canned goods. But there’s no need to panic if canned tomatoes are only an occasional part of your diet.

Storage

Store fresh, whole, ripe tomatoes at room temperature. Refrigeration spoils their flavor and tends to make them mealy. Having said that, you can delay softening of perfectly ripe tomatoes by placing them in the fridge for a couple of days. Bring them to room temperature again before eating.

You can also buy tomatoes slightly under-ripe. Place in a paper bag with a banana or set them on a sunny windowsill, stem-scar side up. They will ripen within a few days.

Treat fresh tomatoes gently because they bruise easily. Be sure to wash them carefully, and if possible, select organic. Conventionally grown cherry tomatoes are among the top 12 fruits and vegetables on which pesticide residues are regularly found.

Leftover cut tomatoes should be stored in the refrigerator to prevent the possibility of food poisoning.

If storing canned tomatoes, note the best before dates and do not exceed them. Avoid tins with dents and look for those that are BPA-free.

Preparation

The easiest way to prepare raw, ripe tomatoes is simply to slice them and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add fresh herbs, some olive oil, and balsamic vinegar if you like. Toss in a mixed salad, or accompany with other raw or cooked vegetables. Enjoy!

Tomatoes pair brilliantly with many herbs and spices, including basil, oregano, parsley, mint, dill, tarragon, cilantro, rosemary, thyme, chilli, cinnamon, cloves, and cumin.

Many cheeses also go well with tomatoes, including feta, Parmesan, mozzarella, cheddar, and more.

Tomatoes are equally delicious cooked in a variety of ways.

To bake a whole tomato, simply remove the core at the stem end, stuff with basil or other herbs, add salt and pepper, and place in a pan in hot oven or wrap in foil and set on the grill. It will soften in about 20 minutes. Alternatively, cut the tomato in half and prepare a topping of breadcrumbs, cheese, and herbs and bake or broil.

To sauté or stew tomatoes, cut them into pieces and toss in olive oil or butter and other ingredients. They break down easily; this is one reason they’re such a valuable base for sauces and soups.

Sometimes recipes call for skins to be removed. To do this, simply place freshly washed tomatoes in boiling water for a minute or so, until the skin begins to split and it will slip off easily.

Tomatoes are quite easy to preserve. To freeze whole tomatoes, simply wash, cut away the stem-scar, and place on a cookie sheet until frozen. You can later place in bags and remove when ready to use.

To stew tomatoes for freezing, skin and peel as described above and then cook for a few minutes either on their own or with other ingredients. Allow to cool, then freeze.

Frozen tomatoes can’t be used as fresh because of the loss of texture, but they work well in sauces or soups.

Tomatoes can also be dried and canned at home. Ensure you follow safe procedures for these tasks, and remember that despite their acidic taste, you will need to add acids to tomatoes if home canning to reduce the risk of botulism.

Unripe or green tomatoes are also sometimes fried or stewed. So if you’re left with green tomatoes at the end of the season, don’t despair—get creative!

Grains Knowledge Base


Amaranth is a gluten free grain that is highly nutritious!

Identification

Amaranth grains are small, pale, and round. The grains are harvested from the amaranth plant, which is a moderately tall, broad leafed, bushy type of plant that grows about six feet tall. It produces a brightly coloured flowery head containing up to 6000 seeds; these seeds are the amaranth grains.

Nutrition Info

Half a cup of uncooked amaranth grains has about 358 calories, 13.1g of protein, 63.0g of carbohydrates, 6.7g of fiber, 1.6g of sugar, and 6.8g of fat.

Amaranth is rich in folate and is a great source of minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.

Selection

Amaranth can be purchased as a whole grain or ground into flour. Both whole grain amaranth and amaranth flour can be found in most health food stores.

Storage

Store amaranth in a cool, dry place. To keep it fresh longer, store whole grains and flour in the fridge in an airtight container.

Preparation

To cook 1 cup of amaranth grains, combine the grains with two and a half cups of water in a pot. Bring the water and grain mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for up to 20 minutes, until the grains are fluffy and water is absorbed.

If you want to reach a “porridge-like” consistency, simply add another ½ cup of water to the pot before boiling and cook a little bit longer.

You can also pop amaranth like corn! To do this, preheat a skillet over high heat and add amaranth seeds one or two tablespoons at a time. Stir the seeds continuously with a spoon as they pop. Once they are mostly popped, remove them from the skillet. Popped amaranth is great on its own, sprinkled with cinnamon, or mixed with fruit.


Farro is a tasty and nutritious ancient grain—but beyond that, its definition gets murky. The term is used interchangeably for three different species of wheat: spelt, emmer, and einkorn. These are all hulled species of wheat, meaning they can’t be threshed.

In Italy, the word farro refers in particular to emmer, also called “true” farro. The grain is sold dried, and cooked in water or broth until it is soft yet crunchy. It can be eaten plain but is more often added to salads, soups, or other dishes. It can also be treated like pasta. Renowned for its delicious, nutty flavor, farro is high in protein, rich in vitamins, relatively low in carbohydrates, and also relatively low in calories.

Like barley, farro comes pearled or semi-pearled. The semi-pearled version includes more fiber and nutrient-rich bran than the pearled version, which has no bran.

You can also sometimes buy farro whole; the whole version needs overnight soaking before cooking.

Finally, it is also possible to buy or make farro (or emmer) flour.

As a type of wheat, farro is not suitable for gluten-free diets.

Identification

Although you’re not likely to have to identify farro in the field, true farro, (Latin name Triticum dicoccum) has two spikes on its husk. It is a tetraploid, meaning it’s a cross of two ancient diploid grasses. Unlike common modern wheats, which tend to be polyploids with six or more chromosome sets, it has only four.

Individual grains are light brown to medium brown. They have an elongated shape and measure about 6 to 8 mm.

Nutrition Info

One quarter cup of uncooked emmer wheat or farro contains 150 calories, 1g fat, 32g carbohydrates, 6g protein, and 3g of fiber, or 11% of your daily requirements. It is high in the minerals iron and calcium, and is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and the B vitamins.

Selection

You can find ready-to-cook farro in Italian groceries, health food stores, and sometimes in regular groceries. But shopping for this grain can be tricky. This is partly due to the controversy about nomenclature.

Also, even once you find true farro, it can be difficult to know whether you’re buying the whole, pearled, or the semi-pearled variety. The information on packages is often confusing.

One thing is certain: in any of its guises, farro is a small brown grain with a nutty taste that cooks up nicely al dente. And when all is said and done, if you follow the directions on the package, whichever variety you buy will taste delicious.

Storage

Keep farro grain in a cool, dry place in a container that allows it to breath. You can store it for about 18 months.

Emmer flour should be kept in an airtight container. It will last about one month in the pantry and two to three months in the refrigerator.

After cooking, you can store farro in your fridge for a couple of days.

Preparation

Always rinse farro with cold water and drain well before cooking.

To cook whole grain, bring two parts water and one part grain to a boil, and boil for 30 minutes for an al dente texture, or longer for a softer consistency.

You can also use a rice cooker to cook farro. Try the brown rice setting. A crockpot is another option, although it will take about 3 to 4 hours to cook using this method.

Using the risotto method of cooking produces a delicious flavor. Sauté an onion in some olive oil, add the farro, stir it around for a few minutes, and only then add the liquid and salt. Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently. You can then drain and dress the farro and use it in other preparations if you wish, or eat it as a side dish.

Raw grains may be eaten whole as a breakfast food if soaked overnight.

Whole farro may be flaked and used as a breakfast cereal or added to baked goods. You can also grind your own flour, but don’t try to do so in a coffee grinder, which isn’t strong enough for the kernels.

Another option is sprouting the whole grain and adding the sprouts to salads and sandwiches.


Quinoa, pronounced “keen-wah,” is a high-protein crop which is cooked and eaten like a grain, though technically it’s not (it’s actually more closely related to beets and spinach).

Quinoa originated in the Andean region of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Colombia, where it continues to be grown as a staple food.

It has become increasingly popular in the US and Canada, and across Europe, Australia, and parts of Asia, where it is not typically grown.

Identification

Quinoa looks like a small, curled cereal grain. It comes in a range of colours – most commonly golden tan, but sometimes red or black.

Nutrition Info

1 cup of uncooked quinoa contains about 626 calories, 24.0g of protein, 10.3g of fat, 109.1g of carbohydrates, and 11.9g of fiber.

Quinoa is gluten-free. It is also an excellent protein source: it contains all 9 essential amino acids required of a complete protein. In addition, it offers iron, zinc, potassium, calcium and vitamin E. For all these reasons it is often called a “superfood.”

Selection

You may find quinoa in natural food stores, well-stocked supermarkets, and bulk stores. If buying packaged quinoa, check the expiry date for freshness.

Storage

Store quinoa in a sealed container or bag and keep it in a cool, dark place, like a pantry. When stored properly, uncooked quinoa is good for 2-3 years.

Once cooked, quinoa should be stored in the fridge and is good for 6-7 days. You can also freeze cooked quinoa, in which case, it will last for 8-12 months.

Preparation

As a first step, it is important to rinse the quinoa well. This removes the coating of saponin, a bitter, soapy-tasting substance that protects the plants from insects. While typically removed in processing, a rinse is important to remove any remaining coating.

You can cook quinoa as you would rice: use a 2:1 liquid-to-grain ratio. Bring water to a boil (tip: for better flavor, use chicken or vegetable stock in place of water). Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until the liquid is absorbed.

Note: the cooking time for quinoa is shorter than rice or other grains. It typically cooks for 10 – 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.

Once cooked, quinoa can be eaten as a warm side dish, cooled and added to a salad, or incorporated into other dishes such as veggie burgers or meatloaf.


Teff is a grain—a gluten free grain! It grows predominantly in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Fun facts: One pound of teff grains can grow an acre of teff (in comparison with wheat, which takes about 100 pounds of grains to grow one acre). Teff is also the fastest sprouting grain, taking only 36h to sprout!

Identification

Teff is less than 1mm in diameter (similar to a poppy seed) and comes in a variety of colors, from white and red to dark brown. This grain has a very mild, nutty flavor.

Nutrition Info

Half a cup of uncooked teff has about 354 calories, 12.8g of protein, 70.6g of carbohydrates, 7.7g of fiber, and 2.3g of fat.

Teff is rich in B vitamins and is a great source of minerals including calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.

Selection

Teff can be purchased as a whole grain or ground into flour. To get its full nutrient benefits, it’s best to purchase the whole grain. Whole grain teff can be found in most health food stores.

Storage

Store uncooked teff in a cool, dry place in a tightly sealed container. Uncooked teff will keep for up to one year if properly stored.

Once cooked, store teff in the fridge for up to five days.

Preparation

Uncooked, whole grain teff can be used in baking (cakes, breads, muffins, etc) much like you would use seeds. Teff is also a great addition to soups and stews. It serves as a nutritious thickening agent, making it great for heavier, cool-weather meals.

To cook on its own, put 1/2 cup teff grains, 2 cups water, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a saucepan. Bring contents to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until water is absorbed. Remove from the heat and let stand for about five minutes. You can then use it in a similar fashion as quinoa or oats.

Herbs & Spices Knowledge Base


Basil is an herb that belongs to the mint family. In Western cooking (particularly Italian cuisine), the most common variety is sweet basil, also known as Genovese basil. It has a sweet-savory flavor with hints of licorice and mint.

Thai basil, lemon basil, and holy basil are other varieties of the same family, which are more common in Asia.

Like many herbs, basil can be found dried or fresh. This entry concentrates on fresh sweet basil.

Identification

Basil is a bright green plant, with large pointed leaves and thin stalks. It grows in big, leafy bunches.

Nutrition Info

A quarter cup of fresh basil has 1.0 calories, 0.19g of protein, 0.04g of fat, 0.16g of carbohydrates, 0.1g of fiber, and 0.02g of sugar.

Basil is an excellent source of potassium (18 mg in a 1/4 cup). It’s also a good source of manganese, copper, vitamin A, folate, and iron.

Selection

Basil is seasonal in summertime but it can usually be purchased year-round. You may find it in packages or bundled loose in the produce section of your grocery store.

Choose bright green, fragrant leaves with no signs of wilting or blackening.

For the freshest basil, try growing it yourself! Starter plants may be available at your local nursery or grocery store during the spring and summer months.

Storage

Basil is best eaten as soon as possible after picking.

If you’re going to eat the basil within a couple days, you can keep it on your kitchen countertop in a glass or pitcher of water, as you would fresh cut flowers. Change the water daily, and keep the basil out of direct sunlight.

If keeping the basil for longer you can store it in the fridge, in a loose, open plastic bag or the container you purchased it in.

Preparation

Wash basil well in cool water. (If the basil is very dirty, place it in a large bowl and cover it with cool water. Swish the basil around to release the dirt. Pull the basil out of the water, rinse the bowl, and repeat until all the dirt and grit is gone.)

Pinch the basil leaves off of the stems. You can then tear the basil with your hands or slice it thinly with your knife.

If you’re slicing the basil, try this trick: stack a bunch of leaves onto each other, and roll them up with your fingers to create a tight tube. Then cut across the leaves horizontally with your knife to create thin slivers. This is known as a chiffonade and is excellent as a garnish.

Take note that basil can bruise easily and turn black. To avoid this, tear gently with your fingers or slice carefully with a sharp knife.

Basil is best eaten fresh. In cooking, basil will wilt and lose its best flavor, so add it at the end of recipes when possible.

One of the most popular preparations of basil is pesto: an Italian sauce / condiment made of fresh basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and olive oil. 


Chinese 5 Spice—as you can probably guess—is a mixture of five spices. It is frequently used in Chinese cooking, but may also appear in other Asian cuisines. It usually includes star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Szechuan pepper, and fennel seeds. Some formulas add ginger root, galangal, or other herbs and spices.

Legend has it that cooks invented this blend to encompass all five tastes—sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and pungent, hot, or spicy. Whether the story is true or not, there’s no denying the complex flavor and warm fragrance of the condiment. Chinese 5 Spice is especially tasty with roasted meats.

Identification

Chinese 5 Spice is usually ground into a fine texture and has a deep golden brown color, similar to cinnamon.

Nutrition Info

While you’re unlikely to eat enough Chinese 5 Spice to derive great nutritional benefits from it, the spices included in this mix are rich in antioxidants and are also a terrific source of minerals such as copper, iron, and manganese. For example, 100g of dry anise seeds contain 37.0mg or 462% of your daily required levels of iron.

Check out the individual spices in the list for more information about their health-giving properties.

Note: In traditional Chinese medicine, warming spices like 5 spice are believed to speed up metabolism and stimulate digestion.

Selection

Your best bet is to buy Chinese 5 Spice from a store that sells a lot of it (or makes its own mixture).

You can also make your own. Simply take:

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed, toasted and ground
  • 1 teaspoon ground star anise
  • 1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns, toasted and ground

Mix together and store in an airtight container. Grinding your own spices ensures the freshest taste. You can use a clean electric coffee grinder for this job.

Storage

Keep Chinese 5 Spice in a sealed container at room temperature, away from heat. Like most dried spices, it will start to lose its best flavor after 6-8 months.

Preparation

Chinese 5 Spice makes a terrific marinade. Simply mix a few teaspoons into some oil and apply to meats or vegetables. Bake or grill.


Chipotle, which is a word adapted from the Aztec term for “smoked chili”, is a jalapeño pepper that has been dried by smoke.

The Aztecs, ancient indigenous people of central Mexico, discovered that jalapeño peppers could be preserved with the aid of smoke. Normal sun-drying, another popular method of preservation, was not suited to the jalapeño, which would rot before it was fully dried.

Jalapeños can be green, red, purple, or tan, but in Chihuahua, the region of Mexico where most chipotle peppers come from, it is the morita jalapeño, an eggplant-colored pepper, that abounds. Chipotle can also be made from mature red jalapeños.

The smoking process takes a few days. Jalapeño peppers are placed on metal grills in smoking chambers or gas dryers, where they are shuffled around every couple of hours to ensure even smoking. Once this process is done, finished chipotle peppers will be shriveled and darkened, and possess the rich flavors of smoke and spice, with a hint of fruitiness.

Chipotle is a key ingredient in many traditional Mexican recipes, and is perhaps most famously used in a meat marinade called adobo. It is also the name of a popular Mexican chain restaurant where, depending on where you are in the world, you may or may not have to pay extra for guacamole on your burrito.

Identification

Chipotle may be found as dried whole peppers, or in powder form.

Dried whole chipotle peppers are purplish-red in color and look like shriveled up peppers (which they are). They are usually a few inches long and often still have their stems attached (which should be removed before eating).

Powdered chipotle is a deep brick-red.

Both forms have an intensely smoky, spicy, and slightly sweet flavor, but the whole dried peppers tend to be more punchy. As with most spices, flavors are better preserved when stored in the whole form.

Chipotle peppers are considered to have “medium” spiciness – slightly more spicy than a Serrano pepper, and slightly less spicy than Tabasco sauce.

Nutrition Info

Chipotle, in the amounts typically consumed, is not a significant source of any nutrients. It should be used primarily to provide bold flavor.

However, relative to its weight, chipotle is rich in a variety of carotenoids, which are compounds in the vitamin A family. It also contains a phytochemical called capsaicin, which may help to reduce inflammation in the body.

Selection

Chipotle may be found as whole dried peppers sealed in bags, or as a powder in glass jars, sachets, or loose in bulk bins.

However you choose to purchase it, shop at stores with a high turnover. Spices that stay on the shelves for long periods of time lose flavor and potency. As mentioned, for optimal flavor and a longer shelf life, try to find the whole dried peppers.

Good quality, fresh chipotle, whether whole or powdered, should have wonderfully smoky and pungent aroma, and a deep, warm red color. Fresh whole chipotle peppers will bend a bit before snapping. If they are very brittle, they may be old.

Chipotles may also be found in cans or jars with sauce (usually adobo) or oil, or in other spice blends. In these cases, read the ingredients label to ensure that high quality, whole food ingredients are used, and preservatives and dyes are avoided.

Storage

Chipotle, whether whole or powdered, should be stored in a sealed container at room temperature, ideally away from heat and light, such as a closed cupboard or drawer away from the oven.

Like most spices, chipotle won’t so much “go bad” as it will lose potency, which occurs after about six to eight months for the powder, and about a year for the whole peppers.

Preparation

Powdered chipotle is ready to be used as-is, added to salsas or guacamole, sprinkled over cooked eggs, or rubbed onto chicken, pork, or white fish. It can also be added to stews or cooked beans.

Whole dried chipotle peppers require a bit of preparation before using.

In order to reconstitute dried chipotles so they can be chopped and mixed into recipes, boil some water, and then pour it into a large bowl. Place the chipotles in the bowl, ensuring that they are fully immersed, and let them sit for about 20 minutes. At this point, drain the water, and pat the chipotles dry. Cut the tough stems off, and then chop the softened peppers up so you can add them to salsas, marinades, soups, or other dishes.


Cilantro is a fresh herb, sometimes also called coriander leaves.

(Note that cilantro is different from the herb coriander, which is a commonly dried spice with a very different flavor profile.)

This prolific herb grows, and is enjoyed, in many regions around the world.

The unique flavor of cilantro is difficult to describe. It is clean and bright but also a bit pungent and spicy. For some its taste is delightful and addictive – for some it is off-putting. In fact, for some tasters, cilantro has an unpleasant soapy or metallic taste. If you happen to be one of the unlucky minority, cilantro is not for you!

Cilantro is usually available year round. During the summer months, look for it at your local farmers’ market or consider growing it in your own garden.

Identification

Cilantro is bright green, with a long stem and a flat leaf.

It can be mistaken for flat leaf or Italian parsley. To know for sure, have a sniff: cilantro has an unmistakable scent.

Nutrition Info

One-quarter cup of cilantro contains a single calorie, 0.09g of protein, 0.02g of fat, 0.15g of carbohydrates, 0.1g of fiber, and 0.03g of sugar.

Cilantro is loaded with nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin K, as well as riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and manganese. It’s even a  source of fiber! While you’re unlikely to eat cilantro in large enough quantities to get big amounts of these nutrients, adding this herb to your meals can give you an added dose of nutrition.

Selection

Find cilantro among the other fresh herbs in the vegetable section of your grocery store or market.

Cilantro is usually sold in bunches. Sometimes the roots are still attached — this can be a sign of freshness.

Look for bright green, relatively unblemished leaves. Avoid cilantro that is overly wilted, turning black, or showing similar signs of decay.

Storage

Store the herbs in a loose, open plastic bag in the vegetable crisper of your fridge. Cilantro will usually last about 5 days, depending on its freshness at purchase.

To extend the freshness of cilantro, as with other herbs, you may store it in a glass or small vase of fresh water, loosely covered, in your fridge. This will help keep the herb alive and flavorful for a few extra days.

To freeze cilantro try this technique: blitz a bunch of cilantro leaves in a food processor. Then add a couple tablespoons of water to the mix. Pour into an ice tray and store in your freezer. Then when you want a pop of flavor, add a cube or two to whatever you’re cooking.

Preparation

Rinse the herbs with cool water. Chop the cilantro depending on your preference: you may choose to tear a few leaves off for garnish, or finely chop a big bunch.

Feel free to use the stems: chop them finely, then use as you would the rest of the herb. If roots are intact, remove and discard (or wash them thoroughly and chop finely).

Cilantro is a delicate herb so most of the time it is best added towards the end of preparing a dish, or as a garnish. However, for some preparations you may choose to add cilantro at the beginning along with other aromatics (this may be the case with some soups or curries). In this instance, roots/stems may hold up better than the leafy top.

Cilantro pairs well with other strong and bright flavors, such as coconut milk, peanut sauce, barbecue sauce, mango, onions, and chili. Cilantro is used in many world cuisines including Southeast Asian, Latin American, Middle Eastern, and more.


Cinnamon is one of the oldest and most popular spices in the world. Warm and sweet, this spice has been used for thousands of years in both culinary and medicinal preparations. In ancient Egypt, cinnamon was even used as an embalming agent.

But don’t let that spoil your appetite.

While there are many subspecies of cinnamon, they can be divided into two main categories: cassia cinnamon and “true” cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon is by far the more available type in North American and European markets. However, some find the extra hunting worth it to find “true” cinnamon (also known as Cinnamomom zeylanicum or Cinnamomom verum), which is sweeter and more aromatic than cassia varieties, which are spicier and more robust.

Cinnamon contains a compound called coumarin which has blood-thinning properties and may be toxic to the liver and kidneys if consumed in large quantities. “True” cinnamon varieties have vastly lower amounts of coumarin than cassia varieties.

Medicinally, cinnamon is best known (and researched) for its blood-sugar balancing effects. Culinarily, cinnamon is probably best known swirled into a spiral-shaped pastry, or dusted on apples.

Identification

Cinnamon can be sold as a ground powder, or in thin rolls of bark known as quills.

Cinnamon is reddish-brown in color, with a delicious spicy-sweet aroma and flavor, with notes of burnt wood.

“True” cinnamon and cassia cinnamon will be hard to distinguish in powder form, but in quill form, there are some defining features of each.

“True” cinnamon quills will appear to be made up of many thin layers of bark, and can be crumbled relatively easily with strong hands or a mortar and pestle. Cassia cinnamon quills will be made up of one thicker layer of bark, and will be quite difficult to process, and are better used for steeping.

Nutrition Info

Cinnamon, like most spices, is not a significant source of nutrition in the amounts typically consumed. It is however, very high in fiber, providing about 2.5g per teaspoon.

Cinnamon also contains a variety of health-benefiting compounds and antioxidants, so it is worth adding to the diet not just for flavor, but for nutrition too.

Selection

Cinnamon is widely available and can be found nearly everywhere that food is sold: grocery stores, health food stores, bulk food stores, and spice shops.

Generally, cassia cinnamon is more widely available than “true” cinnamon. Unless the product you are buying clearly specifies “true” cinnamon (also known as Cinnamomom zeylanicum or Cinnamomom verum), you can assume it is a cassia variety. Consumers looking to purchase “true” cinnamon may have to visit specialty spice shops or health food stores.

Like many other ground spices, cinnamon can lose potency over time, so shop at stores with high turnover, and in the case of bulk food stores, covered bins.

If you have the opportunity to sniff the product, do it. Fresh, good quality cinnamon powder or quills will smell sharply spicy, sweet, and aromatic. A dull, dusty, or musty aroma means cinnamon is past its prime.

Storage

Keep cinnamon powder or quills in a sealed container at room temperature, ideally away from heat and light, such as a closed cupboard or drawer.

Compared to whole quills, ground cinnamon will lose potency faster. Assuming proper storage, ground cinnamon has a shelf life of about six months, while the quills will stay sharp and aromatic for about a year. After this time, cinnamon is still perfectly safe to eat, but it will have lost much of its flavor.

Preparation

Ground cinnamon is ready to use and is a delicious addition to warm beverages, smoothies, porridges, or cut fruit (particularly apples and pears).

Cinnamon quills are too tough to eat, although some people enjoy chewing on them for the flavor and breath-freshening effect. Generally, quills are processed into a powder with the help of a coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle before using. Alternatively, they are thrown into pots of boiling liquid, in their whole form, to flavor teas, mulled ciders, or stews.


Garam masala is a slightly sweet, peppery, and pungent blend of spices. In Urdu, garam means “hot” and masala means “mix of spices”.

Many cultures around the world have blends of herbs or spices that are staples in their regional kitchens: France has herbes de Provence, Latin America has Adobo, China has Chinese five spice, and India and Pakistan have garam masala.

Traditional garam masala recipes nearly always includes peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and cumin. However, it may also include nutmeg, coriander, star anise, and/or dried chilis. Less commonly it may contain turmeric, saffron or fennel, or even ground nuts or garlic and onions.

There are many permutations of garam masala, and recipes will vary according to region and personal palate.

Garam masala is a versatile seasoning and is used in both sweet (such as in rice pudding) and savoury (such as in lentil dal) preparations.

Identification

Garam masala is a combination of ground spices, and typically has a golden brown color. It is highly aromatic, and depending on what spices are used in a particular garam masala recipe, it will taste and smell sweet, spicy, pungent, and sometimes even slightly floral with notes of licorice.

Nutrition Info

Garam masala, in the amounts typically consumed, is not a significant source of any nutrients.

However, like many herbs and spices, garam masala does add nutrition to a meal in a few different ways.

First, many of the spices included in garam masala are high in phenolic compounds with powerful antioxidant activity. Cloves in particular are extremely high in antioxidants. Other spices, such as cinnamon, can help balance blood sugar. Still others, such as cumin and cardamom, belong to a class of plants called “carminatives”, which are used to enhance digestion and reduce gas and bloating.

Like most other spices, garam masala doesn’t necessarily “count” towards your macronutrient or micronutrient tallies, although it still offers health benefits, and of course flavor.

Selection

Garam masala can be found already mixed in glass jars, sachets, or loose in bulk bins. However you choose to purchase it, shop at stores with a high turnover. Spices that stay on the shelves for long periods of time lose flavor and potency. Fresh garam masala should be highly aromatic, peaking with sweet and spicy notes.

You can also easily make your own garam masala mix, using either pre-ground spices, or by grinding whole spices yourself with a mortar and pestle or in a coffee mill.

Here is a basic recipe:

  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon of ground nutmeg

Mix all spices together and store in an airtight, preferably glass, container.

Storage

Keep garam masala in a sealed container at room temperature, ideally away from heat and light, such as a closed cupboard or drawer away from the oven.

Garam masala won’t so much “go bad” as it will lose flavor, which occurs after about six to eight months.

Preparation

Garam masala is delicious sprinkled over roasted vegetables, lentil stews, or cooked whole grains, or used in meat rubs or marinades.

When using it in soups or stews, culinary experts suggest adding garam masala during the last phase of cooking, as it can become bitter if stewed too long.


Mint is an aromatic, perennial herb known for its edible leaves and bright, crisp flavor.

There are many hybrids and cultivars within the mint genus of plants. Each type of mint is a bit different: leaves may be broad or narrow, their color may be bright green, pale green, or even purple, and their flavor may be bold and bright or mild and sweet.

While you can find dried mint on the spice rack, fresh mint is best: it offers the best flavor, versatility and nutritional value.

If buying mint from the grocery store, you’re most likely to find spearmint or peppermint. (If the package is just labelled “mint” there is a good chance it’s spearmint.) You’re more apt to find unusual varieties at a farmer’s market in the summer months.

Identification

Spearmint is bright green, with flat, slightly jagged leaves on a tough stem.

If you’re not sure whether an herb is mint, smell it. It will have that distinctive menthol scent. Spearmint is usually milder and sweeter, compared to peppermint, which is stronger. (Peppermint actually contains menthol while spearmint does not.)

Note: spearmint is often simply labeled ‘mint’ in the grocery store.

Nutrition Info

Two tablespoons of fresh spearmint contains 5 calories, 0.38g of protein, 0.96g of carbohydrates, and 0.80g of fiber.

Mint also offers vitamin A, vitamin C, Iron, folate, manganese, calcium, and even Omega-3 fatty acids.

Selection

Look for bright green, unblemished leaves. Leaves will start to turn black as they decay.

If you can find them, fresh bundles of herbs with the roots attached tend to be freshest. However, packaged herbs will do just fine.

Storage

Cut herbs are best enjoyed within a few days after purchase.

If you want the herbs to last longer, place stems in a glass of water, covered loosely with a plastic bag and keep them in the fridge. Replace the water every few days. Using this method should help the plant stay fresh for up to a week.

(Better yet: try growing mint in your garden or in a pot on your kitchen window. Fair warning: mint grows fast and can encroach upon other plants if not regularly cut back.)

While storing mint, keep the stems intact and remove the leaves only once you’re ready to use them.

For longer storage, you may consider freezing or drying your mint. To freeze, finely chop the herbs, place the mixture into ice cube trays, then top with water and freeze. To dry, lay the leaves on parchment paper on a baking sheet and bake at very low heat – about 170 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 – 30 minutes.

Preparation

Mint can be used in savory or sweet preparations. For example: two classic pairings are lamb with mint sauce, and chocolate-mint desserts.

Common spearmint is best for savory preparations, while the strong menthol flavor of peppermint makes it more suitable for desserts.

To use mint, simply pinch the leaves at their base and remove them from the plant. You can use the leaves whole, tear them, or chop them finely, depending on the texture and taste you’re going for. Prepare the leaves just before using them – once they are removed from the plant they will start to wilt. Handle the leaves as gently as possible: handling them roughly can cause bruising.

Try adding fresh mint to salads or salad dressings, sauces, or salsas. Mint can also be a great addition to drinks, such as smoothies, cocktails, or juices. Mint also makes a great garnish: add a couple leaves to your dish for a nutritious boost of flavor.


Paprika is a spice made from the chili pepper family. Grind up dried chili peppers (capsicum) into a fine dust and you’ll have paprika.

Perhaps best known for its liberal use in Hungarian cooking (as in the paprika-spiced stew, goulash), paprika is enjoyed by many different cultures for its kick of flavor and bright color.

Just like the peppers it comes from, paprika can be sweet and mild, medium-spicy, or hot.

Hot smoked paprika is another variation. In Spain, for example, smoked Paprika is called pimentón and is a primary ingredient in chorizo sausage.

Identification

The texture of paprika is very fine (unlike chili flakes, which also come from dried chili peppers).

This dried spice is a deep orange-red color. If used in high quantities it can color an entire dish. Sprinkled liberally, it can add an exciting pop of color to otherwise pale foods (like chicken or potatoes).

The color of paprika can vary depending on type. Smoked paprika, for example, has a deeper, richer color than regular paprika.

Nutrition Info

1 tsp of paprika contains 6 calories, 0.3g of protein, 0.3g of fat, 1.2g of carbohydrates, 0.8g of fiber, and 0.2g of sugar.

The deep red color of paprika does more than look pretty: it also comes packed with carotenoids and vitamin A.

Paprika also offers vitamin E, vitamin B6, iron, riboflavin, niacin, potassium, and is even packed with fiber.

Selection

If buying in a package, check for the date the spices were packaged: technically, the spices may last indefinitely, but flavor tends to dwindle significantly after 6 months.

If buying bulk, choose from a supplier that sells a lot of spices (in other words, where turnover is high and the bulk spices aren’t sitting out for months at a time).

Paprika should be fragrant and brightly colored. If it smells dull or musty, or the color looks flat, don’t buy it.

Storage

Store your spices in an airtight container and keep them in a cool, dark place, such as the pantry. Avoid keeping them over the stove where heat and moisture can affect their flavor and longevity. Never refrigerate dried spices.

Preparation

Paprika can be used as part of your usual seasoning: add it along with salt and pepper to your meat or vegetables for an extra hit of flavor, color, and nutrients. Or, get creative and use paprika in your spice rubs, barbecue sauces, and marinades.

Paprika is an excellent spice to enliven mild tasting foods. It works great as a dry rub for chicken, pork chops, or tofu. Try dusting it onto roasted potatoes or corn-on-the-cob. Mix it into your macaroni and cheese. Stir it into your chowder. Or add it to a spicy tomato sauce paired with poached eggs.

(Tip: next time you make a grilled cheese sandwich, try swapping out your usual cheddar for some Spanish Manchego cheese. Brush the bread with olive oil and dust with garlic powder and smoked paprika. Grill until cheese is melted. Enjoy!)


Perhaps obvious: Smoked paprika is paprika that has been smoked.

Paprika is made from peppers in the Capsicum annuum family, which can include sweet peppers like bell peppers, as well as hot peppers like chili peppers. Depending on the type and combination of peppers used, paprika can be gentle and sweet or robust and spicy.

Smoked paprika is made by drying peppers over smoking oak wood. Over a period of about ten to 15 days, the hot air and smoke both help to evaporate the moisture in the peppers, as well as to impart a wonderful smoky flavour. Once the drying process is complete, the peppers are milled into a fine powder, and packaged.

In Spain, smoked paprika is called pimentón. This spice is a staple in Spanish cuisine, and is a crucial element of traditional dishes like paella and chorizo, where pimentón is added for both flavor and color.

Identification

Smoked paprika is a fine powder with a deep, warm red hue.

Depending on the types of peppers used, smoked paprika will either be mild and sweet (often labeled as dulce), warm and pungent (agridulce), or hot and spicy (picante). Note that even the picante varieties will not have the tongue-torching effect of cayenne or hot pepper flakes, and is rather just pleasantly warming.

In all cases, whatever the pepper used, smoked paprika will have a wonderful smoky, slightly charred savoriness, which comes from the way the peppers are dried over smoking oak wood.

Nutrition Info

Smoked paprika, in the amounts typically consumed, is not a significant source of any nutrients.

However, relative to its weight, smoked paprika is rich in a variety of carotenoids (compounds part of the vitamin A family), such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, lutein, beta-cryptoxanthin, capsanthin, and capsorubin.

Like most other spices, smoked paprika doesn’t necessarily “count” towards your macronutrient or micronutrient tallies, although it is still relatively nutrient rich, and of course adds flavor.

Selection

Smoked paprika is most often sold in metal tins, although it may also be found in glass jars, sachets, or loose in bulk bins.

However you choose to purchase it, shop at stores with a high turnover. Spices that stay on the shelves for long periods of time lose flavor and potency.

Fresh smoked paprika should have wonderfully smoky and pungent aroma, and a deep red colour.

Storage

Keep smoked paprika in a sealed container at room temperature, ideally away from heat and light, such as a closed cupboard or drawer away from the oven.

Smoked paprika won’t so much “go bad” as it will lose potency, which occurs after about six to eight months.

Preparation

Paprika is delicious sprinkled over cooked eggs or soft cheeses, and goes very well with chicken, pork, or white fish. It is also a natural match with potatoes or any tomato-based dish.

Heating can enhance paprika’s flavor, but be careful because it burns easily. To avoid burning the spice, heat it over low heat, add some olive oil, and limit frying it to less than one minute. Otherwise, paprika can be added to roasted, pan-fried, or stewed vegetables or meats.


Turmeric is a member of the ginger family, which grows in the forests of South and Southeast Asia. It is commonly used as a dried, ground spice, especially in South Asian cuisine.

Identification

As a dried spice, turmeric is usually ground into a fine powder that has a bright yellow color. In fact, it’s turmeric that gives curry its recognizable yellow color. Because turmeric imparts its signature color to fingers and cooking utensils, its best to wash your hands and cooking utensils soon after cooking to avoid stain.

Nutrition Info

One tbsp. of turmeric contains 29 calories, 0.9g of protein, 0.3g of fat, 6.3g of carbohydrates, 2.0g of fibre, and 0.3g of sugar.

Turmeric contains B vitamins and vitamin C. Turmeric also contains the active ingredient curcumin, which is considered an antioxidant.

Note: Turmeric is used in some traditional healing practices. For example, in ayurvedic medicine, turmeric is used as an antiseptic. In Western medicine, turmeric is being evaluated for medicinal properties but no conclusive evidence is widely accepted yet.

Selection

Dried turmeric can be found in the spice aisle of most supermarkets, in a sealed jar or bag. If possible, check the date on the container for freshness. If buying in bulk, check for a bright color and a strong, bright (not musty or dusty) scent.

Fresh turmeric can sometimes be found at Asian or Indian markets or well-stocked health food stores. Fresh turmeric looks similar to ginger, but with an orange color. Store fresh turmeric in a plastic bag or covered container in the fridge. You can treat fresh turmeric much as you would fresh ginger: mince, peel, or grate it into dishes, or add slices to hot water for tea.

Storage

Keep turmeric in a sealed container at room temperature, away from heat. Like most dried spices, it will start to lose its best flavor after 6-8 months.

Fresh turmeric can be stored in the fridge for up to three weeks if it is left unpeeled.

Preparation

Add turmeric to curries, soups, sauces, and dry BBQ rubs, as you would other spices.

To enhance the turmeric flavor in a dish, try the dry toasting method: in a sauté pan on low heat, add a tsp of dried turmeric, and stir with a wooden spoon. When the spice smells fragrant, remove from heat, or continue with your recipe. This dry toasting method will emphasize the flavor and scent.

Legumes Knowledge Base


Black turtle beans (often simply referred to as “black beans”) are a common dry bean.

Originally native to Mexico, today Brazil and India grow the most black beans. They continue to be a staple food in Latin American cuisines, including a classic dish called “frijoles negros” — which literally means “black beans”.

Black beans are also a star player in vegetarian cooking because of their meaty texture and protein content.

They’re available in their dried form, and ready-to-eat in cans.

Identification

Black beans are a small, oval-shaped dried bean.

As you’d expect, they are black in color, though cooked beans have a slightly purplish hue. Dried black beans have a deep, dark color.

Nutrition Info

One half-cup of black beans (boiled without salt) contains about 114 calories, 7.62 grams of protein, 0.46 grams of fat, 20.39 grams of carbohydrates, 7.5 grams of fiber, and 0.28 grams of sugar.

Black beans are considered a nutritional powerhouse due to the mix of fiber, protein, carbohydrates, and vitamins and minerals that they possess: they’re a good source of thiamin, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, and iron, and a very good source of folate.

Selection

You can buy black beans dried (usually in a bag, found in the dry goods section of your supermarket among other legumes and lentils), or in a can.

Canned black beans are pre-cooked, meaning they are ready to eat or include in a recipe. Because dried beans typically require pre-soaking (about 8 hours), canned beans can be a quick alternative.

If using canned beans, check the ingredients first. Choose beans that contain as few other ingredients as possible. Canned beans usually contain salt; look for a no-salt or low-salt variety, if you can.

Dried beans should look dry, with no signs of moisture or mold. The beans should look uniform.

Storage

Whether dried or canned, store black beans in a pantry or similar cool, dry place. Dried beans will often last up to a year. For canned beans, heed the expiry date.

Once cooked, black beans will last several days in the fridge in a sealed container. If, after a few days, they smell or taste funny, discard them.

Preparation

Dried beans must be pre-soaked before you can cook with them. This will make them more palatable (softening their texture) as well as make them easier to digest.

To prepare dried black beans, start by rinsing the beans you plan to cook. Pick through the beans and remove any that look ‘off’ or any detritus that doesn’t belong.

Next, put the beans in a large bowl or pot and cover them with cold water. Soak the beans for 8 hours or overnight. Then, drain the beans, discard of the soaking liquid and rinse with fresh, cool water. Place the beans in a large cooking pot and cover the beans with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to low and bring to a simmer (you should barely see the water moving). For firmer beans, used in cold salads for example, leave the pot uncovered; for creamier beans, used in soups or burritos for example, cover the pot with the lid just slightly ajar. Cook for an hour and check for tenderness. If the beans aren’t tender yet, leave them on a bit longer. Note: Throughout cooking, be sure to add water as needed to keep the beans submerged. Once the beans are tender, remove from heat and drain cooking liquid. The beans are now ready to eat or to use in a recipe.

For canned black beans, simply rinse them before using. They are now ready to be eaten, cold or hot, or included in your favorite recipe.

Black beans have a relatively mild flavor that pairs well with bright and spicy flavors: think cilantro, chili, onion, and garlic.

Black beans make a great soup — because of their dense, meaty texture, they work well in a puree. They’re great in Tex-Mex style dishes such as chili, tacos, burritos, or nachos along with — or in place of — meat. Or include them in your next salad. (Hint: avocado, mango, black beans and cilantro is a winning combination.)


Cannellini beans are large white beans (sometimes known as white kidney beans) that are part of the common bean family. They are popular in Italian cuisine, particularly in Tuscan dishes.

Identification

Cannellini beans are ivory-white, with a firm texture, and about a half inch long. They can be purchased dried, in bags or bulk, or pre-cooked in cans.

Nutrition Info

One cup of cannellini beans, boiled and cooked without salt, contains 225 calories, 15.4g of protein, 0.9g of fat, 40.4g of carbohydrates, and 0.6g of sugar.

Cannellini beans contain a wealth of B vitamins, including B12. They also provide iron, potassium, zinc, and other essential minerals.

Selection

If buying in bulk, choose beans that are plump, smooth, white, and evenly colored.

When choosing canned cannellini beans, look for minimum salt or other added ingredients.

If buying a can or package of beans, check the expiry date before purchase. Typically canned beans will last 2-3 years and dried beans will last up to a year.

Storage

Store beans in a cool dry place, away from sunlight or dampness, such as a pantry.

Keep soaked beans or un-used portions of canned beans in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Preparation

If using dried beans, start by pre-soaking the beans overnight. In a large bowl or pot, soak 1 cup of beans in 4 cups of water for about 12 hours. This step is important to make the beans’ nutrients accessible and make them more digestible. (Without soaking they could cause gastronomic distress.)

Tip: Make sure there is lots of room in your bowl remaining, after you have put the beans and water in. The beans will expand quite a bit during soaking; make sure there is enough room in the bowl for the beans to expand without overflowing.

Once properly soaked, drain and thoroughly rinse the beans.  Now your beans are ready to be cooked. Put your soaked and rinsed beans into a large pot. Add enough water to the pot to completely cover the beans. Next, bring the water to a boil, scooping off any foam that forms. Boil for 10 minutes. Scoop the foam off again, then add just a little salt, and simmer gently with the pan lid half on for 1 to 1.5 hours, until tender. Keep an eye on the water level, and add more if necessary.

If using canned beans, pour the contents into a colander and rinse thoroughly.

Cooked cannellini beans have a creamy texture. Once soaked, they may be added to soup such as Pasta E Fagioli or minestrone, included in a salad, pureed in a hummus-like dip, or slow-cooked and served as a side dish. 


Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are one of the most widely used legumes.

Identification

Chickpeas are small and round. They come in a variety of colors including green, black, brown, red, and beige. The most popular and recognized color is beige. Chickpeas have a buttery texture and a slightly nutty taste.

Nutrition Info

One cup of cooked chickpeas has about 269 calories, 14.5g of protein, 45.0g of carbohydrates, 12.5g of fiber, 8g of sugar, and 4.3g of fat.

Chickpeas are rich in vitamins A, K, and folate. They are also a good source of minerals including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.

Selection

Chickpeas can be purchased dried or canned. Dried chickpeas can be found in your supermarket in bulk or prepackaged. When selecting dried chickpeas, inspect the beans to make sure they are whole, unblemished, and have no moisture damage.

If buying canned chickpeas, check the ingredients and select a brand with the lowest amount of sodium. Choose a can that isn’t dented or damaged in any way.

Storage

Dried chickpeas can be stored in a cool dry place, in an airtight container for up to 12 months. Once cooked, they can be stored in the fridge, in an airtight container for 3-5 days.

Unopened, canned chickpeas can be stored up to the expiration date on the can (usually about 1 year). Once open, the canned chickpeas will last for 3-5 days in an airtight container kept in the fridge.

Preparation

Dried chickpeas must be soaked before cooking. To do this, place the chickpeas in a large bowl that will allow the legumes to expand to about double their dried size. Cover the chickpeas completely with cold water and let them soak for about 12 hours.

Once the chickpeas have soaked, drain the water, put the chickpeas into a strainer, and rinse them very well. Next, transfer the chickpeas to a large cooking pot. Add water (follow a 2:1 ratio, with twice as much water as there are chickpeas.) Cover and simmer for about 1 hour, until the chickpeas are tender when poked with fork. Drain the water and allow the chickpeas to cool for about 15 minutes. Once cooled they are ready to use in the recipe of your choice.

If canned, simply open the can and pour the contents of the can into a strainer. Rinse the chickpeas very well. Once rinsed, they are ready to use in the recipe of your choice.

Chickpeas make an excellent addition to salads, soups, and curries. For example: try adding them cold to a chopped salad for added protein and texture, or stirring them into a minestrone soup.

They are also commonly prepared as hummus, which blends together a purée of chickpeas, tahini, garlic, and lemon into a creamy dip.


Lentils are a type of legume that have a rich and nutty flavor. They grow in pods that contain one or two seeds each.

Identification

There are several different lentil varieties. All varieties are fairly small, growing to no more than ¼ of an inch in diameter. Lentils can be round, oval, or heart shaped, and colored brown, black, green, red, or orange. The most common varieties in North America are brown, green, and red. Brown and green lentils tend to hold their shape best when cooked.

Nutrition Info

One cup of cooked lentils has about 230 calories, 17.9g of protein, 39.9g of carbohydrates, 15.6g of fiber, 3.6g of sugar, and 0.8g of fat.

Lentils are rich in folate, niacin, and vitamin E. They are also a good source of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.

Selection

Lentils are sold dried or canned and you’ll find them in your grocery store or health food store. When selecting lentils, make sure that their packaging is not damaged. For dried lentils, you also want to make sure that no moisture has seeped into the packaging.

Storage

Dried and canned lentils can be stored in your cupboard for up to a year.

Cooked lentils can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. Cooked lentils can also be stored in the freezer for up to six months, but note that freezing them might affect their texture when reheated.

Preparation

To prepare canned lentils, simply open the can, pour them into a strainer, and then rinse the lentils very well. You can then use the lentils as directed by your recipe, or add them to any dish for extra flavor, texture, and nutrition.

To prepare dried lentils, put them into a strainer and rinse them very well. Next, add 1.5 cups of water to a pot for every 1 cup of dried lentils that you want to cook. Bring the water to a boil and add the lentils. Boil for 2 to 3 minutes and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the lentils until they are tender. Green and brown lentils take approximately 45 minutes to cook while red lentils take only 25.

Fun fact: Unlike most other beans or legumes, dried lentils do not require soaking before cooking. So if you’re in a hurry, lentils are your friend.


Lupini beans, also called lupins, are the seeds of the lupinus plant.

These legumes contain a high alkaloid content, making them very bitter and even toxic to eat without the proper preparation. However, if cooked correctly, they can be both nutritious and tasty.

A traditional food of the Mediterranean, lupini beans are sometimes eaten pickled as a snack. In Italy, they are considered a treat at Christmas.

Identification

Lupini beans look somewhat similar to lima beans — they are of similar size, have a flat, oval shape, and are yellowish in color.

The legume has a hard outer skin or husk, which is edible and contains the more palatable, softer bean inside.

Nutrition Info

One 1 cup (166g) of lupini beans, cooked and boiled without salt, contains approximately 198 calories, 26 grams of protein, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fat, and 5 grams of fiber.

Lupini beans contain generous amounts of manganese, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. They also offer folate and vitamin A.

Note that while lupini beans naturally contain only a small amount of sodium, the prepared canned variety can be quite heavy on the salt. One popular brand contains 960mg of sodium per ½ cup serving (that’s 41.7% of the 2300mg upper limit intake recommended by the CDC).

Selection

Look for lupini beans with other canned beans / legumes in a well-stocked supermarket.

You may also spot them in Portuguese or Italian markets, where you may find them pickled, in a jar or vacuum sealed bag, and ready to eat.

As noted, it’s best to be aware of the sodium content when buying canned lupini beans. Because lupini beans may be soaked in a salt-water solution to rid them of bitterness, they do retain quite a bit of sodium. When selecting canned lupini beans, check the sodium content on the can first.

Note: you may be able to find  ‘sweet’ lupini beans – a variety that is less alkalide and requires less soaking to become palatable.

Storage

As usual with canned beans, use before the expiry date. If using dried beans, store them in a cool, dark place. Make sure they are properly marked so they do not get confused with another type of bean, since lupini beans are toxic if not cooked correctly.

Once a can is opened or lupini beans are soaked and prepared, they will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Preparation

If using canned lupini beans, thoroughly rinse the beans before eating. (While this is a good tip for all canned beans, it is especially important with lupini beans, given their high salt content. You won’t be able to rinse away all the salt but you may be able to reduce it by close to half the amount.)

If using dried beans, you will need to pre-soak them. Recipes for soaking vary: some suggest soaking in water for two weeks, others propose a salt-water solution for one to two weeks, and still others recommend boiling the beans before the soaking process.

The simplest method is to soak the beans in cold water, changing the water daily, for at least a week. Over time, the alkaloids will dissolve into the water and the beans will become softer and less bitter. How long you soak the beans will depend on your personal preference: the longer they soak, the less bitter and firm they will be.

Once finished soaking, you can eat the beans raw, but they will be quite firm. Most people prefer to cook the beans. One tasty method is to slow cook them with garlic and olive oil. You may also try marinating them in spices, herbs and olive oil, or pickling them.

The prepared beans can be added to salads or enjoyed on their own as a side dish or snack.

You can eat the beans with the skin on, but if you prefer a softer texture, tear the tough skin lightly with your teeth, and pop the inner bean into your mouth.


Peanuts: You either love ‘em, or you have a deathly allergy to them.

Peanuts are one of the most common allergens today, and one of the most common causes of food-related deaths.

But if your immune system is cool with them, peanuts are pretty delicious.

Commonly referred to as a nut, the peanut is actually a legume that grows underground. During harvesting, the leafy portion of the peanut plant is pulled out, taking mature peanut pods and roots with it. After the plants are uprooted and inverted, the peanut “bushes” are left to dry roots-up in the sun for a period of three to four days. Then, the peanut pods are separated from the bush and transferred to a drying trailer, where warm air is circulated to further dry the peanuts. (Peanuts contain 25-50% moisture when they are first dug up, and must contain less than 10% moisture in order to be stored without risk of spoiling.) Once they are sufficiently dried, the peanuts are distributed to various manufacturers where they will be processed a little (like a bag of roasted, in-shell peanuts) or a lot (like a candy bar featuring a sticky ribbon of peanut caramel).

Whether you are a child, a broke college student, or a fully-matured adult, there is probably a well-frequented jar of peanut butter in your life. Peanuts and their products are ubiquitous, although rising rates of severe peanut allergies have meant that peanuts are often prohibited from schools, and although they were a common snack offering of yesteryear, are rarely served on planes, trains, or in medical facilities.

Peanuts are also referred to as groundnuts or goobers, and was a favorite food (in butter form, on a sandwich, with a banana) of both Elvis Presley and former president Bill Clinton.

Identification

Peanuts may come either in-shell or de-shelled, or ground into a creamy or crunchy butter.

Peanuts and peanut products have a rich, nutty, and slightly starchy flavor, and are somewhat similar in taste to roasted sunflower seeds.

In their shell, peanuts typically come in two’s per pod. The peanut shell is a beige-colored, wrinkled pod with a cinched waist, and is easy to break open with your hands. If you are lucky, you may come across a pod that contains three peanuts, or less lucky, one peanut.

The peanut itself is caramel-colored, oval-shaped, and may have a papery reddish-brown covering (which is edible, although often removed). The nut has a seam that runs down the middle, making it easy to split into halves.

In butter form, peanut butter made from 100% peanuts will be thick, creamy, and slightly runny. Natural peanut butters, which will be free of emulsifiers and stabilizers, may separate, meaning the oil may separate from the solid matter and seep to the top. This is normal and may be rectified with some vigorous stirring. Another option is to store the jar in the fridge, upside down. As soon as you bring your jar of natural peanut butter (or other natural nut butter) home from the store, put it in the fridge upside down for easy spreading and no stirring.

Peanut butter comes in two ways: smooth or crunchy. Note that the “crunchy vs. smooth” debate is often a heated and emotional topic. When preferences diverge, it’s safer for friendships and marriages to just buy one jar of each.

Nutrition Info

One ounce of dry roasted, unsalted peanuts (about 28g) has 166 calories, 6.9g protein, 14.1g of fat, 6g of carbohydrates, 2.4g fiber, and 1.4g sugar.

Two tablespoons (about 32g) of smooth, unsalted, natural peanut butter has 190 calories, 9.0g protein, 16.0g of fat, 6.0g of carbohydrates, 2.0g fiber, and 2.0g sugar.

Peanuts and peanut butter (made from 100% peanuts) are an excellent source of manganese and niacin, and a good source of folate, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin E.

You may have heard that peanuts contain a toxic chemical called aflatoxin. Aflatoxin is a compound that is produced by mold, and is present in trace amounts in a variety of nuts and grains. Although it is impossible for a peanut product to be completely free of aflatoxin, acute aflatoxin poisoning is extremely rare, and only occurs when peanuts have been improperly stored.

Selection

Peanuts are nearly ubiquitous, and you can find them almost everywhere, from large gourmet health food stores to small neighborhood convenience stores. (In all cases, shop at stores with high product turnover, and always consult the best before date on the package.)

That being said, not all available peanut products are created equal. Many peanut products may be heavily salted, artificially flavored, roasted in poor quality oils, and/or coated with sugar. In the case of peanut butter, many brands add emulsifiers and sugar, changing both the texture and nutritional value of the original product.

In the case of whole peanuts, choose either peanuts that are still in their shell, or shelled and dry roasted. If you are someone who is sensitive to sodium, you may want to select unsalted varieties.

When purchasing peanuts, look for specimens that, whether in-shell or shelled, are free of signs of shriveling, discoloration, or moldiness. If they still have their shell, choose nuts that have shells free of cracks, scars, or tiny wormholes. The peanuts themselves should be crunchy and dry. If they are rubbery or rancid smelling, pass them over.

In the case of peanut butter, look at the ingredients. The simplest, most natural options should contain only one or two ingredients: peanuts, and (optionally) salt.

Many health food stores and bulk food stores have peanut butter grinders where you can grind whole peanuts yourself into a container. While this is a fun way to obtain freshly ground peanut butter, these machines are susceptible to bacterial and mold contamination, so make sure the store you are shopping at cleans their machines regularly.

As noted above, be aware that natural peanut butters will often come with a layer of oil at the top. This is normal, and occurs when the oil from the peanuts separates from the solid matter, and can be remedied by stirring the product until the oil has been re-incorporated into the solids.

Storage

Like most nuts, due to their high oil content, peanuts and peanut products can be prone to rancidity so are best stored in cool environments, such as the fridge or a cool, dry cupboard, where they will keep for about six months. Stored in the freezer, whole peanuts will store for up to a year.

In the case of peanut butter, follow the directions on the label, as storage instructions may vary from product to product. Generally, natural peanut butter should be consumed within three months if kept in a cool, dry cupboard, or six months if kept in the fridge.

Preparation

Depending on how they come, peanuts and peanut products are usually ready to eat and don’t require any special preparation. The only exception are peanuts still in their shell, which must be shelled before consuming. Shelling peanuts is best done on a sunny day at a baseball game.

Whole peanuts may be eaten as a snack by the handful, or sprinkled over salads or stir-frys. Peanut butter is a classic companion to toast or crackers, and is delicious in smoothies or just by the spoonful.

Take caution, however, when consuming large spoonfuls of peanut butter at once. It is immensely sticky, and like sinking in quicksand, you may only make matters worse if you furiously struggle against it. Stick to small mouthfuls, and stay calm.


Green peas are a type of legume that grow in inedible pods.

Identification

Green peas are small and round and encased in an inedible green pod. The pods measure about 2-3 inches in length and are filled with a single row of 2-10 light green coloured peas.

Nutrition Info

One cup of green peas has about 117 calories, 7.9g of protein, 21.0g of carbohydrates, 7.4g of fiber, 8.2g of sugar, and 0.6g of fat.

Green peas are rich in vitamins C, A, K, and folate. They are also a good source of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.

 

Selection

When purchasing fresh green peas, look for pods that are visibly loaded with peas and heavy in hand. Avoid yellow pods or those with wrinkled surfaces.

You can also buy canned or frozen green peas. If purchasing canned, make sure the can is not damaged and look for a low sodium variety. If buying them frozen, make sure the bag is not damaged or open, and that the peas are not frozen into one big clump.

Storage

Store fresh green peas in the fridge for 2-3 days. If you want to freeze your green peas, remove them from the pod and store them in an airtight container. Use frozen green peas within 6 months of freezing.

Preparation

First you will need to shell your peas. To do so, snap the top of the pod off and pull down to remove the string from the seam. Next, split the pod open and run your fingers along the interior to detach the peas. (It’s fun!)

Steaming: 

Once podded, add water to a saucepan and place a steamer basket overtop. Make sure that the water is below the bottom of the steamer basket. Place the fresh peas in the steamer basket and place the basket in the saucepan over the boiling water. Cover the saucepan with a lid and allow to steam 2 minutes. You’ll know the peas are done cooking when they are crisp, tender, and bright green. Remove the steamer basket from the saucepan and serve.

Boiling:

If you don’t have a steaming basket and prefer to boil the peas, simply bring water to a boil in a saucepan and add the peas. Boil for 2-3 minutes until crisp, tender, and bright green. Once done, drain the peas and enjoy!

Other cooking methods:

You can also stir-fry fresh peas, or microwave them in a bit of water.

Macronutrients Knowledge Base


Carbohydrates are made up of a collection of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen molecules. Sugars, starches, and fibers are all considered carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are typically classified by their general chemical structure and divided into three general groups of saccharides (from the Latin saccharum, or sugar) based on their level of complexity: monosaccharides, oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides.

Monosaccharides are the simplest form of carbohydrates since they contain only one sugar group. Oligosaccharides are short chains of monosaccharide units linked together in the form of disaccharides, trisaccharides, etc. The most common oligosaccharides are the disaccharides including maltose, sucrose, and lactose:

Maltose = glucose + glucose

Sucrose = glucose + fructose

Lactose = glucose + galactose

Polysaccharides are long, complex chains of linked monosaccharide units, which can be either straight or branched. Typically, when we refer to starches, glycogen, or fiber, we’re referring to polysaccharides.

Carbohydrate digestion breaks down more complex forms of carbohydrates (oligo- and polysaccharides) into the monosaccharides glucose, fructose, and galactose, for eventual release into the bloodstream in the form of glucose.

Importance

Glucose is essential to life. The brain and central nervous system prefer glucose for fuel and benefit from a continuously available supply.

Food Sources

Carbohydrate dominant foods include:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Grains
  • Beans/legumes.

Deficiencies

Since carbohydrates provide the body with energy, a deficiency can make you feel tired and sluggish.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Muscle loss
  • Physical weakness/lack of stamina
  • Poor immunity (you may find yourself getting sick a lot)
  • Delayed healing of wounds
  • Feelings of sadness/irritability/depression
  • In extreme cases, malnutrition or starvation.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Excess/Toxicity

Eating a surplus of carbohydrates can make you feel tired and sluggish, ‘foggy’ and unfocused, and/or even depressed.

Repeatedly eating too many carb-dense foods can put your body at risk of hypoglycemia, insulin resistance, and Type 2 Diabetes. In addition, you may experience weight gain, difficulty losing weight, or even obesity.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.


Fats are organic molecules made up of carbon and hydrogen elements joined together in long groups called hydrocarbons. The arrangement of these hydrocarbon chains, and their interaction with each other, determines fat type.

The simplest unit of fat is the fatty acid. Fatty acids are composed of simple hydrocarbon chains with special chemical groups at each end: a methyl group on one end and a carboxylic acid group at the other. There are two general types of fatty acids, based on the level of saturation (the number of hydrogens associated with each carbon along the hydrocarbon chain): saturated fatty acids and unsaturated fatty acids.

Unsaturated fatty acids can be broken down into monounsaturated fatty acids (in which only one carbon is unsaturated) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (in which more than one carbon is unsaturated).

The often-discussed omega-3 and omega-6 fats are both polyunsaturated fatty acids; the specific locations of unsaturated carbons along the fatty acid chain give them their name and different functions.

Fatty acids can be joined together to form what are called triglycerides. As the name implies, three fatty acids join together with a glycerol molecule to make up a triglyceride. Triglycerides are the major form of fat in the diet, and the major storage form of fat found in the body.

Importance

Dietary fat has six major roles:

  • It provides an energy source (in fact, it’s the most energy dense macronutrient)
  • It helps manufacture and balance hormones
  • It forms our cell membranes
  • It forms our brains and nervous systems
  • It helps transport the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K
  • It provides two essential fatty acids that the body can’t make: linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid), and linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid).

Most dietary fat comes in the form of triglycerides. Triglycerides contain three fatty acids attached to a glycerol backbone. So different fatty acids can join up to form various permutations of triglycerides.

In other words, most dietary fat sources are made up of some combination of saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fatty acids. For example, while most people consider eggs and red meat to be foods rich in saturated fat, eggs actually contain more monounsaturated fatty acids than saturated fatty acids. Indeed, 39% of the fat in eggs is saturated, while 43% comes from monounsaturated fat, and 18% from polyunsaturated fat. Beef contains 55% saturated fat, 40% monounsaturated fat, and 4% polyunsaturated fat.

Overall health is determined by the balance of fatty acids consumed. For example, saturated fat appears to be fine when refined carbohydrate intake is low and when a healthy intake of unsaturated fat is also present. Just don’t combine a diet low in unsaturated fat with one high in saturated fat, sugar, and refined carbohydrates (which, unfortunately, characterizes much of our modern North American diet).

Food Sources

Food sources of fat include the following:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Coconut
  • Avocado
  • Olives
  • Egg yolks.

Deficiencies

Some of our essential vitamins are fat-soluble, which means you need to eat some dietary fat in order for them to be properly absorbed into the body. A fat deficiency could in turn cause a deficiency in vitamins A, D, E and K.

A deficiency of essential fatty acids – Omega 3 and Omega 6 – could cause cognitive/brain development problems, vision impairment, skin problems, and delayed healing. There are also some links between Omega 3 fatty acids and mental health, so a fatty acid deficiency could lead to depression or other negative feelings.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Note: Most Americans are deficient in Omega 3 fatty acids.

 

Excess/Toxicity

Dietary fats – even healthy fats – tend to be highly caloric, so an abundance of fat-dense foods could lead to weight gain.

Eating a surplus of saturated fat could cause diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, and even certain types of cancer.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Note: Trans fats also need to be mentioned here. Trans fats are created through hydrogenation and are quite dangerous. A diet high in trans fats has been associated with a higher risk of alzheimer’s disease and lymphoma, suppression of the excretion of bile acids, increased liver cholesterol synthesis, competition for essential fat uptake, and exaggerated essential fatty acid deficiency. Even a single meal with a high trans fat content can diminish blood vessel function and elasticity, which can contribute to the progression of heart disease. But, when consuming a diet based on natural, unprocessed, whole foods, cumulating high amounts of harmful trans fat is nearly impossible.


When humans eat plants (be it fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, or seeds), nutrients like proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and others are digested and metabolized. However, there is a portion of plant matter that is indestructible, at least by a human gut’s standards. That portion is fiber.

Although fiber is not broken down by human digestive tracts, it is well known for its role in digestive health, and is important for general health overall.

Fiber, a type of complex carbohydrate, is broken down into two categories: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. These two types are distinguished by their ability to dissolve in liquid, and each have their own unique health benefits. Soluble and insoluble fiber can be further broken down into different types of fibers, such as lignin, inulin, resistant starch, cellulose, beta-glucans, and others.

Importance

Soluble fiber, as its name implies, is soluble and will absorb liquids. Soluble fiber often has a sticky, gel-like quality to it, which means it can function to bind to things like excess cholesterol as well as lubricate the bowels. Soluble fiber has prebiotic activity, which means it acts as food for probiotics, the good bacteria in our bodies. Soluble fiber also lowers the glycemic load of a food, so can also help to regulate blood sugar.

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in liquids. It has a rougher texture and adds bulk to food to help us feel satisfied. As it moves down the digestive tract, insoluble fiber also adds bulk to stool and aids in bowel movements.

Food Sources

Below is a list of food sources for both types of fiber. Note that some foods are found on both lists, as they contain a mix of soluble and insoluble fibers.

Soluble fiber is found in:

  • Some fruits like figs, avocados, plums, and bananas
  • Some vegetables like Jerusalem artichokes, carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, and onions
  • Grains and legumes
  • Nuts and seeds, like almonds, chia, flax, and psyllium

Insoluble fiber is found in:

  • Whole grains (insoluble fiber is found in the bran portion of a grain) and legumes
  • Some fruits and vegetables, particularly in the skins, or in more fibrous vegetables, such as celery or kale
  • Nuts and seeds

Deficiencies

A diet low in plant matter will likely lead to fiber deficiencies. Staunch carnivores beware!

Most health experts recommend getting between 21-38 grams of fiber (from combined types) a day. Although fiber supplements exist, the best way to increase your fiber is by eating plants, which, along with fiber, come with a host of other health-benefiting vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.

Signs that you may have a fiber deficiency:

  • Poor bowel regulation (either constipation or rapid transit time, i.e. loose bowels)
  • Poor appetite regulation (for example, not feeling satisfied after meals or becoming hungry soon after a meal)
  • Issues with blood sugar or cholesterol management

Excess/Toxicity

While fiber in excess is not toxic, it is uncomfortable. Commonly, too much fiber in the diet will manifest as gastrointestinal discomfort. Poor appetite, gas, bloating, constipation, and / or diarrhea may all be signs of too much fiber.


Proteins are made up of carbon and hydrogen molecules arranged in specific ways. Proteins also contain nitrogen as part of their amino group.

The smallest unit of protein is the amino acid. All amino acids have four main characteristics:

  1. An amino group (NH2) on one end
  2. A carboxyl group (COOH) on the other end
  3. A central carbon (called the alpha carbon)
  4. A side chain (R group), which differentiates one amino acid from another

When amino acids are joined together, they form what are called peptides or peptide chains. These peptide chains, or groupings of amino acids, make up the primary protein structure.

But most proteins aren’t just long chains of amino acids. Rather, these chains form secondary, tertiary, and quaternary structures. While each protein is considered a separate sub-unit, the entire protein structure (whether secondary, tertiary, or quaternary), is necessary for optimal function within the body.

Most proteins come in complex secondary, tertiary, and quaternary formation. However, because these proteins are digested into small peptides and amino acids, we evaluate protein quality based on amino acid content, not structural formations. In other words, in the diet, the primary structure, or the unique grouping of amino acids, is the most important.

The body has the ability to make 12 amino acids, known as non-essential amino acids. However, 8 amino acids can only be supplied by the diet. That’s why we call them essential amino acids.

Importance

Amino acids that make up our proteins are responsible for:

  • Our structure (contractile proteins, fibrous proteins)
  • Our hormones (most of the non-steroid hormones)
  • Our enzymes
  • Our immune chemicals (immunoglobulins and antibodies)
  • Our transport proteins

Food Sources

Protein dominant foods include:

  • Meat (e.g. turkey, chicken, fish, beef, etc.)
  • Eggs
  • Beans/legumes (e.g. lentils, chickpeas, black beans, white beans, etc.)

Deficiencies

Protein is key in muscle-building, so if you’re not getting adequate protein you may find it difficult to build or maintain muscle mass, and you may feel weak or tired.

Other symptoms of a low-protein diet may include:

  • Hair loss
  • Cracking, brittle nails
  • Flaky, dry skin
  • Poor immunity
  • Feelings of lethargy, or irritability
  • Difficulty keeping warm
  • Headaches
  • Stomach discomfort

An extreme, sustained lack of protein is called Kwashiorkor, a form of undernutrition, which can lead to critical health issues and even death.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Excess/Toxicity

Too much protein can cause the following health concerns:

  • Hyperaminoacidemia (an excess of amino acids)
  • Hyperammonemia (an excess of ammonia)
  • Hyperinsulinemia (nausea from an excess of insulin)

A regular excess of protein could also lead to increased calorie consumption, which could cause weight gain.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Note: Protein toxicity is a risk for those with impaired kidney function. In this case, protein toxicity could lead to kidney failure and even death. If you have kidney disease/renal failure, get help from your doctor and/or dietician to understand how much protein is appropriate for you. 


Associated with all things good and delicious, our bodies have a natural gravitational pull towards sweetness.

We have biology to thank for that.

Humans, particularly young, growing humans, have an innate preference for sweetness because in the natural world, sweet things are typically calorie dense (and therefore favorable to encouraging growth and providing energy) and less likely to be poisonous. We are hard-wired, especially as children, to like sugar, and although there is some wisdom to this instinct, our sugar cravings often go unchecked. Compared to our ancestors, we live in a world where sugar is far more abundant and far less energy is required to obtain it, and therefore, we’ve begun to run into some problems. Namely, too much sugar.

The term sugar describes a variety of molecular configurations:

  • Monosaccharides, also known as simple sugars, include the sugars fructose, glucose, and galactose.
  • Disaccharides are compound sugars and they are created when two monosaccharides bind together. Disaccharides include the sugars lactose, maltose, and sucrose.

Some also use the term sugar to describe ingredients like granulated sugar, honey, maple syrup, high fructose corn syrup, or any other sugar-rich sweetener.

Sugar is present, in some quantity, in most of the foods we eat. In some cases, such as in root vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, sugar is naturally occurring. In other cases, such as in pop, candy, baked goods, processed cereals, condiments, and many other foods, sugar has been added.

As we will discuss, there is a big difference between these two sources.

Importance

Sugar, which is a form of carbohydrate, is quite easily broken down through digestion and metabolism and converted into glucose, which is the body’s key source of energy.

While it is possible to convert other macronutrients like protein into glucose in the absence of carbohydrates, this conversion is a bit more metabolically taxing than simply consuming carbohydrates, and most people feel best when their diet includes some sources of naturally occurring sugars.

However, foods with naturally occurring sugars are very different from foods with added sugars.

Avoiding all foods with naturally occurring sugars would be very difficult, and would likely lead to major nutritional deficiencies, because many of those foods also come with essential nutrients. However, minimizing foods with added sugars, which are usually processed and low in nutrients, would probably be one of the healthiest dietary changes one could make (which isn’t to say it wouldn’t be difficult).

While the sugar that comes in the form of whole foods is part of a healthy diet, the sugar that comes in processed foods and drinks devoid of nutrition is just, well, sweet empty calories.

Food Sources

Naturally occurring sugars are found in nearly all plant foods, perhaps most obviously in fruits (because they are sweet). In addition to whole fruits, vegetables, legumes, and some nuts and seeds, sugar is also found in dairy. Sugar also comes in concentrated forms in a variety of foods such as honey, dried fruits, and fruit juices.

As we move along the continuum of food processing, sugar is also available in semi-processed forms such as maple syrup, coconut sugar, agave nectar, and plain old (not white) sugar (often derived from either sugarcane or sugar beets). Even these forms of sugar contain trace amounts of minerals and nutrition.

However, as sugar is processed further into neutral-tasting white granules, powder, or clear syrups, all of the nutrition has been removed. This is typically the form of sugar that is found in most processed, commercial foods and drinks, and is likely the most harmful to health when consumed in substantial amounts (more than about 5-10% of total daily food intake).

Take away: The best sources of sugar come from minimally processed whole foods.

Deficiencies

When sugar is consumed in the form of a whole food, we also consume a range of other nutritious compounds that come with it. For example, the sugar that naturally occurs in blueberries also comes with vitamin C, fiber, and many other health-promoting phytochemicals.

In other words, when sugar is “packaged” inside of a whole food, we also get the benefit of all the known (and unknown!) nutritious compounds that are present in the whole food.

So, while sugar in itself isn’t necessary, the foods through which we consume sugar are. If we were to eliminate all foods with naturally occurring sugars (which would mean all fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes, and dairy), we would also eliminate many primary sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Excess/Toxicity

In the right amounts, sugar is simply a form of energy. However, if sugar is eaten in excess of what the body requires for energy, it will begin to cause problems in the body.

Most benignly, excess sugar will be converted into stored energy in the body, ready to be used during a workout or a quick run for the bus. If sugar is chronically consumed in excess, it will be stored as fat. If sugar is consistently being consumed in excess and the body has begun to have trouble knowing what to do with it, sugar hangs around in the blood and can cause health problems such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular problems, and other health complications.

When people are told to cut down their sugar, it’s important to look at all sources of sugar in the diet. In most cases, complications stemming from excess sugar are due to the overconsumption of processed foods with added sugars such as sweet breakfast cereals, sugary frozen coffee beverages, pop, cookies, muffins, snack bars, sweetened yogurt, candy, and desserts, among others. However, in very rare cases it may be particular whole foods that are causing the problem.

So when cutting back on sugar beware not of the banana, but do re-think the packaged foods with added sugars that find themselves in your daily diet.

Micronutrients Knowledge Base


In order to understand what an antioxidant is, it helps to know what oxidation is.

At its most basic level, oxidation is the loss of electrons. And when a compound loses electrons, its properties change.

Let’s take some real-life examples:

An un-oxidized iron nail will be strong and have a dark silvery grey color. However, once it begins to oxidize, it will change color and begin to lose its structure, eventually turning to a reddish-brown powder. This all happens due to oxidation. In food, we can see oxidation in process when a fruit begins to brown. When you cut an apple, the flesh inside will start to turn brown very quickly due to a loss in electrons. Similarly, a rusting car is an oxidation process, as is digestion, as is exercise.

Oxidation causes the production of free radicals, which are unstable compounds that can cause damage, including cell or tissue damage. It is thought that this damage underlies the cause of many chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and others. It’s not that oxidation is bad, it’s just that when it’s rampantly unmanaged, it can be destructive.

Antioxidants are therefore (can you guess?) anti-oxidation. Antioxidants inhibit the oxidation process by “giving electrons”, thereby neutralizing free radical damage. Using one of the examples above, if you slice an apple then dust it with some powdered vitamin C (an antioxidant), the apple will resist browning.

The main categories of dietary antioxidants include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, and phenols. While selenium, zinc, manganese, and some other nutrients are often referred to as antioxidants, they don’t actually have antioxidant potential themselves, but rather act as co-factors in the antioxidant activity of other compounds.

Although antioxidants can include industrial chemicals as well as chemicals produced in the body, this entry concerns dietary antioxidants, which are the antioxidants that naturally occur in whole foods.

Importance

Oxidation is always occurring in the body. It is a natural by-product of digestion, exercise, excessive sun exposure, and the aging process. Oxidation can also be induced by exposure to toxins such as alcohol, cigarette smoke, and environmental pollutants.

Due to their ability to offset the oxidation process, dietary antioxidants ensure that we age well, resist disease, and recover properly, whether from exercise, an infection, a sunburn, or a scraped knee.

Because oxidation is always occurring, our need for antioxidants is ongoing. Luckily, antioxidants are abundant in whole foods, particularly in colorful plants. So as long as we keep eating a diet rich in antioxidants (read: plates covered in colorful plants), we can keep oxidation in check.

Food Sources

As mentioned, the best sources of antioxidants are found in colorful plants. Generally, the deeper pigmented the plant is, the more antioxidants it will have. For example, purple cabbage will have more antioxidants than regular cabbage, which is pale green.

Although there is a lot of overlap, certain foods are better sources than others for specific antioxidants.

Vitamin A

  • Can come in the form of retinol from animal sources, or can be synthesized from beta-carotene from plants
  • Fat-soluble
  • Good sources: Animal liver and cod liver oil; dark green, yellow, orange, or coral-colored plants (e.g. kale, collard greens, carrots, squash, mangos, oranges, goji berries, apricots, watermelon)

Vitamin C

  • Very heat sensitive so only present in raw or very lightly cooked plants
  • Water-soluble
  • Good sources: (raw) Red pepper, citrus fruits, leafy greens, berries (especially acerola cherries and a rare Amazonian berry called camu camu)

Vitamin E

  • Includes eight different compounds: four tocopherols (alpha, beta, delta, gamma) and four tocotrienols (alpha, beta, delta, gamma)
  • Fat-soluble
  • Good sources: Nuts, seeds, whole grains (particularly the germ portion, such as wheat germ), leafy greens

Carotenoids

  • Includes a number of compounds: alpha-carotene, astaxanthin, beta-carotene, canthaxanthin, lutein, lycopene, zeaxanthin
  • Good sources: Dark leafy greens, spirulina, tomatoes, guava, goji berries, salmon, squash, carrots, sweet potatoes

Phenols

  • Phenols, sometimes referred to as phenolic compounds, are a class of chemicals produced by plants. (They can also be produced synthetically or by microorganisms, but this article concerns the dietary variety which come from whole foods.) Although they are not considered essential nutrients, they do benefit health due to their antioxidant properties.
  • Good sources: Green tea, black tea, cocoa, red wine, berries, herbs / spices (e.g. turmeric, clove, oregano), vegetables, coffee, olives, extra virgin olive oil.

Deficiencies

While a person can become clinically deficient in the antioxidant vitamins [vitamin A (which includes carotenoids), vitamin C, and vitamin E], phenols are not considered essential so therefore deficiencies in them are not recognized.

A deficiency in either vitamin A, vitamin C, or vitamin E will manifest in unique symptoms (see the entry for the specific vitamin for more details), but a general lack of antioxidants in the diet may not exhibit such predictable patterns.

However, it is recognized that a lack of dietary antioxidants makes an individual more vulnerable to oxidative stress (unmanaged oxidation in the body), which is thought to underlie many disease processes.

It is still unclear what role supplements play in the management of oxidation. A good diet rich in antioxidants, however, is indisputably crucial for good health.

The best tip for “getting enough”? Turn your plate into a rainbow of colorful whole foods at every meal.

Excess/Toxicity

It is likely nearly impossible to get an excess of antioxidants through food alone. However, as mentioned, it is unclear what role supplements play in the management of oxidation.

Although they are thought of as “bad guys” by the masses, free radicals do actually serve a purpose in the body and oxidation should occur as a natural and healthy part of human metabolism.

Managing oxidation is about balance, not about making it go away completely, so before you start taking antioxidant supplements with abandon, thinking “more is better”, make sure you know what you’re doing.

Try a bowl of blueberries instead.


Calcium is the most common mineral in the human body. Parathyroid hormone, calcitonin, vitamin D, osteoblasts, and osteoclasts all help to maintain calcium levels in the body.

Importance

Calcium has many functions in the body including:

  • Regulating nerve impulse transmissions
  • Regulating muscle contractions
  • Regulating hormone secretions
  • Forming teeth and bone
  • Acting as a cofactor for enzymes.

Food Sources

Calcium can be found in several foods including:

  • Beans
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Broccoli
  • Almonds
  • Turnips
  • Dairy products
  • Rhubarb.

Deficiencies

Common symptoms and resulting conditions of calcium deficiency include:

  • Low bone mineral density
  • Rickets
  • Osteomalacia
  • Osteoporosis
  • Perioral numbness
  • Tetany.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Excess/Toxicity

Common symptoms of calcium excess/toxicity include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Kidney stones
  • Soft tissue calcification.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.


Chloride is an essential mineral for humans. On average, an adult human body contains approximately 115 grams of chloride, making up 0.15% of total body weight.

Importance

Chloride has many functions in the body including:

  • Maintaining an electrochemical gradient across cell membranes, which is important for nerve impulse transmission, cardiac function, and muscle contraction
  • Aiding in the digestion and absorption of many nutrients.

Food Sources

Chloride can be found in several foods including:

  • Whole grains
  • Whole fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Lean meats
  • Legumes
  • Nuts/seeds.

Deficiencies

Common symptoms and resulting conditions of chloride deficiency include:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Weaknees.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Note: chloride deficiency is rare and only occurs as a result of serious diarrhea, vomiting, or excessive fluid loss.

Excess/Toxicity

Common symptoms of chloride excess/toxicity include:

  • Increased fluid volume and edema
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Note: toxicity is rare and typically only occurs with impaired chloride metabolism or in kidney diseases.


Chromium is an essential mineral for humans. Since your body doesn’t produce it, you must obtain it through food (or supplements).

Importance

Chromium has many functions in the body including:

  • Enhancing the effects of insulin
  • Assisting in glucose and fat metabolism.

Food Sources

Chromium can be found in several foods including:

  • Broccoli
  • Potatoes
  • Whole grains
  • Meat
  • Apples
  • Green beans
  • Bananas
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Lettuce.

Deficiencies

Common symptoms and resulting conditions of chromium deficiency include:

  • Impaired glucose tolerance
  • Elevated circulating insulin.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Excess/Toxicity

Common symptoms of chromium excess/toxicity include:

  • DNA damage
  • Kidney failure.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Note: chromium toxicity is generally limited to industrial exposure. However, long-term supplement use may increase DNA damage.


Copper is an essential mineral for humans. Since your body doesn’t produce it, you must obtain it through food (or supplements).

Importance

Copper has many functions in the body including:

  • Playing a critical role in oxidation-reduction reactions and free radical scavenging
  • Assisting cytochrome oxidase with cellular energy
  • Helping with collagen and elastin cross-linking
  • Forming enzymes responsible for the synthesis and metabolism of neurotransmitters, as well as the formation/maintenance of myelin
  • Regulating genes and transcription factors associated with protein synthesis.

Food Sources

Copper can be found in several foods including:

  • Cashews
  • Crab
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Lentils
  • Hazelnuts
  • Mushrooms
  • Almonds
  • Cocoa powder
  • Nut butters
  • Soybeans
  • Barley
  • Chickpeas
  • Navy beans.

Deficiencies

Common symptoms and resulting conditions of copper deficiency include:

  • Hypochromic anemia unresponsive to iron therapy
  • Neutropenia and leucopenia
  • Hypo pigmentation of skin and hair.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Note: copper deficiency is rare. However, those at risk include premature infants, infants fed only cow’s milk formula, those with malabsorption syndromes, excessive zinc consumption, and antacid use.

Excess/Toxicity

Common symptoms of copper excess/toxicity include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Liver damage with long-term exposure.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.


Iodine is an essential mineral for humans. Since your body doesn’t produce it, you must obtain it through food (or supplements).

Importance

Iodine has many functions in the body including:

  • Forming T3 and T4 thyroid hormones.

Food Sources

Iodine can be found in several foods including:

  • Seaweed
  • Seafood (e.g. scallops, cod, shrimp, sardines, salmon, tuna)
  • Potatoes
  • Navy beans
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Strawberries.

Deficiencies

Common symptoms and resulting conditions of iodine deficiency include:

  • Impaired growth and neurological development
  • Decreased production of thyroid hormones
  • Hypertrophy of the thyroid.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Excess/Toxicity

Common symptoms of iodine excess/toxicity include:

  • Burning mouth, throat, and stomach
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Note: Iodine toxicity is rare and typically only occurs with very large doses.


Dietary sources of iron include two types: heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is better absorbed and comes mainly from the hemoglobin and myoglobin in meat, while non-heme iron is found in plant food. Vitamin C, organic acids, and meats enhance iron absorption. On the other hand, phytates, polyphenols, and soy protein reduce our ability to absorb iron.

Importance

Iron has many functions in the body including:

  • Helping to form hemoglobin (which stores about ⅔ of the body’s iron) and myoglobin, and assisting in the transport and storage of oxygen
  • Assisting in enzymatic activities responsible for increasing red blood cell formation, blood vessel growth, and production of anaerobic energy
  • Helping to form the cytochromes involved with cellular energy production and drug metabolism
  • Forming an essential constituent of hundreds of proteins and enzymes.

Food Sources

Iron can be found in several foods including:

  • Red meat (which includes dark-fleshed fish such as tuna, and poultry such as ostrich and duck)
  • Soybeans
  • Lentils
  • Spinach
  • Sesame seeds
  • Kidney beans
  • Potatoes
  • Molasses
  • Prunes
  • Cashews
  • Chickpeas
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Navy beans.

Deficiencies

Common symptoms and resulting conditions of iron deficiency include:

  • Anemia with small and pale red blood cells
  • Behavioral abnormalities (in children)
  • Spoon shaped nails that curl upwards (Koilonychia).

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Excess/Toxicity

Common symptoms of iron excess/toxicity include:

  • Acute vomiting, nausea, shock, and potentially death
  • Chronic increases in risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Note: Iron overdose is a common cause of poisoning in children.


Magnesium is an essential mineral for humans. Since your body doesn’t produce it, you must obtain it through food (or supplements). Magnesium is found primarily in the skeleton, but also in skeletal muscle and inside/outside of cells. Nearly 300 essential metabolic reactions rely on magnesium.

Importance

Magnesium has many functions in the body including:

  • Assisting in carbohydrate metabolism
  • Assisting in fat metabolism
  • DNA and protein synthesis
  • Activating transport of ions across cell membranes
  • Phosphorylation of second messengers
  • Cell migration and wound healing.

Food Sources

Magnesium can be found in several foods including:

  • Whole grains
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Soy beans
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Apricots
  • Cashews
  • Lima beans
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Salmon
  • Halibut
  • Navy beans
  • Black beans.

Deficiencies

Common symptoms and resulting conditions of magnesium deficiency include:

  • Hypokalemia.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Note: Magnesium deficiency is very rare due to the abundance of magnesium in foods. High intakes of zinc, fibre, and protein can decrease magnesium absorption, putting individuals at risk for deficiency. In addition, those with gastrointestinal disorders, kidney disorders, and alcoholism are at risk.

Excess/Toxicity

Common symptoms of magnesium excess/toxicity include:

  • Loose stools and/or diarrhea.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.


Manganese is an essential mineral for humans. Since your body doesn’t produce it, you must obtain it through food (or supplements). Manganese is a trace mineral present in tiny amounts in the body. It is found mostly in the bones, the liver, kidneys, and pancreas.

Importance

Manganese has many functions in the body including:

  • Assisting the antioxidant enzymes of the mitochondria
  • Working enzymatically to assist carbohydrate, amino acid, and cholesterol metabolism
  • Assisting in the synthesis of proteoglycans.

Food Sources

Manganese can be found in several foods including:

  • Pineapple
  • Whole wheat
  • Oats
  • Pecans
  • Brown rice
  • Spinach
  • Almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Beans
  • Green and black tea
  • Rye
  • Raspberries
  • Cloves.

Deficiencies

Manganese deficiency is not generally observed in humans.

However, if you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Excess/Toxicity

Manganese toxicity is generally from industrial exposure only.

If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.


Molybdenum is an essential mineral for humans. Since your body doesn’t produce it, you must obtain it through food (or supplements).

Importance

Molybdenum has many functions in the body including:

  • Acting as a cofactor for enzymes involved with carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur cycles as well as nucleotide breakdown and the metabolism of drugs/toxins.

Food Sources

Molybdenum can be found in several foods including:

  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Peas
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts.

Deficiencies

Molybdenum deficiency is very rare, but it can manifest as extreme sensitivities to smells.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Excess/Toxicity

Common symptoms of molybdenum excess/toxicity include:

  • Gout (in rare circumstances).

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.


Phosphorus is an essential mineral for humans. Since your body doesn’t produce it, you must obtain it through food (or supplements). Every cell in the body requires phosphorus for normal function.

Importance

Phosphorus has many functions in the body including:

  • Forming the structure of bones
  • Energy transfer (phosphorylation is essential)
  • Hormone production
  • Enzyme production
  • Cell signaling
  • Buffering acidity
  • Binding site activity for hemoglobin.

Food Sources

Phosphorus can be found in several foods including:

  • Whole grains
  • Brazil nuts
  • Eggs
  • Chickpeas
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Berries
  • Bananas
  • Tomatoes
  • Almonds
  • Lentils
  • Salmon
  • Halibut
  • Dairy.

Deficiencies

Symptoms of phosphorus deficiency are very rare. Populations at risk include premature infants, those who use antacids, those with alcoholism, and those with uncontrolled diabetes mellitus. In these individuals, symptoms include muscle weakness, fatigue, and tooth decay.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Excess/Toxicity

Phosphorus toxicity is very rare but may result in soft tissue calcification.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.


Phytochemicals are defined as non-nutritive (i.e. non-energy-providing) chemicals found in plants. Scientists have only isolated a few of these in the laboratory, but it is estimated that there are more than a thousand phytochemicals available in our food supply.

You’re probably familiar with some of them, including:

  • Resveratrol in grapes/grape skins
  • Isoflavones in soy
  • Lycopene in tomatoes
  • Lutein in spinach
  • Naringenin in grapefruit.

Importance

Phytochemicals can help the body ward off disease through various mechanisms. For example:

  • Many of them function as antioxidants, helping to scavenge free radicals. The oxidative damage from free radicals can exacerbate the progression of cancer and heart disease. An example of this would be carotenoids in yams, which function as antioxidants.
  • Phytochemicals may also influence hormonal function. An example of this would be the isoflavones found in soy and lignans in flax that can mimic estrogen in the body. There are also enzymes in the liver that can make estrogen less effective. These enzymes can be up-regulated by indoles, a phytochemical found in cruciferous vegetables.
  • Phytochemicals such as capsaicin, which makes peppers spicy, may help protect DNA from carcinogens.
  • Have you ever heard that garlic is anti-bacterial? That is due to allicin, a phytochemical found in garlic. Many other phytonutrients have antibacterial and antiviral abilities. For example, anthocyanins (red, purple, and/or blue plant pigments) found in many fruits can actually prevent the adhesion of pathogens to cell walls. And the proanthocyanidins found in cranberries can prevent the adhesion of pathogens to cell walls, potentially decreasing the incidence of urinary tract infections.

Food Sources

Phytochemicals are found throughout the rainbow of fruits and vegetables.

Deficiencies

Because phytochemicals are not essential to survival, you can get by without them. However, a lack of phytochemicals may mean an overall lack of nutrients, which could put you at greater risk of disease and illness.

On the other hand, phytochemicals can make you healthier and stronger. They will help you heal and recover faster, and look and feel better.

If you’re not feeling like your optimal, healthy self, eating a greater variety across the rainbow of fruits and vegetables can help significantly.

Excess/Toxicity

The more plant foods you consume, the better.

However, eating a surplus of a specific food or phytochemical can potentially have adverse side effects. Example: antioxidants have received “superfood” status lately, but getting carried away and “overdosing” on antioxidants could result in oxidative stress.

A megadose is more likely to occur if taking the phytochemicals in supplement form (pills, juices, powders, etc.). Eat whole plant foods and you shouldn’t have a problem.


Potassium is an essential mineral for humans. Since your body doesn’t produce it, you must obtain it through food (or supplements).

Importance

Potassium has many functions in the body including:

  • Maintaining an electrochemical gradient across cell membranes, which is necessary for nerve impulse transmission, cardiac function, and muscle contraction
  • Assisting in enzyme activity.

Food Sources

Potassium can be found in several foods including:

  • Swiss chard
  • Lima beans
  • Yams
  • Squash
  • Potatoes
  • Prunes
  • Raisins
  • Bananas
  • Artichokes
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Organ meats
  • Almonds
  • Avocado
  • Soybeans
  • Pinto beans
  • Lentils
  • Papaya.

Deficiencies

Common symptoms and resulting conditions of potassium deficiency include:

  • Cardiac arrhythmia, possibly leading to cardiac arrest
  • Muscle cramps.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Note: Potassium deficiencies are typically not a result of insufficient dietary intake. Instead, they’re usually caused by protein wasting conditions. Some diuretics can also cause excessive loss of potassium in the urine. 

Excess/Toxicity

Common symptoms of potassium excess/toxicity include:

  • Tingling of extremities
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Note: Toxicity occurs when the intake of potassium exceeds the capacity of the kidney for elimination. This is found with kidney failure and potassium sparing diuretics. Oral doses greater than 18 grams of potassium can also lead to toxicity.


Selenium is an essential mineral for humans. Since your body doesn’t produce it, you must obtain it through food (or supplements). Selenium is a mineral found in the soil and it naturally appears in water and some foods.

Importance

Selenium has many functions in the body including:

  • Acting in concert with selenoproteins, selenium-dependent enzymes
  • Assisting glutathione peroxidase in reducing reactive oxygen species
  • Interacting with nutrients involved in the antioxidant balance of the cell
  • Deiodination of T4.

Food Sources

Selenium can be found in several foods including:

  • Brazil nuts
  • Seafood
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Whole wheat
  • Walnuts
  • Milk
  • Mushrooms
  • Barley.

Deficiencies

Common symptoms and resulting conditions of selenium deficiency include:

  • Limited glutathione activity
  • Juvenile cardiomyopathy
  • Chondrodystrophy.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Excess/Toxicity

Common symptoms of selenium excess/toxicity include:

  • Dermatologic lesions
  • Hair and nail brittleness
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances
  • Skin rash
  • Fatigue
  • Nervous system abnormalities.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.


Sodium is an essential mineral for humans. Since your body doesn’t produce it, you must obtain it through food. Many foods naturally contain small amounts of sodium. And foods with salt as a flavour enhancer provide much higher amounts. Processed foods are often very high in sodium, and it can accumulate quickly in your body and pose a danger to your health. But diets based on whole, unprocessed foods aren’t likely to be too high in sodium.

Importance

Sodium has many functions in the body including:

  • Assisting in the absorption of chloride, amino acids, glucose, and water
  • Regulating extracellular fluid status, blood volume, and blood pressure
  • Maintaining the electrochemical gradient across cell membranes, which is necessary for nerve impulse transmission, cardiac function, and muscle contraction.

Food Sources

Sodium can be found in several foods including:

  • Whole grains
  • Whole fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Lean meats
  • Legumes
  • Nuts/seeds.

Deficiencies

Common symptoms and resulting conditions of sodium deficiency include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Disorientation.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Note: Sodium deficiency doesn’t typically result from low dietary intake. Low blood sodium is usually a consequence of increased fluid retention.

Excess/Toxicity

Common symptoms of sodium excess/toxicity include:

  • Increased fluid volume and edema
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Note: High blood sodium usually results from excessive water loss.


Vitamin A is the collective name for a group of fat-soluble vitamins. The most usable form is retinol. The carotenoids are precursors to vitamin A and are converted only when necessary.

Importance

Vitamin A has many functions in the body including:

  • Formation of visual pigments
  • Synthesis of proteins
  • Immune function and wound healing
  • Embryonic development
  • Stem cell differentiation
  • Red blood cell development.

Food Sources

Vitamin A can be found in several foods including:

  • Red, orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables (e.g. yams, pumpkin, squash, carrots, red and yellow peppers, tomatoes, mangoes, melon)
  • Green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach, kale, mustard greens, beet greens, turnip greens, swiss chard, bok choy)
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products (e.g. cow’s milk, cheese, yogurt).

Deficiencies

Common symptoms and resulting conditions of vitamin A deficiency include:

  • Difficulty seeing in dim light
  • Rough/dry skin.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Excess/Toxicity

Common symptoms of vitamin A excess/toxicity include:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Dry skin
  • Birth defects when pregnant.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Note: Hypervitaminosis is caused by consuming excessive amounts of preformed vitamin A (retinal palmitate), not the plant carotenoids. Preformed vitamin A is absorbed rapidly but only cleared slowly from the body.


Vitamin B1, also known as Thiamine, is a water soluble vitamin. It plays a key role in many metabolic functions. In fact, all of the tissues of the body, including the brain, need thiamine to function properly.

Importance

Thiamine has many functions in the body including:

  • Functioning as a co-enzyme necessary for energy production from food
  • Assisting in the synthesis of DNA and RNA.

Food Sources

Thiamine can be found in several foods including:

  • Asparagus
  • Lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • Spinach
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Tuna
  • Peas
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Lentils
  • Whole grains.

Deficiencies

Common symptoms and resulting conditions of vitamin B1 deficiency include:

  • Burning feet
  • Weakness in extremities
  • Rapid heard rate
  • Swelling
  • Anorexia
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal distress.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Excess/Toxicity

There are no known symptoms of vitamin B1 excess/toxicity.


Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is a water soluble vitamin. Unlike other B vitamins, you can store several years’ worth of B12 in your liver. Vitamin B12 is also the only B vitamin that is almost exclusively found in animal foods.

Importance

Vitamin B12 has many functions in the body including:

  • Acting as an enzyme co-factor in forming and maintaining healthy nerve cells, red blood cells, and DNA synthesis.

Food Sources

Vitamin B12 can be found in several foods including:

  • Trout
  • Salmon
  • Beef
  • Yogurt
  • Tuna
  • Eggs
  • Clams
  • Crabs
  • Rockfish
  • Fermented foods
  • B12 fortified foods.

Deficiencies

Common symptoms and resulting conditions of vitamin B12 deficiency include:

  • Neurological problems
  • Pernicious anemia (which is a cause of B12 deficiency), Celiac disease, and Sprue (which is a cause of B12 deficiency) can lead to malabsorption.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Excess/Toxicity

There are no known excess/toxicity symptoms from supplements or food. Since only a small amount is absorbed via the oral route, potential for toxicity is low.

If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.


Has your pee ever turned bright yellow? That’s a sign that your diet is rich in vitamin B2, a water soluble vitamin. In fact, vitamin B2 (also known as riboflavin) is one of the only vitamins that provides visual body cues to let you know that your diet is rich in the vitamin. And the vitamins name speaks to this body cue; the “flavin” in riboflavin comes from flavus, the latin word for yellow!

Importance

Vitamin B2 has many functions in the body including:

  • Helping to make up the electron transporter FAD
  • Participating in the metabolism of drugs and toxins in the liver
  • Acting as an antioxidant in the neutralization of hydroperoxides
  • Helping in the conversion of xanthine to uric acid
  • Helping with iron metabolism
  • Helping to maintain healthy levels of other B vitamins
  • Involvement in red blood cell production.

Food Sources

Vitamin B2 can be found in several foods including:

  • Mushrooms
  • Asparagus
  • Green leafy vegetables (e.g. lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, collard greens, bok choy, turnip greens, kale, mustard greens)
  • Eggs
  • Yogurt
  • Almonds
  • Salmon
  • Halibut
  • Whole grains.

Deficiencies

Common symptoms and resulting conditions of vitamin B2 deficiency include:

  • Cracks, fissures, and sores at corner of mouth and lips
  • Dermatitis
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Photophobia (light avoidance)
  • Glossitis (inflammation or infection) of tongue
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Excess/Toxicity

Common symptoms of vitamin B2 excess/toxicity include:

  • Increased risk of DNA strand breaks in the presence of chromium
  • Intensifying urine color (flavinuria; although this is harmless).

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.


Vitamin B3 is also referred to as niacin. Vitamin B3 is the basic term for a family of compounds including nicotinamide and nicotinic acid, both of which can be obtained from food.

Vitamin B3 is a water soluble vitamin, which means it dissolves best in water.

Importance

Vitamin B3 has many functions in the body including:

  • Helping to make up the electron transporter NAD
  • Assisting in DNA repair
  • Facilitating cellular signaling
  • Helping to control cholesterol levels by influencing lipid synthesis in the liver.

Food Sources

Vitamin B3 can be found in several foods including:

  • Mushrooms
  • Tuna
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Asparagus
  • Halibut
  • Sea veggies
  • Salmon
  • Whole grains
  • Peanuts
  • Lentils
  • Lima beans.

Deficiencies

Common symptoms and resulting conditions of vitamin B3 deficiency include:

  • Dermatitis
  • Diarrhea
  • Dementia
  • Stomatitis (inflammation of mucous membranes of the mouth).

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Excess/Toxicity

Common symptoms of vitamin B3 excess/toxicity include:

  • Nausea
  • Liver toxicity (with chronic supplemental intake of 750mg of more per day)
  • Can lead to increased liver enzymes.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Note: niacin from foods is not known to cause adverse effects. However, supplemental nicotinic acid may cause flushing of skin, itching, impaired glucose tolerance and gastrointestinal upset.


Vitamin B5, also known as pantothenic acid, is a water soluble vitamin. This vitamin is very important as without it you wouldn’t be able to use fats, carbohydrates, or proteins as energy sources!

Importance

Vitamin B5 has many functions in the body including:

  • Formation of acetyl-CoA (essential for energy production)
  • Synthesis of cholesterol, steroid hormones, and neurotransmitters
  • Assisting in drug metabolism.

Food Sources

Vitamin B5 can be found in several foods including:

  • Mushrooms
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Seeds
  • Leafy greens (e.g. beet greens, turnip greens, collard greens, mustard green, romaine lettuce, bok choy, swiss chard, spinach)
  • Tomatoes
  • Berries
  • Eggs
  • Yogurt
  • Squash
  • Corn
  • Cod
  • Split peas
  • Lentils
  • Avocado
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Whole grains.

Deficiencies

Common symptoms and resulting conditions of vitamin B5 deficiency include:

  • Tingling feet (only in severe malnutrition)
  • No other symptoms are likely.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Excess/Toxicity

Common symptoms of vitamin B5 excess/toxicity include:

  • Nausea
  • Heartburn
  • Diarrhea.

Note: These are typically only experienced with high dose supplementation.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.


Vitamin B6 is also known as pyridoxine. There are seven forms of this vitamin with pyridoxine being the most common form.

Vitamin B6 is a water soluble vitamin, which means it dissolves best in water.

Importance

Vitamin B6 has many functions in the body including:

  • Working as a co-enzyme to form PLP, which is needed for more than 100 enzymes involved in protein metabolism
  • Assisting In the breakdown of glycogen
  • Helping with red blood cell metabolism
  • Supporting nervous and immune system function
  • Helping to form neurotransmitter and steroid hormones.

Food Sources

Vitamin B6 can be found in several foods including:

  • Potatoes
  • Bananas
  • Beans
  • Oats
  • Seeds
  • Spinach
  • Trout
  • Avocado
  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Peanuts
  • Walnuts
  • Hazelnuts.

Deficiencies

Common symptoms and resulting conditions of vitamin B6 deficiency include:

  • Chelosis (cracked, dry lips), glossitis, stomatitis, dermatitis (all similar to vitamin B2 deficiency)
  • Nervous system disorders
  • Sleeplessness
  • Confusion
  • Nervousness
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Anemia.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Excess/Toxicity

Common symptoms of vitamin B2 excess/toxicity include:

  • Painful neurological symptoms.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.


Vitamin B7, also known as Biotin, is a water soluble vitamin. In the past biotin has gone by many names including coenzyme R and vitamin H. Vitamin B7 is actually the proper name.

Importance

Biotin has many functions in the body including:

  • Formation of four vital enzymes known as carboxylases, which are involved in gluconeogenesis, leucine metabolism, energy production, and the synthesis of fats
  • Assisting in DNA replication and transcription.

Food Sources

Biotin can be found in several foods including:

  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Salmon
  • Avocado
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Almonds
  • Eggs
  • Cabbage
  • Onions
  • Cucumber
  • Cauliflower
  • Berries
  • Halibut
  • Oats
  • Walnuts
  • Peanuts.

Deficiencies

Deficiency symptoms are rare in humans as intestinal bacteria produce enough biotin. However, consuming raw egg whites over a long period of time can cause biotin deficiency due to the protein avidin, which can bind up to four molecules of biotin and carry them out of the body. In this case, dermatologic symptoms occur.

If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Excess/Toxicity

Vitamin B7 is not known to be toxic. Therefore, there are currently known symptoms of vitamin B7 excess/toxicity.


Vitamin B9, also known as folate or folic acid, is a water soluble vitamin. Folate is is naturally found in foods, while folic acid is a synthetic supplement.

Importance

Vitamin B9 has many functions in the body including:

  • Working as a coenzyme in the metabolism of nucleic and amino acids
  • Assisting in vitamin B12 and C use and breakdown
  • Assisting in the formation of new proteins
  • Helping with red blood cell formation and circulation.

Note: Folate is probably best known for its role in pregnancy, helping to prevent neural tube defects, and thus is given in prenatal vitamins.

Food Sources

Vitamin B9 can be found in several foods including:

Deficiencies

Common symptoms and resulting conditions of vitamin B9 deficiency include:

  • Anemia (macrocytic or megaloblastic)
  • Leukopenia
  • Thrombocytopenia
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Cracking and redness of tongue and mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Low birth weight and preterm delivery in pregnancy
  • Neural tube defects in newborns.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Excess/Toxicity

There are currently no known symptoms of vitamin B9 excess/toxicity.


Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin. First known for its ability to cure scurvy, it is one of the most familiar vitamins.

Importance

Vitamin C has many functions in the body including:

  • Protecting cells from free radicals by acting as an antioxidant
  • Improving iron absorption by allowing ferric iron to reach its ferrous form
  • Regenerating vitamin E supplies
  • Developing collagen, an important structural protein throughout the body
  • Synthesizing the neurotransmitter norepinephrine
  • Synthesizing carnitine
  • Assisting in the metabolism of cholesterol to bile acids.

Food Sources

Vitamin C can be found in several foods including:

  • Green leafy vegetables (e.g. bok choy, turnip greens, beet greens, mustard greens, collard greens, spinach)
  • Broccoli
  • Parsley
  • Potatoes
  • Peas
  • Citrus fruits
  • Blackcurrants
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Bell peppers
  • Strawberries
  • Papaya
  • Asparagus
  • Cauliflower.

Deficiencies

Common symptoms and resulting conditions of vitamin C deficiency include:

  • Bruising
  • Gum infections
  • Lethargy
  • Dental cavities
  • Tissue swelling
  • Dry hair and skin
  • Bleeding gums
  • Dry eyes
  • Hair loss
  • Pitting edema
  • Anemia
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Bone fragility.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Excess/Toxicity

Common symptoms of vitamin C excess/toxicity include:

  • Kidney stones
  • Rebound scurvy
  • Increased oxidative stress
  • Excess iron absorption
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Erosion of dental enamel.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Note: up to 10 grams of vitamin C appears to be safe based on most research data. However, caution is advised as 2 grams or more per day can cause diarrhea.


Vitamin D, a fat soluble vitamin, is the only vitamin that can be obtained through the sun.

Vitamin D is really a group of prohormones. Vitamin D must be metabolized to its biologically active form in the body. After it is eaten or synthesized in the skin, it enters the bloodstream for transport to the liver. There it is hydroxylated to form 25 hydroxyvitamin D. In the kidney, a second hydroxylation results in calciferol, or 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D—the most potent form.

Importance

Vitamin D has many functions in the body including:

  • Gene transcription modulation
  • Increasing calcium uptake and reabsorption, maintaining serum calcium levels
  • Cell differentiation
  • Immune system function
  • Regulating glucose tolerance
  • Helping regulate the renin-angiotensin cascade and blood pressure.

Food Sources

Vitamin D can be found in several foods including:

  • Egg yolk
  • Oily fish (e.g. salmon, sardines, mackerel)
  • Vitamin D fortified foods.

Deficiencies

Common symptoms and resulting conditions of vitamin D deficiency in children include:

  • Rickets
  • Deformed bones
  • Retarded growth
  • Soft teeth.

Common symptoms and resulting conditions of vitamin D deficiency in adults include:

  • Osteomalacia
  • Softened bones
  • Spontaneous fractures
  • Tooth decay.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Note: Those most at risk for deficiency include infants, elderly, dark skinned individuals, those with minimal sun exposure, fat malabsorption syndromes, inflammatory bowel diseases, kidney failure, and seizure disorders.

Excess/Toxicity

Common symptoms of vitamin D excess/toxicity include:

  • Elevated blood calcium levels
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • Itching
  • Muscle weakness
  • Joint pain
  • Disorientation
  • Calcification of soft tissue.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Note: hypervitaminosis is not a result of sun exposure but from chronic supplementation. Only excessive supplement use will cause the symptoms above.


Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin that is part of a family containing eight antioxidants: four tocopherols and four tocotrienols. Alpha-tocopherol is the chief form found in blood and tissues.

Importance

Vitamin E has many functions in the body including:

  • Scavenging free radicals and acting as an antioxidant
  • Cell signaling
  • Facilitating the expression of immune and inflammatory cells.

Food Sources

Vitamin E can be found in several foods including:

  • Vegetable oils
  • Nuts
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Avocado
  • Seeds
  • Whole grains
  • Tomatoes
  • Apples
  • Carrots.

Deficiencies

No symptoms are typically noticed unless there is severe malnutrition. However, suboptimal intake of vitamin E can be common, leading to subclinical deficiencies.

If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Excess/Toxicity

Common symptoms of vitamin E excess/toxicity include:

  • Impaired blood clotting.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Note: Minimal side effects have been noted in adults taking supplements in doses less than 2000mg/day.


Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin. There are three types of Vitamin K; phylloquinone (vitamin K1), menaquinone (vitamin K2), and menadione (vitamin K3). Bacteria that colonize the large intestine can synthesize vitamin K2. However, the contribution of this production to vitamin K status is unclear.

Importance

Vitamin K has many functions in the body including:

  • Assisting the blood clotting process
  • Acting as a cofactor in amino acid metabolism
  • Cell signalling in bone tissue
  • Preventing excessive bleeding in infants (infants get a vitamin K shot shortly after birth).

Food Sources

Vitamin K can be found in several foods including:

  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Vegetable oils
  • Kelp
  • Peas
  • Lentils
  • Parsley.

Note: The fermentation of foods can increase their vitamin K content.

Deficiencies

Common symptoms and resulting conditions of vitamin K deficiency include:

  • Tendency to bleed or hemorrhage
  • Anemia.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Excess/Toxicity

Common symptoms of vitamin K excess/toxicity include:

  • Interference with glutathione activity.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Note: Blood thinning drugs act as vitamin K antagonists to prevent excessive blood clotting. Thus, consuming too much vitamin K in the diet (or from supplements) can negate the anti-clotting effect and prevent pharmaceutical efficacy.


Zinc is an essential mineral for humans. Since your body doesn’t produce it, you must obtain it through food (or supplements). Zinc obtained from animal foods seems better absorbed. The amino acids cysteine and methionine can improve zinc absorption. Eating too much folate, supplemental iron, calcium, or dietary phytates can make it harder to absorb enough zinc.

Importance

Zinc has many functions in the body including:

  • Assisting in growth, development, neurological function, reproduction, and immune function
  • Acting as a critical component of apoptosis (cell death)
  • Acting as a catalyst: for enzymes to catalyze chemical reactions, zinc must be present
  • Supporting cell structure: the structure of proteins and cell membranes depend upon zinc; when zinc is lost from these structures, vulnerability to oxidative damage and deteriorating function may occur
  • Helping with the regulation of gene expressions, cellular signaling, hormone release, and nerve transmission.

Food Sources

Zinc can be found in several foods including:

  • Sesame seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Wild game
  • Crab
  • Poultry
  • Beans
  • Cashews
  • Chickpeas
  • Almonds
  • Peas
  • Yogurt
  • Mushrooms
  • Oysters
  • Shrimp.

Deficiencies

Common symptoms and resulting conditions of zinc deficiency include:

  • Growth retardation
  • Lowered immune status
  • Skeletal abnormalities
  • Delayed sexual maturation
  • Poor wound healing
  • Taste changes
  • Night blindness
  • Hair loss.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Note: Those at risk for deficiency include the elderly, those with alcoholism, those with malabsorption diseases, vegans, and those with severe diarrhea.

Excess/Toxicity

Common symptoms of zinc excess/toxicity include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Note: Long-term consumption of excessive zinc can result in copper deficiency.

Nuts / Seeds Knowledge Base


Almonds are the edible seeds of the fruit of the almond tree. They have a delicate, slightly sweet flavor.

Though we refer to almonds as nuts, in botanical terms they are not actually a true nut. They come from a stone fruit which contains a pit inside; that pit is the almond shell and inside that pit is the almond nutmeat.

Almonds were first commercially grown in the Mediterranean. Today, the US joins Spain and Italy among the world’s top producers. Most American almonds are grown in California.

Identification

Almonds are oval-shaped with one rounded end and one pointed end.

The shell has the same shape as the nut inside, but the shell itself is pale-colored, with tiny holes throughout. It resembles a peach pit, quite suitably, because the almond fruit itself is a bit similar to other stone fruits like peaches and plums.

Almond nutmeat is covered in a very fine, thin skin, which has a golden brown hue with fine lines streaking through the coloring. Underneath their fine skin, almonds are a pale beige color.

Nutrition Info

One-quarter cup of whole, raw almonds contains 207 calories, 7.6g of protein, 17.7g of fat, 7.7g of carbohydrates, 4.5g of fiber, and 1.6g of sugar.

Almonds are a very good source of vitamin E, and a good source of riboflavin, magnesium, and manganese. Almonds also contain phosphorus, potassium, copper, and calcium.

Selection

When shopping for almonds, you have a few choices. You can buy whole almonds in the shell if you like; these are great for snacking but you’ll need a nutcracker to break through to the nutmeat.

Shelled almonds make for convenient snacks and are great for cooking. When choosing shelled almonds, look for raw almonds. These are the nut, pure and simple, with no added flavors.

You may also choose unsalted, dry toasted almonds. The toasting process lends a nutty, roasty flavor and makes the nuts extra tasty to eat. (Keep in mind that dry toasted almonds are different than regular “roasted” almonds, which are cooked in oil and may also contain salt.)

Some recipes call for slivered almonds, sliced almonds, or whole blanched almonds. These almonds are pale because the skin has been removed. You can usually find these types of almonds in the baking section of your supermarket.

Check the ingredients when buying almonds, especially “honey roasted” almonds, flavored almonds, candy-coated almonds, or almonds included in “trail mix”. These are a processed version of the nut which usually contain oils, additives, and seasonings such as salt and sugar (even if they are marketed as a health food). They may be tasty but they have a very different caloric and nutritional profile than the plain nuts.

If buying almonds in bulk, choose whole, unbroken nuts with smooth, tight skin. Avoid nuts that are discolored, broken or shriveled. If you can, give them a smell — they should smell fresh, not “off” in any way — and even better, a taste. They should be mildly sweet and a bit crunchy, not bitter or oily.

If buying almonds in a package, double check the ingredients to be sure it contains nothing but nuts, and check the expiry date for freshness.

Storage

Keep nuts in their package until the expiry date.

Nuts purchased in bulk should be kept in an airtight container and kept in a cool, dry place such as a refrigerator. They should last for about three months. If you wish to store them for longer, keep them in the freezer.

Preparation

Almonds still in the shell will require a nutcracker. Simply crush the shell, release the nut and enjoy.

Shelled almonds are ready to eat.  If you want to add extra flavor to your almonds, toast them by putting them on a baking sheet and baking at about 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 5-10 minutes or until fragrant.

Almonds are great in both sweet and savory preparations. Toasted almonds make great additions to salads. Chopped or sliced almonds can be a lovely topping for vegetable dishes (such as sauteed green beans or a brussel sprout gratin). They also make a simple snack or a nice addition to a cheese tray.

Almonds can be turned into almond ‘milk’ whereby soaked almonds are pureed and added to water. Some people appreciate almond milk as a dairy alternative. (If purchasing almond milk rather than making your own, be sure to check the ingredients on the package. Many milk substitutes include sugars, other seasonings, additives and preservatives and not very much of the nut itself.)

For desserts, almonds are great in cookies and candy. For example, try making your own almond bark. To do this, scatter dry toasted almonds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Melt good quality dark chocolate, then pour over the almonds. Use a spatula to smooth out the mixture and make sure the almonds are fully coated by the chocolate. Sprinkle a little sea salt delicately over top. Then freeze well, preferably overnight. Remove the baking tray from freezer and crack the chocolate with your fingers into rough pieces. You now have a tasty treat to enjoy or share as a gift!


Chestnuts are the edible nuts of Chestnut trees (Castanea sativa). Chestnut trees can be found in the US, Europe, China, Japan, and Australia.

Chestnuts, which must be cooked before eating, come into season between October and December. They are often associated with fall and winter holidays: most famously, perhaps, roasted at Christmastime. In Japan, chestnuts are typically included as part of a New Year feast.

Once cooked, chestnuts have a meaty, slightly starchy, almost creamy texture and a rich flavor that works in both sweet and savory dishes.

Identification

The edible nuts have several layers covering them. The whole nut is protected by a spikey burr, which turns yellow-brown and splits open at the time of maturity.

Break away the burr and you’ll find the nut’s hard outer shell; this is the way you will commonly find chestnuts. Fresh chestnuts in the shell are plump and rounded with a flat bottom. They have a dark, deep brown color and a glossy sheen.

After removing the shell, there’s one final layer – a thin inner skin – that must be removed before eating. Once shelled, the raw nuts inside are a light, creamy brown color.

Note: You may also find pre-cooked, packaged chestnuts in grocery stores or specialty food shops.

Nutrition Info

Chestnuts are lower in calories than other nuts, but they are also less nutrient-dense.

Per ounce, roasted chestnuts have about 70 calories, 0.9g of protein, 15g of carbohydrates, 1.4g of fiber, 3g of sugar, and 0.6g of fat.

Chestnuts are packed with potassium (168 grams per ounce).  Folate and Vitamin C are also contained in chestnuts.

Selection

If choosing whole, raw chestnuts, look for firm, heavy nuts without any cracks, holes or appearance of mold.

To test for freshness, shake the chestnut – if you hear a rattling sound it may be an indication the nut inside is old and dry.

Pre-cooked chestnuts are another option; you may find them in a sealed package or a can. Ensure there are no added ingredients listed on the package.

Note: When looking for pre-cooked chestnuts in the grocery store you may come across chestnuts in syrup or canned chestnut puree; however, both these are sweetened items meant as treats or for use in baking. They are not the same as pure whole chestnuts. Also make sure you are purchasing chestnuts and not water chestnuts, which are a different food altogether.

Storage

Store whole, raw chestnuts in the fridge, in an unsealed container, to keep them fresh. This way, they should keep for up to two weeks or more.

Cooked and peeled chestnuts are best eaten within a day or two.

Canned or packaged chestnuts should be eaten before the expiry date listed on the packaging.

Preparation

Chestnuts must be cooked before eating; otherwise their shells are very difficult to remove and their taste and texture unpleasant.

Chestnuts can be boiled or roasted, then added to other dishes or eaten as a snack.

To prepare chestnuts, first score an X on the flat side of each nut using a sharp paring knife.

To roast the nuts, preheat the oven to 350F. Place the scored nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 35 minutes.

Alternatively, to boil the chestnuts, plunge the scored nuts into a pot of boiling water. Boil until tender, about 15 minutes, then drain.

When the nuts are still hot but cool enough to touch, peel them. They should slip out of their shells with a gentle squeeze. Remove the papery inner skin before eating.

Note: If you’re using pre-packaged chestnuts, the process is much simpler: simply remove from package, drain if canned, and enjoy.

Once prepared, you can eat cooked chestnuts as a snack, or add them to other dishes such as salads, stuffing or dressing, or baked goods. They pair well with fall and winter flavors such as apples, cabbage, turkey, pork, and sage.


Chia, a tiny seed in the mint family, has had several popularity “booms”.

The first was in pre-Columbian times. Chia, which is native to Mexico and Guatemala, was a primary food in Aztec and Mayan diets, rivaling even maize as a staple source of nutrition. Chia was a prized crop because it was nutritionally dense and had a long storage life, and was suitable for traveling; both warriors and long distance runners relied on this food to give them energy and stamina.

The second surge came in the 1980’s with the popularity of the sprout-before-your-eyes Chia Pet. For awhile, you couldn’t turn on the TV without hearing , “Ch-ch-ch-chia!” There’s not much more to say about that.

The third peak in chia popularity is now. This trend has been growing for the past decade, and although years ago you could only find chia tucked away in specialty health food stores, now it’s found in most grocery stores, and features as an ingredient in energy drinks, granola bars, cereals, bread, and crackers.

Chia is popular for good reason. Chia is high in fiber and omega 3 fats, it’s easy to prepare, and it’s fun to eat. Although chia can be sprinkled on anything, it is perhaps most famous for its use in chia puddings. Chia can hold ten times its weight in water, and when mixed with liquid, chia quickly swells and gels to create a delightful dish with a tapioca pudding texture. These puddings can be topped with fruit or nuts and make a wonderful, satisfying breakfast.

Identification

Chia seeds, which are oval-shaped and less than a millimeter in diameter, come in “white” or “black” varieties. In reality, “white” chia seeds are actually pale grey and “black” chia seeds are a marbled, dark grey. There are no significant flavor or nutritional differences between these two varieties.

If you are nimble-fingered enough to crack open a tiny seed, it would reveal a pale, fat-rich meat with a sweet, nutty flavor similar to flax seeds. When mixed in food, the flavor of chia is nearly undetectable. However, especially if left to sit in a wet medium, chia seeds will alter texture as they absorb the moisture around them and swell into gel-like balls, dramatically thickening whatever medium they were added to.

Nutrition Info

Two tablespoons of chia (about 28g or one ounce) has 138 calories, 4.7g protein, 8.7g of fat, 11.9g of carbohydrates, 9.8g fiber, and no sugar. Chia is an excellent source of phosphorus, manganese, and magnesium, and a good source of calcium and iron.

As mentioned, chia is also rich in plant-based omega 3’s, containing about 2.5g of omega 3’s per tablespoon.

Selection

When purchasing chia, shop at quality food stores with high product turnover. If shopping at bulk food stores, shop at stores with covered bins.

Choose chia seeds that are pale grey or dark grey, and note that speckling and non-uniform coloring is normal. Avoid seeds that are brown, which is a sign of immaturity; these seeds will have less nutritional value than their mature counterparts and will taste more bitter.

Good quality chia will smell and taste sweet and nutty. Detectable bitterness means the seeds are either immature or rancid. Although ground chia seeds are available, whole chia seeds have a longer shelf life and will be less likely to go rancid on the shelves.

If buying packaged chia, read the ingredients. Chia seeds, ground or whole, should not contain any other ingredients.

Also note that although chia is now a feature ingredient in many foods, it does not mean the food is healthy. As with everything you buy, read the ingredients and check nutritional labels to make sure the product meets your own personal quality standards.

Storage

Like all nuts and seeds with a high fat content, whole chia seeds will keep best in a sealed container in the fridge or freezer, where they will last six months to a year. If you are planning to consume them within a couple of months, a cool, dark, dry cupboard will be a suitable storage place.

Preparation

Unlike flax seeds, chia seeds don’t have to be ground in order for you to digest them and extract their nutrients.

Chia seeds can be eaten without any special preparation and sprinkled on salads, soups, or porridges, where, if they aren’t allowed to sit for too long, will retain a pleasant crunchiness. They can also be added to smoothies to boost nutrition and add thickness and texture, or left to gel and then used as an egg replacer in baked goods.

Perhaps most deliciously, chia can be turned into a pudding. Here’s the basic method:

Combine one part chia mixed with four to five parts liquid (you can use regular milk, nut milk, or juice), stir, and allow to “sit”, for at least 20 minutes. Better yet, let it sit for a couple of hours (or overnight). Shorter sitting times will result in a “looser”, grainier pudding whereas letting chia sit longer will allow the seed to absorb liquid to its full glory, creating a thick, tapioca pudding texture.

Top this pudding with yogurt, fruit, nuts, granola, and/or stir in some protein powder. The possibilities are endless! Get creative!


Appropriate to the name, hazelnuts are the nut of the hazel shrub. They are sometimes known as filberts or the cobnut.

Turkey grows 75% of the world’s hazelnuts. However, in recent years, weather changes in Turkey have resulted in decreased hazelnut production, causing concern among hazelnut fans.

Hazelnuts have a rich, mildly nutty taste that make them ideal for desserts and candy. Hazelnuts are the star of the hazelnut-chocolate spread Nutella, beloved by Italians. They’re also used in Frangelico liquor, Ferrero Rocher candies, and other truffles and pralines.

Hazelnuts aren’t just for processed foods, though. Whole or crushed, hazelnuts can be used in home-baking, or enjoyed simply on their own.

Identification

Hazelnuts are brown in color and have a rounded, slightly tear-drop shape. The outer layer of the hazelnut is covered by a thin, paper-like skin that may be removed before cooking.

Nutrition Info

One-quarter cup of whole hazelnuts contains 212 calories, 5.1 grams of protein, 20.5 grams of fat, 5.6 grams of carbohydrates, 3.3 grams of fiber, and 1.5 grams of sugar.

Containing small amounts of many vitamins and minerals, hazelnuts are a good source of vitamin E, and a very good source of manganese.

Selection

If buying whole, unshelled nuts, pick up a nut and give it a shake. If you hear a rattling sound, the nut may be old and stale.

Also check the nut shells: they should be smooth with no cracks, holes, or signs of mold.

Finally, the nuts should smell fresh and nutty. If the nuts smell “off” this may be a sign they have gone rancid.

Storage

In the package, shelled hazelnuts will last longer than unshelled nuts. Once the package is open though, they won’t last as long. You can keep shelled nuts in the pantry or the fridge — the latter may extend their shelf life, and is especially important if you live in a warm and humid climate.

Shelled hazelnuts will last about 4-6 months in the pantry or up to a year in the fridge or freezer.

Preparation

Hazelnut skin has a slightly bitter flavor. Removing the skins is optional and depends on your personal preference, and / or the recipe.

If you prefer hazelnuts without skins, look for skinned nuts — or remove the skins by toasting them gently in the oven. To toast the nuts, lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes. Remove the nuts and wrap them in a clean dish towel. Let them cool slightly (about 5 minutes), then rub them roughly in the towel for several minutes. The friction should remove most of the skin; don’t worry if some is left on.

Once toasted (following the above instructions), hazelnuts are ready to enjoy. Try adding them to a salad, including them on a cheese tray (they pair nicely with goats cheese), using chopped hazelnuts as a garnish for roasted vegetables, or enjoying them as a simple snack.

Tip: If you like the popular spread Nutella, you can make your own hazelnut butter or hazelnut-chocolate spread at home with the help of a food processor.


Inca Seeds, also known as sacha inchi nuts or inca peanuts, grow on the sacha inchi plant. These seeds are cultivated in the Andes Mountains of Peru. Though they are most often referred to as nuts, the inca peanut is actually a seed.

Identification

The inchi plant produces star shaped fruit, which contain oval dark brown seeds—the inca nut. The seeds resemble flat, compact almonds and have a delicious, mild, nutty flavor.

Nutrition Info

1oz of inca seeds contain about 170 calories, 9.0g of protein, 4.0g of carbohydrates, 6.0g of fiber, and 14.0g of fat (most of this being in the form of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids).

Inca nuts are rich in vitamins E and A and are a good source good source of minerals such as calcium and iodine.

Inca nuts are also known for their high content of tryptophan, an amino acid that can help promote a positive mood.

Selection

While inca seeds are gaining popularity in North America, they aren’t yet available in all grocery stores. They can, however, be found in most natural food stores. Choose either raw or dry roasted varieties.

Storage

Store inca nuts in a cool, dry, dark place such as a dark container kept in the fridge.

Preparation

Once purchased, inca nuts are ready to be eaten! No special preparation needed. They are delicious added to salads, stir fries, and desserts.


Pistachios are a type of nut that grow on trees.

Identification

Pistachios are surrounded by a hard shell that has a slight opening within it. Once the shell is cracked open, the green, egg-shaped pistachio is revealed.

While there are several varieties of pistachios, Turkish and California pistachios are the most common in North America.

Nutrition Info

Half a cup of pistachios has about 346 calories, 12.5g of protein, 16.9g of carbohydrates, 10.3g of fiber, 4.7g of sugar, and 27.9g of fat.

Pistachios are also rich in vitamins A and C and are a good source of minerals including calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium.

Selection

Pistachios are available year-round and can be purchased in their shells or with their shells removed. You can also purchase pistachios raw or roasted.

If you are selecting pistachios with their shells, choose those with partially opened shells. Closed shells indicate that the nuts are immature and thus flavourless.

Whether the nut is shelled or unshelled, look for the greenest nuts you can find. This is a sign of great flavour and maturity.

For healthier eating, avoid salted pistachios, oil roasted pistachios, or those whose naturally beige shells have been dyed red or whitened. Instead, if you like them salted add a bit of sea salt yourself, and if you want them roasted, choose dry roasted, or roast at home.

Storage

Pistachios should be placed in an airtight container and kept in the fridge or freezer. Be sure to eat them within six month if kept in the fridge, or one year if kept in the freezer.

Preparation

If you purchased shelled pistachios, simply crack open the shell using your fingers and then eat the pistachio nut.

If you purchased raw pistachios, you can eat them raw or you can roast them. To roast, simply spread them out evenly on a baking pan and bake at 325F until they are light brown and fragrant (5-10 minutes). Be sure to check the nuts frequently and to stir them to ensure even toasting. Once roasted, let them cool for a few hours before consuming. If you want to salt the nuts just sprinkle some sea salt on them before putting them into the oven.


Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds. It’s like peanut butter, except it’s made with sesame seeds instead of peanuts.

Although tahini may sound like an exotic ingredient, you’ve probably already eaten it before. Ever heard of hummus? Of course you have. Tahini is a key ingredient.

Tahini is used in many other recipes, and it’s a particularly popular ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine, where it is used to make the roasted eggplant dip baba ghanoush, and the sesame and honey based fudge-like dessert, halva.

Sesame paste is also used in other global cuisines such as in sauces for Vietnamese noodle dishes or mixed with aromatic spices in Indian curries. In the aisles of Greek supermarkets, tahini can even be found in jars combined with cocoa and honey, sold as a decadent spread for toast.

The vast majority of tahini is made with white sesame seeds, although tahini can also be made from black sesame seeds. Black sesame tahini has the same characteristic nutty flavor of regular tahini, except that is has the dramatic appearance of black tar.

Identification

Most tahini is made from hulled and toasted white sesame seeds, which creates a sticky-smooth beige paste, not unlike runny peanut butter.

Tahini has a rich, creamy, deeply roasted nutty flavor with a subtle hint of bitterness.

Nutrition Info

One tablespoon of tahini (about 15g) has 89 calories, 2.6g protein, 8.1g of fat, 3.2g of carbohydrates, 1.4g fiber, and 0.1g sugar. Tahini is an excellent source of manganese and copper, and a good source of calcium and iron.

Selection

Tahini is widely available at most larger grocery stores, Middle Eastern food stores, and health food stores.

Tahini is sold in jars and need only contain one ingredient: sesame seeds. Some brands may add extra oils, salt, or other ingredients, although this is not necessary.

Check the expiration date on the package to assess freshness, and also taste it. Good quality, fresh tahini will taste toasty and nutty, with only the slightest hint of bitterness. If your tahini tastes distinctly bitter or musty, it’s likely rancid and past its prime.

Tahini is also occasionally available in bulk, where consumers can serve themselves desired amounts in containers. In these cases, shop at clean stores with high product turnover and covered bins.

Storage

Although tahini is relatively shelf-stable, due to its high proportion of omega 6 fats (which are more fragile and prone to rancidity), it is recommended that you store it in the fridge, where it will keep for about six months. If you are going to finish your jar within a couple of months, a cool, dry cupboard is suitable too.

Preparation

Tahini needs no special preparation and can be eaten straight from the jar with a spoon as a minimalist snack, spread on toast or crackers, or mix it with other ingredients to create delicious sauces, dressings, and desserts.


Walnuts are a type of nut. While there are numerous species of walnut trees producing different types of walnuts, the two main walnut varieties are English and black walnuts.

Identification

Walnuts are contained within a heart-shaped shell.  The shell is fairly thick, and once cracked reveals the odd shaped walnut.

Nutrition Info

1oz of walnuts (equal to about 14 halves) has 185 calories, 4.3g of protein, 3.9g of carbohydrates, 1.9g of fiber, 0.7g of sugar, and 18.5g of fat.

Walnuts are rich in folate and are a good source of minerals including calcium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.

Walnuts are also quite high in omega 3 fatty acids.

Selection

If purchasing whole walnuts that have not yet been shelled, choose those that feel heavy for their size. Their shells should not be cracked, pierced, or stained.

If purchasing walnuts that are pre-shelled make sure to check the expiry date on the packaging to ensure freshness. If you are buying them in bulk, make sure the bins containing the walnuts are covered and that the store has a good product turnover to ensure freshness. Avoid walnuts that look rubbery or shriveled.

Storage

Both unshelled and shelled walnuts should be stored in the fridge, in an airtight container. You can keep them for up to six months. You can also freeze them.

Preparation

To shell a walnut, you will need a nutcracker. Simply place the walnut in the nutcracker and crack the nut in half. Using your fingers, you can then pick out the walnut halves and eat them.

When eating walnuts, eat the skin as well! The skin contains phenolic acids, tannins, and flavonoids, all of which are great for health.

Once you’ve shelled your walnuts, you are ready to use them in recipes.

Oils Knowledge Base


Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the fresh or dried meat of mature coconuts.

Coconut oil is high in saturated fat and is also uniquely high in medium-chain fatty acids, which may have additional health benefits.

Identification

Coconut oil will look different depending on how it is stored. When stored at temperatures above 24 °C / 76 °F, coconut oil will appear as a clear liquid. In cooler temperatures, coconut oil will appear solid, opaque, and white.

Sometimes coconut oil is confused with coconut butter. Coconut butter is the puréed flesh of the coconut, while coconut oil is simply the expressed oil, pressed from the flesh. In contrast to coconut oil, coconut butter will remain white when exposed to heat. Because it also contains fiber, coconut butter has a thicker, grainier texture than coconut oil.

Nutrition Info

One tablespoon (or 13g) of coconut oil contains 116 calories, 14g of fat (12g of which are saturated fat), no carbohydrates, and no protein. It has no cholesterol and no sodium.

Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, but it is also uniquely high in medium-chain fatty acids.

 

Selection

Coconut oil can be purchased in most grocery stores and health food stores, and can be processed a little or a lot. Here are the differences between refined coconut oils (which are more processed) and virgin coconut oils (which are less processed):

 

Refined coconut oils

Refined oils are fairly tasteless and odorless because they are filtered and may even be deodorized and bleached. However, the refining process raises the smoke point of coconut oil, so it can withstand higher temperatures in cooking without degrading.

Most of the coconut oil you’ll find in the supermarket is refined. It is made from the “copra” (the dried, shelled meat of the coconut), and may be treated with solvents during the oil extraction process.

Refined oils are not created equal. Some simply use heat and mechanical pressing to remove the oil; these are called “expeller pressed.” Others are treated chemically with solvents, harsh detergents, and / or deodorizers in the extraction process. Still others are further chemically manipulated through a process called hydrogenation.

 

“Virgin” coconut oils

Less refined oils are usually labelled as “virgin” or “extra-virgin”. Note that when it comes to coconut oil, in contrast to olive oil, there is no regulation of either of these terms. Theoretically, any oil producer can use these terms.

However, in practice, virgin coconut oil is usually extracted via cold-pressing or centrifuge from fresh coconut meat. It’s also possible to extract coconut oil through a process known as “wet milling.” Here, the liquid (or milk) is first withdrawn from the fresh, raw coconut. The oil is then separated from the liquid. It’s not unlike the division of cow’s milk and butter.

Virgin coconut oils will retain more of their original coconut flavor, so will be less neutral-tasting than refined coconut oils.

 

So, which type of coconut oil is best?

First, avoid hydrogenated oils. These are high in trans-fats, which are correlated with a variety of negative health effects.

Refined oils may have been exposed to chemical solvents during the extraction process, and therefore may be considered more processed than mechanically extracted oils.

Virgin coconut oil is the simplest and least processed form of coconut oil. Look for companies that use mechanical expeller-pressing, cold-pressing, or centrifuge, without the use of solvents, to extract their oils. They will likely be the most nutritious and best-tasting oils.

Storage

Coconut oil has a long shelf life, and is resistant to rancidity. It will keep in your pantry or fridge for up to two years. Most people prefer keeping their coconut oil on their counter or in a cupboard to keep it soft / liquid. When stored in the fridge, it becomes rock solid and rather hard to work with.

Preparation

Coconut oil doesn’t need any special preparation. It may be eaten or used in recipes directly out of the jar. Coconut oil is rarely used as a salad oil, due to its solid texture, and therefore is more commonly used in cooking or baking.


You can think of ghee as caramelized butter nectar.

Based on that description alone, you are likely now compelled to get a jar of this rich, flavorful, golden animal fat.

Ghee is ubiquitous in Indian and Pakistani cuisine, although many cultures have their own version of clarified butter. Variations of clarified butter have been used for generations, if not centuries, across Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Depending on where you are, clarified butter may be called ghee, boiled butter, drawn butter, butterschmaltz, smen, niter kibbeh, or daigo.

There are many different cultural varieties of clarified butter, each with their own recipe or method of preparation. Some versions are cultured, some are spiced, and others are rendered from whole milk instead of butter. Cow’s dairy is most commonly used, although water buffalo or goat dairy is also used in certain regions.

Generally speaking, clarified butter is usually made by simmering butter until the milk solids, which include milk proteins (like whey and casein) and milk sugars (like lactose) separate from the fat. These solids are then strained out, and the golden liquid that remains, which is pure butterfat, is clarified butter, or ghee.

Because the milk solids have been removed, ghee is different from butter in a few important ways:

  • It is shelf stable. Because the sugars and proteins have been strained, bacteria has little to feed on.
  • It is hypoallergenic. Individuals with a dairy intolerance are generally intolerant of either lactose, casein, or whey, and only very small trace amounts of those compounds remain once strained out.
  • It has a very high smoke point. Ghee is excellent for high-heat cooking. Its smoke point is around 250˚C / 482˚F, which is well above most vegetable oils.

India is by far the world’s largest consumer and producer of ghee, where it is used as a food, a cosmetic ingredient, a medicine, and as part of religious rituals.

Identification

Ghee is typically sold in jars and is stored at room temperature. It is a soft, slightly granular, spreadable semi-solid fat that ranges in color depending on the type of animal it came from and the animal’s diet. Cow ghee ranges in color from pale to mid golden yellow, the darker versions usually coming from the vitamin A rich diet of grass-fed cows. Water buffalo and goat ghee are off-white.

Ghee is rich and intensely buttery tasting. If it has been cultured, it will have a mild yogurty flavor. Depending on how long it was simmered, ghee may have a mild or pronounced caramelized nuttiness.

Nutrition Info

One tablespoon of ghee (about 13g) has 112 calories, 12.7g of fat, and no significant amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, or sugar. Ghee is a good source of vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin K, especially when from grass-fed cows.

Because ghee is an animal fat, it contains cholesterol.

Selection

Ghee can be found in good quality health food stores or Indian grocery stores.

The most nutritious ghee will likely come from grass-fed cows. Because manufacturers know that this is a selling feature, if their ghee comes from grass-fed cows, it will say so explicitly on the label. If choosing animal products that are free of antibiotics and growth hormones is important to you, choose a product that is certified organic.

As always, check the ingredients. Ghee, unless it is cultured or spiced, should only contain one ingredient: butter. If it is cultured, bacterial cultures may be listed, and if spiced, whole spices will be listed.

Storage

Ghee, after opening (or making it yourself), is shelf-stable for about one to three months, although it may last much longer depending on the brand and how it was made. If buying packaged ghee, follow the label guidelines. If making ghee at home, play it safe and discard or refrigerate after a month.

Refrigeration can extend the life of ghee to up to 12 months. However, when cooled, ghee becomes hard and difficult to spread.

Preparation

Ghee can be used directly from the jar and spread on toast, used in baking,or cooking, blended into smoothies or warm beverages, or simply eaten straight off the spoon.


Olive oil is a fat derived from the fruit of the olive tree (Olea europaea), a traditional crop of the Mediterranean basin. The fruit is crushed and mechanically treated (via press or centrifuge) to release the oil, which is then filtered for culinary and other uses. Renowned for its fruity, peppery taste, its fragrant aroma, and its beautiful golden-green color, olive oil also offers distinctive health benefits.

Olive oil is largely made up of monounsaturated fat, with 75% of its fat content coming from oleic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid. Diets high in oleic acid can reduce overall blood cholesterol and raise HDLs (or good cholesterol) as well as reduce blood pressure.

What’s more, olive oil is bursting with polyphenols and other antioxidants, which help to reduce the risk of many cancers. It may even improve bone health and provide some cognitive benefits.

Olive oil has a long and storied history. For thousands of years, the olive tree has been a symbol of peace and wisdom in many cultures. Spain, Italy, and Greece are among the largest producers (and consumers) of olive oil, but it is a staple in all Mediterranean countries and increasingly, around the world.

Identification

Olive oil is liquid at room temperature. It can be pale yellow to greenish-gold in hue. It has a fruity, peppery, slightly bitter taste and a rich, yet subtle aroma.

Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) is the unrefined oil drawn from the first pressing of olives; it has the most delicate flavor and the greatest health benefits.

Virgin olive oil, also derived from the first treatment, is slightly more acidic.

Olive oils labelled “pure” or “light” or by other names are typically lower quality or blended oils that have undergone chemical treatment. It’s best to avoid them.

Unfortunately, good olive oil is expensive and time-consuming to make. So lesser oils are sometimes adulterated and sold as oils of higher quality. In fact, some experts claim that corruption and fraud is the rule in this industry.

How can you tell the difference between a fake oil and the genuine article? It’s not always easy. But most countries have regulations in place to help maintain standards.

Look for the PDO (protected designation of origin) and PGI (protected geographical indication), or other similar markers (DO, AOC, DPO) on European labels. These may not provide an absolute guarantee, but they do offer some assurance of quality.

Nutrition Info

One tablespoon (13g) of olive oil contains 119 calories, 14g of fat (2g of which is saturated fat), no carbohydrates and no protein.

Olive oil is high in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, including polyphenols such as tyrosols, flavones, and anthocyanidins. It is a good source of vitamin E. And it is unusually high in oleic acid, which provides cardiovascular-protective benefits.

Selection

First, choose extra-virgin or virgin olive oils.

If possible, buy from a seller who keeps the oil in temperature controlled, stainless steel barrels and dispenses only small amounts at a time.

Ask to taste the oil to ensure you like it. Many olive oil “bars” have opened in recent years, and trying a variety of different oils is a great way to determine your own preferences (as well as the quality).

Avoid oils that seem musty, moldy, greasy, flat, or too sharp.

Buy oils that have been protected from light, and if buying bottled oils, look for those labeled with the date and buy only from the current year’s harvest. Not every oil is marked with the date of harvest, but as buyers become more discerning, reputable growers and sellers are adding this information.

Storage

Store olive oil in a cool, dark place, like a pantry cupboard.

There is some debate about the best container. Tinted glass is popular, as are metal tins. Either are better than plastic.

Buy only as much oil as you will use within a couple of months. Because of its high proportion of monounsaturated fats, olive oil is somewhat more stable than other vegetable oils, but exposure to light and heat eventually degrades it and makes it turn rancid. This affects its nutritional properties as well as its taste.

Preparation

Olive oil can be used as is, straight out of the bottle, to dress salads and cooked vegetables.

You can also cook with olive oil. Some nutritional value may be lost when olive oil is subjected to direct heat, especially high heat. It should not be used for deep frying. But in comparison to other oils, it typically degrades less, so it is fine to sautée with olive oil at a lower temperature. You can also use it as an ingredient in other foods.

Protein Knowledge Base


Beef refers to the meat that comes from the cattle animal.

Cattle are farmed throughout the US and Canada, but the majority of cattle farming takes place in the American Central Plains and parts of the Midwest. In Canada, beef cattle are farmed in the Prairie Provinces (especially Alberta), as well as Ontario and Quebec.

Most people are probably familiar with Angus beef, though there a number of other varieties. Some of the most popular breeds of beef cattle in the US include Hereford, Gelbvieh, Limousin, and Simmental, though there are others.

A standard diet for conventionally-raised beef cattle is largely corn-based (though in Western Canada, barley is commonly used instead of corn). Some amount of forage (grass, silage or legumes) is usually included in this diet. Alternatively, pastured or “grass fed” beef cattle graze on grass.

Beef cuts

Beef offers numerous cuts for popular consumption.

Preferred (and more expensive) cuts typically come from the rib, loin, and sirloin. These cuts of meat come from the top to midsection of the animal’s body, so they are less muscular and therefore more tender than other cuts.

Rib cuts include prime rib, rib eye, cote de boef, and bone-in rib steak.

Loin and sirloin cuts include striploin, tenderloin, sirloin steak, sirloin roast, and T-bone steak.

The lower, belly area of the animal is where plate and flank cuts come from: these are usually eaten as steaks, such as bavette, flank steak, skirt steak, and hangar steak. These cuts can be slightly tougher (which can be offset by proper cooking and cutting), but offer a desirable rich, beefy flavor.

Longer-cooking cuts tend to be tougher but have plenty of flavor if prepared properly. These include:

  • Chuck: pot roast, short ribs, stewing beef
  • Breast & foreshank: beef shank and brisket
  • Round: eye of round, sirloin tip, and silverside roast

In addition to these cuts, beef offers other edible ‘variety meats’ including:

  • Organ meats such as the heart and liver
  • Oxtail (the upper part of the tail)
  • Osso bucco and/or bone marrow (the lower foreshank including the bone)
  • Beef tongue
  • Sweetbreads (the thymus gland or pancreas)
  • Tripe (stomach)

These cuts are less popular in the Western diet, but they are embraced by some cultures, frugal cooks, adventurous eaters, and chefs. Those who embrace these more unusual cuts praise them for exceptional taste and nutritional value.

Ground beef is perhaps the most common form of beef. Of course, it forms what might just be America’s favorite food: the hamburger. Ground beef is also used in many other popular American dishes, including spaghetti with meat sauce, chili, meatloaf, and more.

Ground beef can come from various parts of the animal, but chuck is ideal as it offers a good balance of meat, fat, and rich flavor.

Identification

Though it varies slightly by cut, raw beef is typically a deep red color, which may appear somewhat purple, brown, or blue. Beef cuts that contain fat may have white “marbeling” throughout them – meaning you can see the lines of fat cutting through the meat.

Cooked beef should be somewhere on the spectrum of reddish-brown in color. For example, fully cooked ground beef will look brown, but over-cooked meat may appear grey in color.

In general, here’s how a steak should look when cooked, according to typical guidelines:

  • Steak cooked well-done will be brown all the way through
  • A medium steak will have a bit of pink in the center when cut into
  • A medium-rare steak will be red-pink in the center
  • A rare steak will be red all the way through, and may even have a hint of blue in the center

Nutrition Info

Three ounces of pan-browned lean ground beef (with a fat content of 15%) contains: 218 calories, 23.6g of protein, and 13.0g of fat.

Ground beef is an excellent source of zinc, iron, and B vitamins including B12 and B3.

Selection

Many cuts of beef can be purchased fresh from the meat department of your grocery store. Your grocery store may also have some beef available frozen.

One of the best ways to get quality meat – and to get more information about the beef, its origin, and how to prepare it – is to buy from a local butcher.

When buying meat, here are some things to check for:

  • Expiry date. Ideally the expiry date is at least several days away. The more time the better – that means more freshness!
  • Color. Avoid meat that looks grey or dull. The exception to this is aged meat: a properly aged steak will show its age and look dark, maybe even discolored. Well-aged steaks can be a real treat: if this is something you’d like to try, just ask your butcher.
  • Signs and seals, indicating the meat’s grade, type and where it came from. If you want to know where your meat came from and be assured of its quality, you may look for country of origin labels, beef grade labels, and other USDA assurances. For more on beef grades and other safety information, visit the USDA website.
  • Fat content. If you’re buying steak, some thick white marbling through the meat is probably a good thing. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a lean cut (such as loin), it should be solid red all the way through. Ground beef can typically be purchased as medium, lean, or extra-lean; while lean is considered standard, the choice is up to you.

Storage

Beef should be stored in the refrigerator and cooked before its expiry date. If you’ve purchased meat from a butcher and it’s wrapped in paper (not thoroughly sealed) you may want to put the package in a freezer bag to keep it fresh.

If you won’t be eating the meat within a couple days (or before the expiry date), you can freeze it to extend its lifespan. Generally, meat in the freezer will be good for a couple of months. Make sure it is wrapped in a tightly sealed heavy-duty freezer bag to avoid freezer burn.

Once cooked, beef will last about 4-5 days in a sealed container in the fridge.

Remember that frozen meat, once defrosted, cannot be re-frozen.

Preparation

Beef preparation depends greatly on the cut, the recipe, and your personal preference.

In general, tender cuts require less cooking time: steaks, for example, can be seared in a skillet and then broiled until desired doneness.

Tough, hardy cuts such as beef brisket are best cooked ‘low and slow’ so they have time to become tender.

Ground beef requires little preparation. It’s quick and easy to cook and can be added to a variety of different dishes, making it a common favorite.

To cook ground beef, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a sauté pan at medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the beef, and use a spatula to quickly break the meat up in the pan so that it doesn’t stick together. Stir it occasionally. Once the meat has been seared you should see some dark brown (but not black) carmelization occurring. At this point, turn the heat to medium-low and continue cooking until the meat is thoroughly cooked – it should all be brown colored, not pink.

A note about safety: The USDA recommends cooking beef until 145°F for safety reasons. This recommendation is especially important for ground beef. When preparing meat, remember to wash your hands and all other cooking surfaces and utensils after they have touched raw meat.


While you are unlikely to gnaw on a bone for a snack, bones are excellent sources of nutrients, as long as they are prepared in a way that favors human digestion.

The best way to release the nutrients found in bones is to make a bone broth. This is done by boiling bones in water for long periods of time (6-24 hours), until most of the nourishing compounds have been extracted into the water, creating a nutrient-dense broth.

Bones, depending on what type of bone and what animal they come from, are wonderful sources of minerals, amino acids, vitamins, healthy fats, collagen, gelatin, and nourishing compounds called glycosaminoglycans (also known as GAGs – which include chondroitin, glucosamine, and hyaluronic acid).

The combination of these health-promoting compounds makes bone broth a very healing food for the joints, skin, and gut. It is an excellent, easy-to-digest food for those with compromised digestion, as well anyone looking to generally increase their nutrition.

Identification

Depending on the type of bone and the animal it comes from, bones will look quite different, with some unifying characteristics.

Bones come in different shapes and sizes, but most are whitish in color, often blushing with pink or red from meat, cartilage, or skin still attached. In some cases, like chicken feet, the skin still encases the bones entirely.

Once cooked, bones lose their pink color and the nutrients within them are released into the cooking water, turning it golden brown. The cooking water also becomes very flavorful. If you are using bones with a high gelatin content to make your broth (such as joint bones like chicken feet, wings, and necks, or beef knuckles and oxtail), the broth will gel into a wiggly solid when it cools. (Once heated, this solid will melt again into a liquid.)

Bones from beef, lamb, and pork can be classified into a few categories: neck bones, knuckles (which describes any joint bone), feet, and other (includes shoulder, rib, leg, and breast bones).

Marrow bones from beef are also excellent bones from which to make broth. Marrow bones are large, tubular bones filled with a solid, pink-tinged, vitamin-rich fat (marrow) and add an excellent richness to a broth.

From poultry, good bones to use include necks, backs, and cages (which are the bones of the carcass minus the bones from parts that are usually sold separately, such as breast, leg, thigh, and wing bones).

Nutrition Info

The nutritional and caloric content of bone broth will vary widely depending on the bones used, and how the broth is prepared.

A broth with a healthy proportion of marrow bones and bones with fatty meat and skin attached will have a higher calorie count due to its fat content, whereas as broth made with clean joint bones may be higher in protein and lower in calories.

Bone broth is a unique source of the following compounds:

Collagen: Collagen is a gluey, elastic protein that holds together healthy bones, skin, joints, tendons, ligaments, and connective tissues, and keeps us feeling limber, supple, and juicy. Collagen is also a rich source of amino acids including glycine, proline, and glutamine. The cooked form of collagen is called gelatin, and rich sources of this protein include joint bones like knuckle bones and chicken feet.

Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs): GAGs are found in cartilage and include compounds like chondroitin sulfate and hyaluronic acid. Glucosamine, which is a precursor to GAGs, is also found in cartilage. You may have heard of these compounds due to their use in the treatment of osteoarthritis, where they can be helpful in the growth and repair of joint tissue. Bones rich in cartilage include joint bones like knuckle bones and chicken feet.

Minerals: Bones are rich in minerals, particularly calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium. All bones are dense storehouses of these minerals, and longer-simmered broths will usually have the highest mineral content.

Fats: Marrow bones are an excellent source of healthy fats, particularly if they come from grass-fed animals. These animals will have marrow with higher amounts of anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids, as well as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), another healthy fat.

Selection

While bones may not always be on display for purchase, most places that sell fresh meat, be they grocery stores, butcher shops, or farmers’ markets, will also have bones available. You might have to ask for them, but most places that do in-house butchering can fetch you a varied collection of bones, and will sometimes even give them away for free. Even if you have to pay for them, bones are generally very affordable.

Some stores, usually those that that cater to either progressive or very traditional practices of cooking, may have bones on display for purchase. Most bone broth enthusiasts would recommend making broth from a mix of cartilage-rich bones for collagen, marrow bones for fat and flavor, as well other bones with some meat still attached, also for flavor. If you have the choice, choose a mix of joint bones, marrow bones, and meatier bones.

Shop at stores you trust where the products look fresh; bones should be whitish, often with pink or red streaks where meat is still attached. Avoid any bones that show any signs of greying or browning.

An alternative way to obtain bones is to start buying bone-in cuts of meat, and saving up the bones in the freezer until you have enough to make a stock.

Like all animal products, the way the animal was raised and what it was fed will translate to the quality of the final product. Bones of animals who were grass-fed and / or pastured will likely result in a more nutritious bone broth.

Storage

After butchering, raw bones will keep in the fridge for about five days, or in the freezer for up to six months. The only exception is marrow bones, which you will want to cook within a few days, as the fat can go rancid relatively quickly.

Meat and poultry bone broths will keep in the fridge for about five to seven days. Broth also freezes well, and can be stored either in large containers or in single serving sizes for up to six months. Muffin tins and ice cube trays make great molds for smaller servings; freeze the broth in the tins / tray and then pop them out of their molds into a Ziploc bag for future use.

Preparation

Once you have obtained your bones and you’ve sequestered an oven burner you won’t need for the next six to 24 hours, you’re ready to make your broth.

The first step, which is optional, is to roast your bones. This step is purely for flavor. It will not alter the nutritional content of your broth, but it will give it pleasant, roast-ier, richer taste, and will also make your broth darker and more amber colored.

To roast your bones, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, and lay your bones on a baking tray, being careful not to crowd them too much. Depending on the size of your bones, you will want to roast them between 20 and 30 minutes, or until the bones are nicely browned at the edges.

When your bones are roasted (or raw if you choose to start your broth that way), place them in a large, sturdy pot. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the bones by about two to three inches. You can always add more water if the level gets too low during the simmering process, but if you add too much water your broth will taste weak and / or not gel.

Bring your bone water to a simmer gradually, over low heat. The ideal simmer is a gentle one, and depending on how much you are supervising this process and how much you want to concentrate your broth, you can choose to simmer it uncovered or sealed with a lid. For poultry bones, simmer for 6 to 12 hours; for beef, lamb, or pork bones, simmer for at least 12 to 24 hours.

Once your broth has simmered long enough, you will want to separate the liquid from the solid pieces. You can do this using either a slotted spoon or wire skimmer, or by pouring the liquid over a strainer into another container, or by using a combination of both methods. If you have used bones with meat attached, you may want to pick this meat off and either add it back to the broth or just have a spontaneous snack.

At this point (and only this point!) you can add salt if needed. Don’t add it at the beginning as during the simmering process your liquid may concentrate too much and you may be left with an over-salted broth. You can, however, add herbs, spices, or aromatic vegetables to your broth at any point to add flavor and dimension to the finished product.

Bone broth can be consumed as is, or used anywhere broth or stock is used: as a base for soups and stews, in risotto, or in stir-frys.


Since the early nineties, when concerns about the negative health effects of saturated fats and red meat rose (now a highly contested debate), so rose the consumption of chicken. Today, it continues to be among the most ubiquitous and versatile of animal products, appearing on plates around the world in soups, stews, curries, stir-frys, salads, sandwiches, roasts, and even reconstituted into crispy breaded dinosaur shapes.

The modern chicken is a descendant of the junglefowl – a leaner, more flamboyant species – which hails from South Asia, where it was domesticated thousands of years ago. Hybridized across generations, the heavy, muscular chickens we are most likely to eat today belong to either Cornish or White Rock breeds.

The rise of industrial chicken farming has also made chicken products more available than ever, although not without consequences to both a chicken’s quality of life as well as the nutritional quality of the meat.

Chickens, whether they are industrially farmed or free range and ethically raised, are widely available either whole or in a variety of cuts. Like a Noah’s Ark of chicken parts, a whole chicken is typically divided into paired parts: two drumsticks, two thighs, two breast halves, and two wings.

Note that no part of a chicken is naturally breaded and shaped like a brontosaurus.

Identification

Chicken will vary subtly in flavor, texture, and color, depending on what part of the bird you are eating, and how it has been prepared.

When raw, chicken ranges from a dusty rose color to pale pink, and when cooked, it ranges from beige to off-white.

Generally, when prepared properly and not overcooked, chicken is tender and juicy with a mild animal umami flavor. Darker meat cuts of chicken tend to be slightly fattier and more flavorful, and also tenderer. White meat cuts, such as the breast, are blander tasting and are also drier and tougher, especially when overcooked.

Most of the chicken’s fat is concentrated on the skin, which crisps up during high heat cooking, and may be removed prior to or after cooking.

Nutrition Info

Three ounces of oven roasted skinless chicken breast (about 100g) has 79 calories, 16.8g protein, 0.4g of fat, 2.2g of carbohydrates, and no significant fiber or sugar. Although chicken breast is an excellent source of lean protein, it is not a significant source of any vitamins or minerals. That’s what your side salad is for.

Note that values will differ depending on what part of the chicken you are eating. Darker cuts and organ meats will have a much higher vitamin and mineral content, and cuts with skin attached will have more fat and more calories.

Selection

When purchasing chicken products, there are many parts to choose from.

The most common parts include white, lean meats like the breast; darker, fattier meats like the thigh, drumstick, and wing; organs like the liver (often made into pâté), heart, kidneys, and gizzard; and other products such as eggs, rendered fat (also known as schmaltz), and the feet and carcass (which can be used to make stock).

A general rule for buying meat is to shop at stores you trust, where you can ask questions about the source, quality, and farming practices of the meat you’re purchasing. Local butchers, farmers’ markets, and grocery stores with well-trained staff are excellent places to start these relationships.

Always check the expiration date on the package to ensure freshness. Fresh chicken should have little to no odor and appear rosy or creamy colored, depending on the cut, and whether the skin is still on. If the meat shows signs of greying or is emitting a foul odor, drop it and run.

Storage

Well-sealed, raw chicken can be stored in the fridge for up to two days before cooking, or frozen for up to six months. Cooked chicken will stay fresh in the fridge for about three to four days.

Thaw frozen chicken in the fridge (rather than on the counter at room temperature) for safest results. A general guideline for thawing time is that it takes about 24 hours to thaw a whole five-pound chicken, and about five hours per pound for chicken pieces.

Preparation

Raw chicken can harbor salmonella bacteria, so when preparing raw chicken, it’s important to work in a clean, organized manner. Wash everything that touches raw chicken well, with hot water and soap.

Chicken pieces are easy to cook on the stovetop, on the barbecue, or roast in the oven, and it is a particularly satisfying feat to roast a whole chicken.

However, by far the simplest cuts to prepare are chicken cutlets, which are thin slices of chicken breast.

In order to cook them, place a pan over medium-high heat on the stovetop and season it with olive oil or coconut oil. Once the oil is hot and sizzling, place your chicken cutlets in the pan, leaving space between each piece, and sprinkle over your choice of seasoning, be it fresh garlic, rosemary, and lemon; grated ginger root and curry powder; or sundried tomatoes and dried basil. Chicken, with its mild, neutral flavor, is versatile and amenable to a variety of herb and spice combinations – the choice is yours. When the sides of the cutlet begin to lift from the pan, flip it over and season the other side. The chicken cutlets, depending on their thickness, should cook within five to seven minutes. They are done when the outsides are golden and the insides show no traces of pink.


In more practical terms, a Cornish hen is a chicken that is small enough to be eaten in one sitting, by one person.

Compared to regular chickens, Cornish hens weigh less (typically no more that two pounds compared to the three to five pounds a regular chicken weighs) and reach maturity faster (28 days as opposed to 50 days).

While regular chicken is very common to the average North American’s dinner plate, Cornish hen is typically reserved for special occasions. In keeping with its lavish reputation, Cornish hen is slightly harder to find in grocery stores and consumers can expect to pay a higher price per pound compared to regular chicken.

Identification

Cornish hens look like petite chickens. Whole, they can easily fit in the palm of your hand.

Although they still have all of the same cuts as a regular chicken (breast, drumstick, wing, etc.), Cornish hens are usually served whole rather than in parts because they are so small.

The tender meat of the Cornish hen has a subtle, more delicate flavor than that of a regular chicken, although the taste is still distinctly “chicken-y”.

Like a regular chicken, Cornish hens are pink when they are raw, and golden brown and crispy on the outside when roasted.

Nutrition Info

One whole roasted Cornish hen, meat and skin included (about 257g), has 666 calories, 57.2g protein, 46.8g fat, and no carbohydrates, fiber, or sugar. Cornish hens are not a significant source of any vitamins or minerals.

Selection

Cornish hens are typically only found at specialty butcher shops or very large grocery stores.

A general rule for buying meats is to shop at stores you trust, where you can ask questions about the source, quality, and farming practices of the meat you’re purchasing. Local butchers, farmers’ markets, and grocery stores with well-trained staff are excellent places to start these relationships.

Raw Cornish hens should have a pale rosy color and have little to no odor. Don’t purchase if the meat shows signs of greying or is emitting a foul odor.

Always check the expiration date on the package to ensure freshness.

Storage

A raw Cornish hen in a well-sealed package can be stored in the fridge for up to two days before cooking, or it can be frozen for up to six months. If you are planning to freeze it for longer than two months, over-wrap the original packaging with extra plastic wrap or tinfoil to prevent freezer burn.

A cooked Cornish hen that is wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or tinfoil will stay fresh in the fridge for about three to four days, or it can be frozen for up to six months.

If stuffed, remove the stuffing and store in a separate container before refrigerating or freezing the bird.

For safest results, thaw frozen Cornish hen in the fridge, rather than on the counter at room temperature.

Preparation

Raw chicken can harbor salmonella bacteria, so when preparing Cornish hen, it’s important to work in a clean, organized manner. Wash everything that touches the raw meat well with hot water and soap.

Most commonly, Cornish hens are cooked whole in the oven.

Here’s how to do that:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the Cornish hen(s) on a lined baking sheet, leaving space between the birds if you are cooking multiples. Drizzle the back of the bird with olive oil (about 1 tsp to 1 tbsp of oil for each), sprinkle with salt, pepper, and your choice of seasoning. Using clean hands, rub this oil and seasoning mixture into the skin, coating the entire surface of the bird. Place a lemon wedge, a few cloves of garlic, and a sprig of herbs into each cavity. Place the baking tray in the oven and roast for about 50-60 minutes, or until the thickest cut of meat is cooked through and the juices run clear. Then, remove the hens from the oven, let them rest for 10 minutes, and serve.


When we think of “eggs” in the context of food, most of us think of unfertilized hen eggs. In other words, chicken eggs.

Eggs are a staple food in North America and around the world. In the US and Canada they are often considered a breakfast food, though they have their place in lunch and dinner too, and are frequently used in baking.

During spring, eggs are commonly eaten in Easter celebrations as they symbolize life. They’re also a baking staple during Passover as they help baked goods rise without flour.

Eggs are considered one of the world’s most versatile foods, and they pack a lot of nutrition in their small shells.

Identification

Chicken eggs have an oval shape and a crisp outer shell, which is firm but easily cracked. The shell is usually brown or white in color.

There is no flavor or nutritional difference between brown eggs or white eggs: this is simply a reflection of the color and breed of the chicken that laid the eggs.

The two main components of the egg are:

  • The albumen, also known as the white, which is clear with a yellowish tint.  Once cooked, it becomes white and opaque. The albumen is largely made up of water, protein, and minerals.
  • The yolk, which is usually round, bright yellow or orange. The yolk is the egg’s greatest source of vitamins and minerals. Yolks may vary in color – as with the shell, this is a reflection of the feed the chicken ate, and not an indicator of freshness or nutritional makeup.

Nutrition Info

One large, whole, raw egg typically contains 72 calories, 6.4g of protein, 4.8g of fat, 0.4g of carbohydrates, 0.0g of fiber, and 0.2g of sugar.

An egg is also a good source of iron, folate, vitamins A, E, D and B12, and selenium, which, when paired with vitamin E, functions as an antioxidant.

Not surprisingly, different types of eggs contain different nutrients. For example, duck eggs have a higher protein content than chicken eggs.

Note: The issue of egg whites vs. whole eggs deserves some attention. Some people avoid eating egg yolks because of their high cholesterol content. But the latest research shows that the cholesterol in eggs is not associated with cholesterol problems or heart disease. In fact, the yolk is packed with nutrients, energy, and healthy fats. So go ahead, eat the egg white and the yolk.

Selection

Eggs are usually found in the refrigerated dairy case of your grocery store. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Size. Sizes for eggs generally range from small to jumbo. Size “large” is standard; if you plan on using eggs in other recipes, especially for baking, this is the size you should select.
  • Color. You may see a choice between brown or white eggs. As mentioned, this has no bearing on nutrition or flavor, and is simply personal preference.
  • Grade. Eggs are graded – but usually all you’ll see are “Grade A” eggs. This means government standards for the eggs have been met, which refers to how they look and their overall quality.
  • Quantity. You usually have the option of buying a half dozen or a whole dozen eggs per carton. Only select a full dozen if you plan on using all the eggs before their expiry date.
  • Farm & feed. These days, different egg brands advertise details about how the chickens were raised (e.g. free range; nest laid) and what they ate (e.g. omega 3’s). Your best bet is to educate yourself on the options before you shop.

Even better: if you are lucky enough to have access to a farmers’ market or a farm where eggs are sold, you can get them fresh. You may discover eggs with better flavor this way.

Tip: When selecting eggs, carefully hold the carton, lift the lid, and gently touch each egg, moving each one slightly to ensure none are broken or stuck to the bottom of the carton. If any eggs are stuck or broken, select another carton. But don’t worry if there are any bits of feathers or dirt on the egg – that is normal, particularly if you are buying eggs fresh from the farm.

Storage

Keep eggs in the fridge, in the carton they came in. Eggshells are actually very porous and can absorb other odors from your fridge, so keeping them in their carton helps ensure fresh flavor. Plus, the carton helps eggs sit upright and keep the yolk in place.

Use your eggs before the expiry date printed on the egg carton.

If you are separating yolks or whites (as sometimes required in baking), keep any leftover yolks or whites in a sealed container in the fridge and use within 2 to 4 days.

Hard cooked eggs can be kept for up to a week in the fridge.

Preparation

Cracking an egg

To crack an egg, take the egg in one hand and hit it swiftly against a flat surface. Then, over a small bowl, use your thumbs to separate the egg where it cracked, and tip the egg into the bowl while still holding the shell firmly.

Once cracked you can use the egg however you choose: eggs can be scrambled, fried, poached, baked, or used in other dishes.

If a small piece of shell falls into the bowl, use one of the big shell pieces like a scoop: tip it into the bowl, draw it towards the broken bit, and scoop out the bit of shell. This will work much better than a spoon or other utensil as the shell naturally cuts through the white.

Egg safety

When preparing eggs, be aware of how thoroughly you wish to cook your eggs.

Cooking times for eggs depends on the dish as well as personal preference: many people enjoy a runny yolk, but there is a degree of risk to undercooked eggs. While salmonella is rare in eggs, people at risk (including pregnant women) should not consume eggs that are raw or undercooked.

Baking with eggs

Eggs are a baking staple. If baking with eggs, be sure to use them at room temperature. Take them out of your refrigerator ahead of time so they warm up to room temperature. This will improve how they react in your baked good and help produce a better, more consistent product.

How to hard-cook an egg

A hard-cooked egg is a great, versatile preparation which can be used in egg-salad sandwiches, devilled eggs, or grated over salads.

Note: sometimes this preparation is called “Hard-boiled” but boiling the eggs produces a tasteless, slightly chewy, sometimes greyish result. A better plan is to cook the eggs as follows:

Place the egg in a pot, then cover with cold water by about 1 inch. Set the pot on the stove and set to medium-high heat. Watch the pot carefully: once the water reaches a strong simmer, turn the heat off and cover the pot. Set the timer immediately for 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare an ice-bath: put a few ice cubes and some cold water into a bowl. Using a slotted spoon, remove the egg from the pot and place it in the water bath until cool. At this point you can keep the egg in the fridge or you can peel it right away: just keep in mind that the colder the egg, the easier it is to peel. Sometimes peeling the egg under cold running water can help a stubborn shell to come loose.


The haddock is a salt water fish found on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. It is easily recognized by a black stripe running lengthwise along its white side and a distinctive blotch above the pectoral fin, sometimes referred to as a “thumbprint.” A very popular fish known for its mild flavor and lean flaky texture, haddock is sold fresh, smoked, dried, frozen, and to a smaller extent, canned. It is one of the most favored fish in Scotland and Britain, served as the ever-popular fish and chips.

Identification

Haddock is usually available in fillets, but can also be bought whole or in steaks. Fresh haddock is characterized by white firm flesh with a translucent quality, while older fillets have a chalky, cloudy look to them. Smoked haddock can be off white or yellow in color (dyed) depending on personal preference. You can find fresh haddock in the seafood department in grocery stores, or your local fishmonger.

Nutrition Info

A raw fillet (weighing 193g) contains approximately 143 calories, 31.5g of protein, and 0.9g of fat. It contains no carbohydrates, fiber, or sugar.

Haddock is a good source of vitamin B6 and B12, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, and selenium. Like most fish, haddock includes Omega- 3 fatty acids, which may provide a wide range of health benefits. It’s also worth noting that haddock is high in cholesterol (104 g).

Selection

Always choose haddock that is as fresh as possible. This is indicated by a firm texture and a pearly white appearance. When purchasing a whole fish, the eyes should be bright and clear and the gills should be red. Fresh haddock should have a slight smell of the sea. Avoid any that have a “fishy” odor.

Storage

Like all fish, haddock can be stored for a brief time in the coldest part of the refrigerator but is best eaten as soon as possible.

Tip: To keep fresh haddock extra cold, place it in a plastic bag, then in a bag of ice before storing it in the refrigerator.

Once cooked, wrap any leftovers tightly in plastic wrap or foil and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 or 4 days.

Preparation

Fresh haddock has a subtle flavor and texture, and is often preferred by those who aren’t fond of stronger fish such as salmon. It is best known served battered and deep fried in the classic “fish and chips”  but can be prepared in many other ways such as poaching, baking, roasting, sauteing, and grilling. Once cooked the fish should be flaky and moist.

A delicious fish chowder can also be made with fresh or smoked haddock.


Halibut is a fish variety with firm, white flesh and a mild flavor. A large fish belonging to the flatfish family, it can be found in the Pacific or Atlantic ocean – though the population in the Atlantic ocean has dropped dramatically in recent years.

Typically sold in fillets, halibut has a meaty texture that can hold up to a variety of cooking techniques, including baking, frying, and sautéing.

Identification

Look for halibut in the fish department of your grocery store or at your local fishmonger.

Halibut is bright white in color. You are likely to find it in pre-cut fillets.

Nutrition Info

A 100g portion of halibut, cooked in dry heat, contains 111 calories, 22.5g of protein, and 1.6g of fat. Halibut contains no carbohydrates, sugar, or fiber.

Halibut is a good source of B vitamins (such as B12, B6, and B3). It also offers potassium, selenium, and phosphorus.

Selection

Choose Pacific halibut, rather than Atlantic halibut. The latter has suffered from overfishing and a significant drop in population.

As with any fish, look for freshness. A fillet of halibut should have moist, dense flesh. Dry looking texture and dull color indicates age.

While you may smell a hint of the sea, avoid the fish if it has a strong or foul smelling odor.

Storage

Like any fish, halibut should be stored in the coldest part of your refrigerator and eaten soon after purchase.

Once cooked, leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Preparation

Halibut can handle many cooking preparation techniques, including sautéing, poaching, baking, or even grilling. It makes excellent fish and chips, or even tacos and burritos.

Avoid overcooking halibut as this dries out the fish and takes away from its delicate flavor and pleasant texture. The fish should be flaky and moist when it is done cooking. 


Lamb refers to the meat from a sheep less than a year old. Common cuts include the rack, rib chops (cut from the rack), loin, leg, and shank. Ground lamb is also fairly easy to find: it can be used in burgers, meatloaf, or “kofta” (a recipe popular in many middle eastern countries).

Other parts of the animal can also be enjoyed, though some are less common in the US: these include brain, tongue, neck, heart, and more.

Lamb is often imported from Australia and New Zealand. Relatively small amounts of domestic lamb are produced. In the US, most domestic lamb comes from Texas, California, and Colorado; in Canada domestic lamb comes mostly from Ontario and Quebec.

Identification

When raw, lamb coloring can range from soft pink to deep red. The color should look clean and bright. Depending on the cut, you can usually see some white fat marbling throughout or around the meat.

Once cooked, lamb is usually a rich brown-red color. Like beef, pinkness indicates rawness; if you are cooking lamb to medium-rare, you’ll want to see some pink and red color within the middle of the meat.

When choosing lamb, you’ll notice that cuts can range from very large (whole roasts like legs or racks) to quite petite (small rib chops, riblets, or loin chops). Got more time to cook and feeding a crowd? You might go with a larger, whole roast. Want to get your feet wet with some quick-cooking, individual portions? Try individual rib-chops or loin chops.

Nutrition Info

One broiled loin chop (46g) contains about 99 calories, 13.80g of protein, and 4.48g of fat.

Lamb also offers iron, vitamin B12, niacin, and riboflavin.

Keep in mind that nutritional content will depend on what the animal ate. For example, grass-fed lamb will offer a beneficial boost of omega-3 fatty acids.

Selection

Look for lamb in your grocery store, farmers’ market, or local butcher shop.

Whether you choose domestic lamb or imported lamb is up to you. Different countries typically raise different breeds of sheep, and have different methods for raising and feeding their sheep. These differences will influence texture and taste. You may choose to try a few different cuts from a few different places in order to choose your favorite. And when in doubt, ask your butcher!

Note: lamb flavor can range from mild to slightly ‘gamey’. Some people adore that savory, wild flavor, but for others it’s less palatable. If you’re new to lamb, you might stick to conventional cuts (e.g. loin or rib chops) and seek out American lamb, which tends to have a milder flavor than New Zealand lamb.

Here are some other things to consider when selecting meat:

  • Expiry date. Ideally the expiry date is at least several days away. The more time the better – that means more freshness!
  • Color. Avoid meat that looks grey or dull.
  • Signs and seals, indicating the meat’s grade, type, and where it came from. If you want to know where your meat came from and be assured of its quality, you may look for country of origin labels, grade labels, and other USDA assurances.
  • Cut. Rack/rib and loin cuts are tender, tasty cuts of meat — but they are usually the most expensive. Cuts from the shoulder or leg may be cheaper and just as tender with the right cooking technique. If you’re curious, ask your butcher.

For more information on lamb cuts, grades, and more, visit the USDA website.

Storage

Lamb should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer and cooked before its expiry date. If you’ve purchased meat from a butcher and it’s wrapped in paper but not thoroughly sealed you may want to put the package in a sealable freezer bag to keep it fresh.

If you won’t be eating the meat within a couple days (or before the expiry date), you can freeze it to extend its lifespan. Generally, meat in the freezer will be good for a couple of months. Make sure it is wrapped in a tightly sealed heavy-duty freezer bag to avoid freezer burn.

Once cooked, lamb will last a few days in a sealed container in the fridge.

Remember that frozen meat, once defrosted, cannot be refrozen.

Preparation

Preparation varies widely by cut. Tender, quick cooking cuts of lamb such as rib chops or loin chops can be grilled, broiled, or pan-fried.

A rack of lamb will need to be roasted in the oven at a fairly high heat: a roast will take about 20-25 minutes at 475 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tougher, thicker cuts such as lamb legs will need to be slow-cooked. Braising is a good method for this: sear the lamb in a large, oven-friendly pot. Then cover with liquid (water, stock, wine, or a combination), and transfer to the oven. Cook at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 4-5 hours, depending on the size of the cut.

When cooking, keep in mind the USDA safety guidelines. The USDA recommends cooking ground lamb (such as burgers) to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit as measured on a food thermometer.

Whole cuts (such as chops or roasts) may be cooked to your preference. The USDA recommends cooking lamb to 145 degrees Fahrenheit for considered medium rare or 160 degrees Fahrenheit for medium. As with steak, you can cook lamb to well done (170 degrees Fahrenheit) but this could turn tender cuts tough and chewy.

Lamb is known for its rich, savory flavor. It holds up well with bold spices and herbs including mustard, rosemary, cumin, and mint.


Pork meat comes from the domesticated pig, and is eaten worldwide in a variety of cuts, preparations and dishes. It is the most widely consumed meat in the world.

In the US and Canada, common cuts of pork come from the loin, leg, side/belly, ribs, and shoulder. Other parts of the animal – such as hock, head, trotters, intestines, and fatback – can be found in certain preparations but are generally less common.

Pork meat in its processed form includes bacon, sausages and hot dogs, ham, and various kinds of deli meats.

A typical grocery store may offer pork loin, often as “chops” (boneless or bone-in), or as tenderloin, ground pork, and back and/or side ribs, as well as the usual processed options. Ground pork is also often available. Other cuts such as pork belly may be available through a butcher.

Identification

Raw pork meat is usually pink and may contain some streaky or layered fat, depending on the cut. Fresh, raw pork should have a bright, clean look to it.

Cooked pork tenderloin looks white with just a hint of pink: pinkness is a sign of rawness. So, for example, a cooked pork chop should no longer look bright pink in the center.

Pork can also look brown or grey when cooked depending on the cut and cooking method.

Nutrition Info

There are many different cuts of pork, and the nutritional content varies greatly with each. As a typical example, this is the nutritional value of a bone-in, center loin chop (raw):

One pork chop (weighing 3 ounces) contains 144 calories, 17.60 grams of protein, and 7.68 grams of fat.

Pork is an excellent source of iron, B vitamins, zinc, and selenium.

Selection

As with all meat, fresh is best. Buy from a trusted butcher when you can. (Tip: a good butcher will help you pick out different cuts of meat and may be able to tell you the best ways to prepare and cook those cuts).

Here are some other things to consider when selecting meat:

  • Expiry date. Ideally the expiry date is at least several days away. The more time the better – that means more freshness!
  • Color. Avoid meat that looks grey or dull.
  • Signs and seals, indicating the meat’s grade, type, and where it came from. If you want to know where your meat came from and be assured of its quality, you may look for country of origin labels, grade labels, and other USDA assurances. For more on pork grades and other safety information, visit the USDA website.
  • Boneless or bone-in; fat or lean. Fat usually means flavor, and bones usually mean a more tender, juicier cut. On the other hand, boneless cuts without visible fat are usually lower in calories and cook more quickly. You can make your selection based on your personal preferences.

Storage

Pork should be stored in the refrigerator and cooked before its expiry date. If you’ve purchased meat from a butcher and it’s wrapped in paper but not thoroughly sealed you may want to put the package in a sealable freezer bag to keep it fresh.

If you won’t be eating the meat within a couple days (or before the expiry date), you can freeze it to extend its lifespan. Generally, meat in the freezer will be good for a couple of months. Make sure it is wrapped in a tightly sealed heavy-duty freezer bag to avoid freezer burn.

Once cooked, pork will last about 4-5 days in a sealed container in the fridge.

Remember that frozen meat, once defrosted, cannot be refrozen.

Preparation

Pork preparation depends greatly on the cut, the recipe, and your personal preference.

Pork roasts (such as a whole tenderloin) are usually best roasted in the oven.

Individual cuts, such as pork chops, are ideal for sear-roasting: to do this, heat a cast iron or similarly heat-resistant pan to medium-high with a small amount of olive oil, vegetable oil, or coconut oil. Once hot, carefully place the chops in the pan. Leave until seared (about 2-3 minutes). Then, carefully flip each chop and sear on the other side (another couple of minutes.) Meanwhile, heat the oven to 425°F. Once the chops are seared on both sides, move the pan to the oven and continue cooking until done. (The time required will depend on the thickness of your chops – if you like, an instant read thermometer can help you out with this.)

Alternatively you can cook the chops entirely in a pan, but the sear-roasting method is a great way to ensure a juicy and tender chop with a nicely seared crust.

The grill is another great way to cook pork: chops, tenderloin, ribs, sausages and even bacon can be cooked on the grill to delicious results.

Processed pork products which are already cured or smoked (such as ham) can simply be cooked or reheated according to package instructions.

A note about safety: The USDA recommends cooking pork until 145°F for safety reasons. When preparing meat, remember to wash your hands and all other cooking surfaces and utensils after they have touched raw meat.


Galliformes is an order of birds, many of which we eat. In this family we find chickens, geese, ducks, turkeys, pheasants, and others. The pinky finger of this family, the smallest of them all, are quails.

Quails are easy birds of prey. They are small, heavy-bodied, and they don’t run very fast or fly very well. Although they have sharp beaks, they are more cute than intimidating, except maybe to a small bug or a worm. For these reasons, quails end up being lunch for many species higher on the food chain.

There are over two hundred species of quails, which vary slightly in size and appearance. Most are between five and ten ounces. Some have smooth heads, and others have a stylish cowlick of plumes.

Europeans have been breeding quails for food for over ten thousand years, and records show that the Egyptians were breeding them even before that.

For those who cannot bear to eat these creatures, quails are also sometimes kept as pets, and lay tiny speckled eggs that are also edible.

Identification

Quails are small birds. One quail would be an appropriate hors d’oeuvre, whereas at least two would be more appropriate for an entrée.

Quails have a good ratio of meat to bones, and given tenderness and small size, the bones are usually eaten as well, instead of being removed. Quails have a delicate flesh with a taste that’s similar to chicken, but more flavorful.

Nutrition Info

One 4 oz portion of cooked quail (about 113g) has 257 calories, 28.5g of protein, 16g of fat, and no carbohydrates, fiber, or sugar. Quail is a good source of iron, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), zinc, and vitamin B3 (niacin).

Selection

Quails are not typically available in most grocery stores, and may either have to be special ordered, or purchased at specialty butchers.

Quails may be sold bone-in or de-boned, fresh or frozen.

Select birds that look plump with creamy, yellowish skin with a healthy pink tinge. The skin should look moist, but not wet. Their smell should be neutral. If you come across quails that have a greyish color or smell “off”, pass them by.

Storage

Fresh quail should be prepared shortly after purchase. Store quails in a sealed package in the fridge for two to three days before cooking, or freeze them for up to six months.

Once cooked, quail can stay fresh in the fridge for up to four days, or in the freezer for up to three months.

Preparation

Quail must be cooked before eating it. Luckily, it is easy to cook and well-suited to many different methods of preparation, such as braising, roasting, or grilling.

Oven roasted quails are simple and fast. Here’s how to do it:

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Rub the quails with olive oil and your choice of seasoning. Arrange the birds on a roasting pan and place in the oven. Roast for about 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and baste with juices. Place back in the oven and roast for another 10 minutes or so. Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly, and serve with juices alongside your choice of sides.


Call out “Salmon” and about eight species of fish will answer: Atlantic salmon, chinook salmon, chum salmon, coho salmon, masu salmon, pink salmon, sockeye salmon, and Danube salmon.

Wild salmon are found in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, as well as in fresh waters in eastern North America, Northern Europe, and South America. Salmon is also farmed around the world. Farmed salmon now accounts for about 80% of the world’s salmon supply.

While this article mainly concerns the nutritional value of salmon, the life cycle of this resilient fish is worth highlighting:

Although some species are restricted to the same body of water their entire lives, most salmon are born in fresh water, migrate to the ocean, and then return to fresh water to spawn. Relying on olfactory memory to find their way, salmon often return to the exact spot where they themselves were spawned.

During their migration from the ocean back to fresh water, salmon make amazing journeys that span hundreds of miles against rapids and forceful currents. Once they spawn, the vast majority of salmon die.

This migration is also known as the “salmon run”, which is a predictable, seasonal event usually occurring between September and November. This is an exciting event for hungry bears, predatorial birds, and sports fisherman.

Like most cold water fish, salmon are fatty (particularly in omega 3 fats) and delicious, with iconic coral-pink flesh.

Identification

Salmon is a large fish. Depending on the species, a salmon can range from about 20 inches up to several feet long, and can weigh anywhere from four to over a hundred pounds.

In color, salmon flesh ranges from pale pink to sunset orange to a deep coral-red. Their skin is dark and slightly silvery, and will crisp up when applied to heat.

When raw, a salmon filet will display white lines running across its flesh. This is fat. Wild salmon will generally not exhibit this build-up of fat between its muscles.

Salmon is a favorite among fish lovers and has a rich, fishy flavor and, when cooked properly, a soft, moist, luxurious texture.

Nutrition Info

Three ounces (about 85g) of cooked wild Atlantic salmon* has 155 calories, 21.6g protein, 6.9g of fat, and no carbohydrates, fiber, or sugar. Salmon is an excellent source of vitamin B12, selenium, and vitamin D, and a good source of vitamin B3 (niacin) and phosphorus.

Nutritionally, farmed salmon is different from wild salmon. Compared to their farmed equivalents, wild salmon are richer in omega 3 fats and the carotenoids (particularly astaxanthin) that give them their vibrant coral color.

*Nutritional content may vary slightly species to species.

Selection

Salmon is widely available (in some form) in most North American food purveyors. Higher quality, wild, fresh varieties may only be available in specialty stores and fish markets.

Salmon comes in many different forms: Fresh / raw, frozen, pre-cooked, canned, dried, or smoked. Fresh or frozen varieties, which may be sold as steaks, fillets, or chunks, are usually the best choices as they are the least likely to contain added ingredients. However, other varieties can be great to have on hand for convenience sake.

If your salmon comes in a package, read the ingredients. Avoid products that add dyes or have long lists of unpronounceable ingredients.

Fresh salmon should be displayed over ice and should look moist, but not wet, with little separation between the muscle fibers. If you can smell it, give it a whiff. Fresh salmon should have only a faint, but pleasant and fresh fish smell. Trust your nose. If it smells “off”, look elsewhere.

Storage

The length of time fresh salmon can be stored depends on when the fish was caught, so that is useful information to obtain at the time of purchase. Generally, salmon can be kept (well-wrapped in plastic and preferably over ice) in the fridge for about five days after it is caught. If you don’t know when it was caught, eat it within a day or two.

Salmon can also be frozen for about two months. Wrap it well to prevent freezer burn.

Once it is cooked, salmon can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for five to six days, or in the freezer for a few months.

If you have bought salmon in a package, follow the package directions for storage information.

Preparation

Fresh salmon, if the quality is high enough, can actually be eaten raw. Salmon of this caliber will usually be labelled as “sushi / sashimi grade”.
Otherwise, salmon can be cooked.

Fresh salmon cooks quickly, especially if it is cut in fillets or smaller chunks. Salmon steaks, due to their thickness and the presence of the bone, will take longer.

A fresh salmon fillet may be simply prepared on the stove-top. To do this, place some butter or olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Wait until the oil is popping before placing the salmon in the pan, as this will help to prevent sticking. Cook on one side for about four minutes, or until this side turns golden brown. Flip it over and cook for another three minutes or so, or until the flesh feels firm and has lost its translucency. Season with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of fresh citrus, and serve.


The name “sardine” refers to more than twenty types of small, oily, saltwater fish in the herring family. They may be eaten fresh or preserved.  

The term sardine was first used in English around the 15th century, probably in reference to the island of Sardinia, where large schools of these fish were once found. Spain, France, Norway, and Portugal are now the leading suppliers of tinned sardines, but the fish are common throughout the Atlantic, Pacific, and Mediterranean.

For many years a neglected food, sardines are enjoying new popularity. Sustainably fished, low in contaminants, and high in nutrients and taste, they’re an excellent choice.

Identification

Sardines are less than six inches long. (Larger than that, and they are called pilchards.) They are silvery in color, soft-boned, and oily-fleshed.

Nutrition Info

The nutrient value of sardines varies according to the type and the preparation. One tin of Atlantic sardines (3.8 oz or 92g) contains 191 calories, 22.7g of protein, 10.5g of fat, and no carbohydrates, fiber, or sugars.

Sardines are one of the best available sources of vitamin B12, which is important for supporting cardiovascular health. They are also rich in selenium, phosphorus, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and vitamin D. In addition, they contain significant amounts of calcium, vitamin B3, vitamin B2, copper, and choline.

Because they are low in the food chain and eat mainly plankton, sardines are relatively low in contaminants such as mercury.

Selection

You can buy sardines fresh or in cans. If buying fresh, select as you would any fish. Look for shiny skin, bright eyes, a flat (not bloated) belly, and do the sniff test. If it smells “off,” it probably is.

When buying tinned sardines, check the “best before” date to ensure they are still good. Choose sardines packed in olive oil or water rather than those packed in soybean oil.

Note that canned sardines may be prepared in a variety of ways. Some may be smoked, while others may be flavored. Ensure you are getting the type you prefer.

Storage

Fresh sardines spoil quickly and normal refrigerator temperatures are not really cold enough to prevent this. It’s best to keep sardines between 36-40°F (2-4°C).

After buying, remove them from the store packaging, rinse them, place them in a plastic bag, and cover with ice cubes or an ice pack in the fridge, replenishing the ice as required. Eat them as soon as possible, within two days at most.

Store canned sardines in one of your cooler kitchen cupboards (i.e. not the one right on top of the stove). Turn the tin every now and again to ensure the fish are all exposed to the oil or water they are packed in. Eat by the expiration date, and store any partially eaten cans in your fridge.

Preparation

Canned sardines require little preparation. Simply rinse off the excess oil and serve as you like, cold or warmed.

Fresh sardines or pilchards need to be scaled, gutted, and boned. Your fishmonger may do this for you. It’s not a difficult job, but may take a bit of extra time if you are doing it yourself.

Sardines can then be grilled, fried, broiled, or baked. Because the fish are small, cooking time is short—usually around 10 minutes.

For simple grilled sardines, begin by heating your grill. Next, brush the fish with olive oil to keep it moist. Cook for about 5 minutes, and turn gently with kitchen tongs. Cook on the other side. Serve.

Sardines are great simply squirted with a bit of lemon juice, salt, and pepper. They’re also tasty with a sauce of balsamic or red wine vinegar and a bit of olive oil.

Olives, capers, fennel, roasted garlic and peppers, parsley, tomatoes, oregano, and rosemary are traditional and tasty accompaniments. 


Shrimp are small, swimming crustaceans that can be found near the seafloor of most coasts and estuaries, and sometimes in lakes and rivers.

Shrimp are numerous in species. Tiger shrimp and White shrimp are two common varieties. They are typically available frozen year-round.

Note: Sometimes shrimp are referred to as prawns. This is the common term for shrimp in the UK.

Identification

Shrimp have long, narrow abdomens and long antennae; they look somewhat like small lobsters. They have a thin but hard outer shell, which should be removed before eating.

Raw, shrimp have a blue, translucent hue. Once cooked, they turn opaque and pink.

Shrimp range in size: the smallest are about as big as a thumbnail while colossal shrimp may be as big as your palm.

Nutrition Info

Three ounces of raw shrimp contains approximately 72 calories, 18.0g of protein, 0.0g of carbohydrates, 0.0g of fibre, and 0.5g of fat.

Shrimp does contain some cholesterol: approximately 137mg per three ounces of shrimp.

Shrimp is a good source of vitamin D, B12, and B3.

Selection

Shrimp can typically be purchased frozen, in bags. There are usually several options when picking shrimp: First, decide if you want to buy them raw or cooked. Next, you will need to select whether you prefer whole, shelled, or “EZ Peel.” The latter option means the heads have been removed, the meat and shell have been slit down the back, and sometimes the black ‘vein’ running through the shrimp has been removed.

Finally, consider the size of the shrimp. Sizes range from tiny to colossal. Check the bag for the number of shrimp it contains per pound: usually, the lower the number of shrimp per pound, the bigger the shrimp.

Avoid buying “fresh” shrimp from the grocery counter – it is usually defrosted shrimp and not as fresh as the frozen kind.

Storage

Keep frozen shrimp in the freezer. You can defrost the shrimp overnight in the fridge, or take it out of the freezer shortly before cooking if using a ‘quick defrost’ method (see below).

Preparation

Thaw shrimp overnight in the freezer or defrost quickly by putting shrimp in a colander and sitting under cold running water for about 15 minutes.

If the shrimp are whole, pull off the head first. Then, pull off the legs. For “EZ Peel” shrimp, the legs and shell should pull off in one smooth motion.

If removing the tail, squeeze the tail at its base, close to where it meets the end of the shrimp. This will help you avoid losing any extra tail meat.

De-veining is a final step. If this has not been done already, take a pair of tweezers or a paring knife and pull out the thin, black thread (it is actually an intestine) that runs through the shrimp. The ‘vein’ is edible but not aesthetically appealing.

Once your shrimp are ready to be cooked, you have many options. Here are two:

Grilled shrimp: Defrost unpeeled shrimp, dry well with paper towels and sprinkle with 1tsp salt. Meanwhile, heat a gas grill to medium-high. Using long-handed tongs, arrange the shrimp on the grill grates, positioning them so they don’t fall through the cracks. Close the grill but don’t go far: the shrimp will cook quickly. After they have been cooking for 2-3 minutes, turn the shrimp and cook for another 2-3 minutes. The shrimp are cooked when they are no longer opaque, and the flesh is starting to curl. Serve with melted butter or ghee, or cocktail sauce.

Poached shrimp: Defrost shrimp but leave them peeled. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. If you wish, you can flavour the water with peppercorns, bay leaves, and sliced lemon. You can also substitute up to 2 cups of the water with white wine. Once the liquid is boiling, reduce it to a gentle simmer. Add the shrimp, cover, and let poach for 4 minutes. Turn off heat and let shrimp sit covered in the hot water another 2 minutes. Remove shrimp from pot and check for doneness (they should no longer be opaque). with a slotted spoon remove shrimp and let sit until cool enough to handle.


A turkey is a large bird, native to the Americas, which are raised as poultry for their meat.

Most turkey meat available in North America is farmed; however, wild turkeys do exist and their meat is also edible and enjoyable (though it tends to have a stronger, gamier flavor).

In the US and Canada, Turkeys are traditionally eaten at Thanksgiving and/or Christmastime – on these occasions it is common to roast the full bird (minus its head and extremities).

But turkey is not just for holidays: fresh or frozen turkey meat is available year-round. The cuts are similar to chicken, (for example, as breasts and thighs) although the sizes are much larger.

Turkey is commonly found as “deli meat” or “luncheon meat” – pre-cooked, seasoned and sliced meat preparations usually added to sandwiches. (Other variations may include turkey sausage or turkey bacon.) However, keep in mind these are heavily processed versions of the meat, usually with preservatives, salt, and other seasonings. It is not turkey in its true form.

Turkey can be compared to chicken but its flavor, though relatively mild, is more distinctive – it has a rich, slightly gamy, savory taste yet is not overbearing and can respond well to bold seasonings. Because it is a lean yet protein-dense meat, turkey is sometimes used as a replacement for fattier meats.

Identification

As with chicken, turkeys offer both ‘white’ and ‘dark’ meat. White meat refers to the leaner cuts such as breast, which maintain a pale beige color even when cooked. Dark meat refers to slightly fattier and richer cuts such as leg or thigh, which take on a darker color once cooked.

Whole, roasted turkeys are generally considered a beautiful thing if cooked properly: the turkey’s outer skin takes on a burnished, golden hue and crispy texture.

The large, grand nature of a whole roasted turkey is valued for its visual appeal, helping to secure its time-honored place at the holiday dinner table.

Nutrition Info

Three ounces of roasted turkey meat (white meat, without the skin) contains about 135 calories, 24.7 grams of protein, and 3.26 grams of fat.

In addition to being a lean yet protein-packed meat, turkey is high in iron, zinc, potassium and B vitamins.

Note: There is a popular myth that says turkey makes you sleepy. While turkey does contain Tryptophan (a component that gets converted into melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone), it doesn’t actually contain more than many other foods. The post-Thanksgiving meal daze that many people experience is more likely due to an abundance of carbohydrates, alcohol consumption, and overeating (or a combination of all three).

Selection

Throughout the year a limited selection of fresh turkey cuts are usually available in the poultry section of your grocery store. Choose the freshest cuts possible – avoid meat that looks grey or dull. Look for the date the meat was butchered – it should be as close to the date of purchase as possible. At the very least, the current date should be several days away from the expiry date.

It’s best to purchase meat from a trusted source. Review the details on the package that tell you about the farm and the meat itself. But keep in mind that sometimes marketing ‘buzz words’ can be misleading. Therefore, if you have questions or concerns about where your meat comes from and want to know about the farm and/or farming methods, it’s best to buy your meat from a local butcher or at the farmers’ market.

If choosing a whole turkey you’ll first have to decide if you want fresh or frozen. This is largely a matter of personal choice. Many supermarkets offer both fresh and frozen options during the winter holidays.

The ideal way to acquire a fresh turkey is to speak with your local butcher ahead of time. A good butcher can inform where and how the turkey has been raised. He or she may even be able to acquire an heirloom variety of turkey, provide you with organic or small-farm options, or at least assure you of the turkey’s quality. While this can require a bit more time (and possibly money), it does significantly increase your chances of a tastier and more nutritious turkey.

Storage

Keep your turkey in the fridge or freezer depending on when you plan to use it. If you keep it in the fridge, be sure to use it before the expiry date. Remember that frozen meat, once defrosted, cannot be refrozen.

If buying from your butcher, you can ask him/her how long the meat will keep in the fridge. However, it’s best to cook and enjoy the meat as soon as possible – the fresher it is, the better it will taste. Generally, fresh meat should only be purchased a day or two before you plan to cook it.

Turkey meat, once cooked, can be kept in a sealed container in your fridge for about five days.

Preparation

Roasting a whole turkey

Roasting a whole turkey is a significant undertaking. Many families have their own traditions in this regard. In general, the basic process is as follows:

  1. If the turkey is frozen, defrost it in advance. Rinse and wipe out the inner cavity, removing any giblets inside. Fill cavity with stuffing, if you so choose.
  2. Season the turkey all over with salt, pepper, and butter (or coconut oil).
  3. Truss the turkey, tying its legs together with kitchen twine, and/or use skewers to fold the skin over the cavity.
  4. Put the turkey in a roasting pan, breast side up, and cover loosely with foil. Cook at 325°F for about 20 minutes per pound. Remove the foil for the last hour of cooking. When done, a thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh should register at least 170°F degrees (or 180°F for a stuffed turkey.)
  5. Let the turkey rest before carving – at least 20 minutes to let the juices settle and distribute evenly throughout the meat.
  6. Of course, many people swear by their specific turkey preparations: For example, brining the turkey in advance is an excellent method to create a moist and juicy turkey with crispy skin. Deep-frying or barbecuing are popular variations on the whole roasted turkey, especially in the American south.

Cooking cuts of turkey

Cooking individual cuts of turkey is much simpler: you can prepare the meat in a similar fashion to chicken or pork, though you will likely have to allow for longer cooking time.

For example, to bake a turkey breast, preheat oven to 350°F. Season breast with salt, pepper, any other spices of your choosing, and a tsp of olive oil. Place on a baking sheet or shallow roasting pan and bake for one hour. Flip the breast over and bake for another half hour, or until the thickest part of the meat registers 165°F on a meat thermometer.

Ground turkey can be used as an alternative for other types of ground meat: turkey chili, turkey meatballs, turkey meatloaf are alternatives you may enjoy.

Safety

Like other forms of poultry, turkey meat should be cooked through. The USDA recommends cooking turkey meat to at least 165°F.

That said, keep in mind that turkey is a lean meat – especially the white meat. Avoid overcooking it or it may taste dry.

As with all meat, wash your hands carefully after touching raw meat and clean up thoroughly when you are done.

If raw poultry meat ever smells sour, stinky or sulfur-like, toss it – it’s no longer safe to eat.

Using turkey leftovers and ‘strange bits’

It would be remiss to discuss turkey preparations without addressing one of its most common forms: leftovers. Because turkeys are large birds, traditionally roasted for holiday feasts, there is often meat left over after the main meal.

Turkey sandwiches and turkey soup are common uses, but feel free to get creative. For example:

  • Add slices of turkey to stir fries
  • Finely chop the meat for sloppy joes or burgers
  • Roughly chop the meat and use in a potpie or casserole
  • Dice the meat and add to an omelet or frittata
  • Toss slices of the meat with leafy greens, dried cranberries, and walnuts as a wintery salad.

Turkey meat can be kept in the freezer for later uses. Store it in a heavy, sealed plastic bag for up to three months.

Note: If you buy a whole bird, sometimes the turkey neck, gizzard, and giblets (organ meat) come with it, either stuffed into the bird or provided separately. Don’t throw away these valuable parts of the bird: they can be quite tasty and the giblets are a good source of B vitamins, iron, and protein.

The giblets can make an excellent, rich gravy to accompany your bird. The neck and gizzard can be wrapped in foil, roasted along with the turkey and enjoyed. And after the main meal is eaten, the turkey carcass can be used to make a tasty, nutritious bone broth (stock) or soup.

Seafood Knowledge Base


Crab meat is the meat found within a crab.

Many different ‘cuts’ of crab meat can be eaten. Pre-picked crab meat usually represents whole and/or broken pieces of meat taken from all parts of the crab.

 

Identification

Crab meat will look different depending on which cut you select. The cuts range from larger chunks of meat (about the size of a golf ball) to shredded meat.

All of the meat is white with the exception of claw meat, which is brown. The brown meat has a slightly stronger flavor profile than the white meat.

 

Nutrition Info

Three ounces of crab meat has around 74 calories, 15.4g of protein, 0.03g of carbohydrates, 0.0g of fiber, 0.9g of fat, and 0.0g of sugar.

Crab meat is high in vitamins B12 and folate. It is also a good source of minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.

 

Selection

There are several types of crabs including blue crabs, soft-shell crabs, dungeness crabs, jonah crabs, king crabs, snow crabs, southern tanner crabs, and stone crabs. The kind of crab you select will depend on geographic location and availability.

In the grocery store, you can purchase live crabs, crab legs and claws, crab meat, or frozen crab meat. Frozen crab, prepared crab meat, and whole legs/claws, are usually pre-cooked.

If buying live crabs, make sure that they are active and that their shells are brightly colored. The crab you select should also feel heavy for its size.

If buying crab legs and claws, choose your own individual pieces if you can. This allows you to pick the freshest pieces, which should be brightly colored. Look for the largest legs and claws possible from the display. Smell them: if they have an ammonia smell, don’t buy them. Pick up the legs if you can – they should feel heavy for their size, and fully intact at the joints.

When selecting refrigerated, pre-picked crab meat, make sure it is fresh and has no ammonia smell to it.

Crab meat also comes in cans. If you choose to go the canned route, make sure you look at the ingredients on the can carefully. Select the can with the fewest number of ingredients and the least amount of salt.

Storage

If you’ve purchased fresh crab meat, store it in an airtight container in the coldest part of refrigerator for no more than 2-3 days.

If you’ve just cooked a crab, its meat will be tastiest if you eat it right away. Alternatively, you can store your leftover cooked crab meat in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days or in the freezer for up to 4 months.

If freezing fresh crab meat, keep in mind that the flavor of crab meat is often lost when frozen.

Canned crab can be stored in the can for about a year. Check the expiration date on the can before opening. Once open, you can store uneaten canned crab in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Preparation

Cooking a whole crab

If you’ve purchased live crabs, begin by putting your crabs in the freezer for 15 minutes to numb them before cooking. Meanwhile, find your largest pot and fill it with water (1L of water per crab). Salt the water very generously and bring to a boil. If desired, you may add 3-4 bay leaves, peppercorns, and paprika to the water for extra flavor.

Once the water is boiling and the crabs have been in the freezer for 15 minutes, use a pair of tongs to grab the crabs from behind and drop them into your pot. Once again, be sure you have 1L of water per crab; if your pot isn’t large enough, just cook one at a time.

Place the crab into the pot of boiling water with legs facing downwards. Allow the crab to cook for about 15 minutes. While the crab is cooking, prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl or your sink with cold water and ice.

You’ll know the crab is almost ready when you see it floating on top of the water. When you see this, give the crab another 2-3 minutes of cooking time. Once the crab is cooked, use tongs to transfer it from the pot to the ice bath. Let it cool in the ice bath for about 2 minutes. This helps to stop the cooking process and also makes the crab cool enough for you to handle.

Note: Steaming is another option. Follow the directions for freezing the live crabs first, then steam the crabs for 20-30 minutes over a pot of boiling water. Once steamed, place crabs in the ice bath and then follow the instructions below.

Once the crab has cooled, you can begin the cleaning process.

To clean the crab, flip it upside down and locate the “apron”. Break the apron off using your thumb. You’ll then need to remove the carapace (the large exoskeleton). To do this, stick your thumb into the hole that was created when you removed the apron and lift up gently yet firmly. The carapace will detach from the body along with the crab guts. Discard.

Remove the gills from both sides of the body. You’ll also need to remove the mandibles which are the mouthparts at the front of the crab. Simply crack them off and throw them out.

Once you’ve completed this, rinse off all the goo from the body – the only thing you should be left with is shell and meat.

You can now turn the crab upside down and place your thumbs near the midline (where the carapace used to be). Push up with your thumbs and pull down with your hands. This will split the crab in half.

You’ll now be able to remove large chunks of meat from the body. You can also crack open the legs and claws and pick out the meat with a tool.

Enjoy!

Using crab legs or crab meat

The crab legs or meat that you purchase from your grocer are likely pre-cooked; you can enjoy as is or use the meat in your favorite recipe.

For frozen legs/claws, because the meat is still surrounded by the shell, simply put them into a pot of boiling water and boil for about 5-8 minutes (more or less depending on the size of the legs).

Alternatively, you can defrost them first and then snap in half and put them on the grill for about 7 minutes.

If the frozen meat is already removed from the shell, then simply thaw and reheat as indicated on the package, and use as directed in the recipe you are making.


Polarizing pizza topping opinions since the dawn of…pizza, is a stinky little fish known as the anchovy.

Anchovies are a type of small, oily, salt-water fish. They are abundant in Mediterranean regions but are also found in temperate salt waters around the world.

Low on the food chain (anchovies only eat plankton and other small, recently hatched fish), anchovies are one of the most nutritious, sustainable fishes available.

While anchovies are sometimes available fresh, they are most commonly found cured.

Soon after the anchovies are caught, they are gutted and then packed in large bins heavily layered with salt, where they will be left to cure for six to eight months. This process preserves and tenderizes the fish and creates the rich, salty, and intensely fishy flavor characteristic of anchovies.

After curing, anchovies are packaged either in salt or oil, or pureed into a paste.

It’s at this point that anchovies find their way onto the pizzas of people with particular palates.

Identification

Fresh anchovies are small and silvery and full of tiny hair-like bones. They are mild in flavor with a satisfying fatty richness, much like a sardine.

Most anchovies come cured, and then are packed either in salt or oil.

Salt-packed anchovies are typically packed after just the heads and tails have been removed, and therefore may contain traces of silvery scales and also contain bones, which will have softened during the salting process.

Oil-packed anchovies are typically skinned and de-boned, and therefore come in thin little fillets. They are slightly milder in flavor than salt packed anchovies.

Both versions are a rosy-rusty color and intensely flavorful. Cured anchovies have a kicking fishy saltiness and the intense umami flavor characteristic of aged cheeses and cured meats.

Anchovy paste looks a lot like pâté but tastes like a million oceans concentrated into one tube.

Nutrition Info

A portion of five anchovy fillets (canned in oil and drained; about 20g) has 42 calories, 5.8g protein, 1.9g of fat, and no carbohydrates, fiber, or sugar. Anchovies are an excellent source of calcium, iron, and zinc. In their cured form, they are also high in sodium.

Anchovies are a notably rich source of omega 3 fats. Omega 3s help to decrease inflammation and maintain the health of all the cells in the body, especially the fatty tissues of the eyes, brain, and nervous system.

Selection

Although fresh, frozen, and desiccated anchovies are available, the anchovies you will most likely find at your grocery store, health food store, or gourmet food store will come in one of three ways: packed in oil, packed in salt, or in a paste. Oil or salt packed anchovies typically come in either a can or a jar, and anchovy paste usually comes in a tube, not unlike a tube of toothpaste.

As with most packaged foods, the ingredients list will tell you the most about the quality of the product. Anchovy products should contain little more than anchovies, salt, oil, and in the case of anchovy paste, sometimes vinegar.

Storage

Cured anchovy products in cans, jars, or tubes will likely have a long shelf-life, due to the preserving quality of salt. Make note of the expiration date on the package, and consume before it passes.

Before they are opened, many anchovy products are quite shelf-stable, unless otherwise specified on the label. After they are opened, keep anchovies covered in either salt or oil in an airtight container in the fridge, where they will stay good for up to two months.

However, always refer to the instructions on the package, as shelf-life and storing instructions may vary.

Preparation

Cured anchovies can be eaten straight out of the jar / can / tube.

Anchovies are also lovely layered on crusty bread with butter, or on a plain cracker. As mentioned, they are favored by some on pizza, or can be mashed into salad dressings or tomato sauces for added savoriness.

If you have cats, prepare for a stampede when you open your container.

Clams are a type of freshwater or marine dwelling mollusc. They are typically harvested from the Atlantic coasts of Canada and Northern United States.

There are many species of clams. The most common varieties used in North American culinary preparations include: soft-shell clams, surf clams, and ocean quahogs.

Clams have a rich, slightly sweet, oceanic flavor.

Identification

Clams are defined by their structure, which involves two hard shells joined by a flexible hinge, encasing a soft body. Clams will range in size, depending on the species selected.

Nutrition Info

A 100g portion of steamed clams (the meat of about 10 small clams) contains 148 calories, 25.5g of protein, 2.0g of fat, and 5.1g of carbohydrates. Clams are also an excellent source of iron, zinc, selenium, and B12.

Clams contain some cholesterol: about 67mg per 100g serving.

Selection

Clams can be purchased in many different forms.

The whole form, with both shells intact, is available fresh and alive or sometimes frozen. The shucked form, with both shells removed, can be found fresh, frozen (either raw or precooked), or canned.

When selecting whole, live clams, look for clams that have closed shells. If shells are open, tap them, and if they respond by closing their shells, they are alive and good to eat. Reject any clams with cracked shells, strong odors, or those that don’t try to close when tapped.

When cooked, the shells of healthy clams will open. Discard any clams that haven’t opened within the suggested cooking time.

Storage

Whole clams may be stored in the fridge for up to 14 days after harvesting, preferably over loose ice. Confirm the harvest date with your seafood provider to ensure freshness. Clams may also be frozen for up to three months.

Preparation

There are a number of ways to prepare clams, but the two simplest forms are raw or steamed.

Raw clams: Purchase fresh, live clams. Wash clams in a colander under cold running water, discarding any that remain open. Using a clam knife, insert the blade into the seam between the shells and twist the knife to open the clam. Run the blade of the knife along the top half of the shell to cut the clam flesh from the shell, then do the same along the bottom half of the shell. Consume as is or with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or a prepared dressing of choice.

Note: Although the potential for contamination is low when buying from trusted seafood purveyors, the risk for foodborne illness from raw seafood is higher than for cooked versions. Health authorities advise against the consumption of raw seafood among children, elderly adults, pregnant women, or immunocompromised individuals.

Steamed Clams: Rinse clams well under cold running water and discard any that haven’t closed. Letting clams sit in a bowl of lightly salted water for about 10 minutes before steaming will encourage clams to “spit out” any sand or dirt. After soaking, bring a small amount of water, stock, or white wine to boil. In a covered pot, steam clams, shaking the pot occasionally, until all (or nearly all) the clams open, about 10 minutes. Discard any clams that haven’t opened, and serve the rest as desired.


The haddock is a salt water fish found on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. It is easily recognized by a black stripe running lengthwise along its white side and a distinctive blotch above the pectoral fin, sometimes referred to as a “thumbprint.” A very popular fish known for its mild flavor and lean flaky texture, haddock is sold fresh, smoked, dried, frozen, and to a smaller extent, canned. It is one of the most favored fish in Scotland and Britain, served as the ever-popular fish and chips.

Identification

Haddock is usually available in fillets, but can also be bought whole or in steaks. Fresh haddock is characterized by white firm flesh with a translucent quality, while older fillets have a chalky, cloudy look to them. Smoked haddock can be off white or yellow in color (dyed) depending on personal preference. You can find fresh haddock in the seafood department in grocery stores, or your local fishmonger.

Nutrition Info

A raw fillet (weighing 193g) contains approximately 143 calories, 31.5g of protein, and 0.9g of fat. It contains no carbohydrates, fiber, or sugar.

Haddock is a good source of vitamin B6 and B12, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, and selenium. Like most fish, haddock includes Omega- 3 fatty acids, which may provide a wide range of health benefits. It’s also worth noting that haddock is high in cholesterol (104 g).

Selection

Always choose haddock that is as fresh as possible. This is indicated by a firm texture and a pearly white appearance. When purchasing a whole fish, the eyes should be bright and clear and the gills should be red. Fresh haddock should have a slight smell of the sea. Avoid any that have a “fishy” odor.

Storage

Like all fish, haddock can be stored for a brief time in the coldest part of the refrigerator but is best eaten as soon as possible.

Tip: To keep fresh haddock extra cold, place it in a plastic bag, then in a bag of ice before storing it in the refrigerator.

Once cooked, wrap any leftovers tightly in plastic wrap or foil and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 or 4 days.

Preparation

Fresh haddock has a subtle flavor and texture, and is often preferred by those who aren’t fond of stronger fish such as salmon. It is best known served battered and deep fried in the classic “fish and chips”  but can be prepared in many other ways such as poaching, baking, roasting, sauteing, and grilling. Once cooked the fish should be flaky and moist.

A delicious fish chowder can also be made with fresh or smoked haddock.


Halibut is a fish variety with firm, white flesh and a mild flavor. A large fish belonging to the flatfish family, it can be found in the Pacific or Atlantic ocean – though the population in the Atlantic ocean has dropped dramatically in recent years.

Typically sold in fillets, halibut has a meaty texture that can hold up to a variety of cooking techniques, including baking, frying, and sautéing.

Identification

Look for halibut in the fish department of your grocery store or at your local fishmonger.

Halibut is bright white in color. You are likely to find it in pre-cut fillets.

Nutrition Info

A 100g portion of halibut, cooked in dry heat, contains 111 calories, 22.5g of protein, and 1.6g of fat. Halibut contains no carbohydrates, sugar, or fiber.

Halibut is a good source of B vitamins (such as B12, B6, and B3). It also offers potassium, selenium, and phosphorus.

Selection

Choose Pacific halibut, rather than Atlantic halibut. The latter has suffered from overfishing and a significant drop in population.

As with any fish, look for freshness. A fillet of halibut should have moist, dense flesh. Dry looking texture and dull color indicates age.

While you may smell a hint of the sea, avoid the fish if it has a strong or foul smelling odor.

Storage

Like any fish, halibut should be stored in the coldest part of your refrigerator and eaten soon after purchase.

Once cooked, leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Preparation

Halibut can handle many cooking preparation techniques, including sautéing, poaching, baking, or even grilling. It makes excellent fish and chips, or even tacos and burritos.

Avoid overcooking halibut as this dries out the fish and takes away from its delicate flavor and pleasant texture. The fish should be flaky and moist when it is done cooking. 


Lobster is a prime example of how food trends change.

Prior to the mid-1900’s, lobster was associated with poverty and crime. Initially considered to be no better than fish bait, lobster was typically eaten only by coastal peasants and servants. It was also a popular food served in prisons, much to the offense of inmates.

Eventually, cosmopolitan Northern Americans developed a taste for the crustacean, and its reputation was transformed to the luxurious food icon it is today.

Lobsters, which dwell exclusively in saltwater environments, have amazing longevity, and are known to live up to 70 years old. The most vulnerable times in a lobster’s life are during the molting process, which occurs when the lobster sheds its rigid exoskeleton in order to grow. During a period of about two hours while the muscle tissue expands, the soft body is exposed and completely defenseless until the new exoskeleton forms and hardens. About 10 to 15% of lobsters die during the molting process.

Lobsters are related to crayfish, and both are delicious with melted butter.

Identification

Lobsters are large hard-shelled crustaceans ranging from 25 to 50 centimeters long. The lobster has a long, muscular body that ends in a fanned-out tail. It has ten legs, six of which have claws, with the two front claws being by far the most prominent (and intimidating).

Uncooked lobster shells have a blue-green color that turns a brilliant reddish orange when cooked. Before cooking, a protein called crustacyanin inhibits a naturally occurring pigment called astaxanthin. When heat is applied, crustacyanin breaks down and reveals the fiery sunset hue of astaxanthin.

Lobster flesh is tender and white, with orange accents in the claw meat. The texture varies slightly from part to part, with the claw meat being softer and richer, and the body meat being slightly chewier and milder tasting. In general, lobster meat has a sweet, oceanic flavor similar to other crustaceans like shrimp and crab.

Lobsters can be graded as soft shell or hard shell. Soft shell lobsters are typically the most prized grade. These are lobsters that have recently molted and have exceptionally sweet meat. Hard shell lobsters have a brinier flavor, although they also tend to have a better meat-to-shell ratio.

Nutrition Info

One cup of cooked lobster meat (about 145g) has 129 calories, 27.6g protein, 1.3g of fat, and no carbohydrates, fiber, or sugar. Lobster is a good source of vitamin B12 and sodium.

Selection

Firstly, shop at grocery stores and seafood markets that you trust and that consistently provide good quality products. The staff should be able to tell you where and when the lobster was caught, and may even offer helpful preparation tips.

When buying a live lobster, choose specimens that are heavy for their size. In terms of personality, the characteristic to look for is “feisty”. A healthy lobster will look active and will flail its claws at you and curl its tail when picked up. If a lobster looks sleepy or sluggish, it may not be healthy and is better reserved for a sedate pet than for a meal.

There is also size to consider. There are “chickens” (1-pounders), “eighths” (1-1/8-pounders), “quarters” (1-1/4-pounders), “halves” (1-1/2-pounders), “deuces” (over 2 pounds), and “jumbos” (over 3 pounds).

For serving, a general rule of thumb is one lobster per person, unless you are purchasing anything above a deuce, which can feed two.

In addition to live options, lobster can be sold whole and already euthanized, or in pieces (such as tails or claws). It can also be found pre-cooked, either fresh or frozen.

In all cases, try to find the freshest products you can. Raw lobster should be displayed on ice and should emit little to no odor. In the case of pre-cooked or packaged lobster, look for products with minimal additional ingredients. Some companies add coloring agents and rich dressings, so if you are trying to to avoid these things, read the label.

Storage

Ideally, a live lobster should be eaten the same day of purchase.

Otherwise, assuming you do not possess a lobster tank, live lobsters can be kept in the fridge for up to a day. Store it in a cardboard box accompanied by some damp seaweed or newspaper to keep the lobster moist. Never store a lobster in tap water, as freshwater will kill them.

Also, don’t take off the bands around a live lobster’s claws until after the lobster is cooked. They are there to prevent an aggressively pinched nose, or whatever other body part a lobster-on-the-loose may grab hold of.

If the lobster has already been euthanized but is still raw, it may be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a day or two. Stored in the same way, cooked lobster can keep in the fridge for up to three days.

Alternatively, raw or cooked lobster can be stored in a well-sealed container or bag in the freezer for up to six months.

Preparation

Especially if purchased live, lobsters require some preparation before being ready to eat.

Although many people will place a live lobster in boiling water, the quickest way to kill a lobster is to stick a thin, sharp knife into the space behind the lobster’s eyes.

At this point, lobster can be boiled, steamed, or broiled, but steaming is easiest and retains the most flavor.

In order to do this, fill a pot with about two inches of salted water. Bring it to a roiling boil, and then place the lobster(s) in the steamer basket or on the steamer rack. If you are cooking more than one lobster, be careful not to crowd them.

Once they are in the pot, cover with a lid and start a timer. Your cooking time will depend on the size of the lobster:

  • 1 pound – 10 minutes
  • 1-1/4 pound – 12 minutes
  • 1-1/2 pound – 14 minutes
  • 2 pounds – 18 minutes
  • 2-1/2 pounds – 22 minutes
  • 3 pounds – 25-30 minutes

Partway through the cooking time, remove the lid and rotate the lobster(s) for even cooking. When the lobster is done, it will be bright red. However, color won’t always indicate doneness, especially with larger lobsters. To be sure, crack open the lobster where the tail meets the body. If it’s done, the meat will have turned from translucent to white.

In order to actually eat this delicious crustacean, you will need some tools. A nutcracker, a good knife, and a picking tool are all useful. Crack the claws with a nutcracker and split the tail lengthwise with a chef’s knife. To get at the meat in the upper body, cut through the underside of with a knife. At this point, your instincts should take over.

For flavoring, melted butter, fresh lemon, and a bit of salt are classic.


The term “mussel” refers to a number of different types of mollusks. This encyclopedia entry focuses on edible marine mussels, and in particular, the common “blue” mussel.

Marine mussels are a type of bivalve mollusk that live in saltwater. Under the water, they use threads to attach themselves to underwater structures such as rocks. Inside their pearly-black shell is an edible “meat” — yellow or orange gills that can be eaten once cooked.

The blue mussel is the type most commonly harvested for food. They can be cultivated or caught wild. In the US, mussels are cultivated in Washington state and New England, though they are also imported from other countries including Canada and New Zealand.

Mussels are enjoyed in many European cuisines including French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Belgian, and Italian.

Identification

Mussels have a thin, shiny blue-black external shell that is narrow and somewhat pointed. The shell is composed of two hinged halves or “valves”.

Mussel meat, inside the shell, varies in color from yellow to a deep orange. It is a small nugget of meat resembling gills.

Nutrition Info

Three ounces of steamed mussels contains 146 calories, 20.2g of protein, 3.8g of fat, and 6.3g of carbohydrates.

Mussels contain many vitamins and minerals: they are a very good source of vitamin B12, iron, manganese, and selenium. They’re also good source of vitamin C, thiamine, riboflavin, phosphorus, and zinc.

Of note, mussels are considered high in cholesterol.

Selection

Freshness is imperative when choosing mussels. (Mussels that are past their freshness can cause extreme digestive distress.) They are usually sold in mesh bags or loose in the seafood counter.  Regardless, they should be kept very cold.

Buy mussels from a trusted fishmonger or reliable supermarket and check the expiry date (this should be on the tag of the mesh bag).

Before buying, smell the mussels: they should smell fresh and salty like the ocean. Do not buy mussels that smell funky or “off”.

Keep in mind that each mussel contains a small morsel of meat. About 1 pound of mussels per person is usually suitable.

As an alternative to fresh mussels, you can sometimes find frozen mussels, or pre-prepared mussel meat. However as a general rule of thumb, fresh, living mussels are best.

Storage

Purchase mussels close to the day you plan to eat them.

If you’re not ready to eat them right away, they can be kept in the fridge for a couple of days. Never store live mussels in a sealed container or in water. Instead, put the mussels in a bowl or tray and cover them with a damp paper or kitchen towel. Put them at the far back of your refrigerator. Drain off any liquid occasionally as it appears in the bowl. They can usually stay fresh for 2-3 days.

If you have leftover cooked mussels, remove the meat from the shell and store it in a sealed container for 1-2 days.

Preparation

To cook the mussels you will first need to rinse them in very cold water and remove the beards — the black stringy bits that still hang on the mussel. (In some cases, this will already have been done for you.) Removing these stringy bits is called “debearding”. To debeard mussels, simply pull off the stringy bits with your fingers.

As you are cleaning the mussels, any open shells should snap firmly shut. If they stay open, give them a gentle tap — and if they still don’t close, discard them.

Once cleaned, preparing mussels is pretty simple and quick.

Steaming mussels is a classic — not to mention tasty, nutritious, and easy — way to cook mussels. All you need is a large pot. As an optional first step, saute any aromatics such as garlic, onions and herbs in your pot. Then pour liquid — water, wine, beer, or broth — into the pot and turn on high. (About 1.5 cups of liquid to 4 pounds of mussels.)

Add the mussels to the liquid, cover, and cook. When steam starts to emerge from the pot, open the lid and check to see if the mussels are opened. (This takes about 5-6 minutes for 4 pounds of mussels.)

When the mussels are opened, they are ready to eat. Pour the contents of the pot — broth and all! — into a bowl. You now have a tasty, savory broth to enjoy with the mussels. Serve with crusty bread to soak up the broth.

You can use a regular fork or seafood fork to pull the meat out of the mussels. (Though some people prefer to slurp the mussel meat directly out of the shell!) When eating, discard any mussels that have not opened.

The basic steamed mussels recipe can be embellished upon in many ways. Try enhancing your mussel broth with cream, tomatoes, curry, or fragrant herbs. Mussels can also be included in fish stews, chowders, and seafood boils. Or try roasting or baking mussels.


Nori is a dehydrated, pressed seaweed of the edible red algae species. This sea vegetable is grown in the waters off Japan, Korea, and China.

Nori is common in Japanese cuisine: most notably sushi. If you’ve ever had “maki”, or sushi rolls, you’ve eaten nori: it’s the black, thin sheet that wraps the sushi roll together.

Naturally salty with a mild sea-like taste, it has a savory, “umami” flavor.

Identification

Nori is black and comes in paper-like sheets. Unlike some kinds of seaweed, it’s smooth and thin in texture, with a mild smell and flavor.

Because there are many kinds of seaweed available, check the package to be sure you are buying nori. Note that nori is sometimes called “Laver seaweed”.

Nutrition Info

Nori is very low in calories. Ten sheets of nori (approximately 26 grams) contains only 9 calories as well as 1.5 grams of protein, 1.3 grams of carbohydrates, 0.1 grams of fiber, and 0.1 grams of sugar.

Because it absorbs the minerals in which it is grown, nori offers a host of vitamins and minerals including iodine, vitamin C, potassium, vitamin A, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, and even vitamin B12 (rare in plant foods).

Selection

When looking for nori, head to the Asian section of your supermarket. You may also try a health foods store or an Asian market if you have trouble finding it.

When buying, check the expiry date on the package to make sure it’s fresh.

Depending on how you plan to eat the seaweed, one option is pre-seasoned nori, often packaged and marketed as “seaweed snacks,” or “roasted seaweed”. These come in small, easy to eat sheets. (Note: be aware that these often contain added ingredients such as oil and salt. Check the ingredients list first so you know what you’re buying.)

Storage

Keep nori in a cool, dark place such as your pantry. Stored properly in an unopened package, it will usually last for about six months.

Nori is best used within several days of opening, as it will start to turn stale after being exposed to air. Stale nori is chewy rather than crisp. After opening, keep nori in a sealable plastic bag and use as soon as possible.

Preparation

Use nori to make your own sushi, use nori sheets as a wrap for sandwiches, or slice into thin ribbons and use as a topping for salad, rice dishes, fish, noodles, or soup.

To make your own ‘seaweed snacks,’ lightly brush the nori with water. Add a sprinkle of extra flavoring if you like (e.g. sesame seeds, sea salt, and / or wasabi powder) and bake in an oven on low – about 10 to 15 minutes at 250 degrees Fahrenheit. The nori will come out crisp and crunchy.


Oysters are members of the wibbly-wobbly family of invertebrate molluscs, which also includes snails, clams, and squid.

Enclosed between two rough, irregular shells is a soft delicacy humans either love or hate. Oysters have been eaten since prehistoric times, and were first cultivated on a large scale by the Romans.

In addition to being a source of food, oysters also produce fashion accessories: pearls. Small pieces of shell or sand get lodged inside the oyster, and in order to protect itself from this foreign body, the oyster secretes a pearlescent fluid called nacre that calcifies in layers to form a pearl. Although all oysters can produce pearls, some breeds are better than others, and therefore “pearl oysters” are distinguished from “food oysters”.

Some breeds of oysters can be either male or female, but they can also swing; it is not unusual for an oyster to change gender at least once over the course of its life. Other breeds are hermaphrodites and host both male and female anatomy, and can therefore fertilize their own eggs.

The most common and heavily harvested breeds include the Eastern American oyster, found in the Atlantic Ocean from Canada to Argentina, and the Pacific oyster, found in waters between Washington state and Japan, extending South towards Australia.

Oysters are particularly sensitive to polluted waters, and oyster populations have dwindled in some areas where they used to be abundant.

Oysters are also famously known to be aphrodisiacs. (Except for the people who shudder at the thought of eating them.)

Identification

The edible portion of the oyster is enclosed between two rough, irregular, oval-shaped scalloped shells. The interior of the shell is smooth and porcelain-white with a mother-of-pearl iridescence.

The soft muscle of the oyster is fused to the interior of the shell, and must be detached with a knife before eating. The meat, when raw, is jelly-like and irregularly shaped with a marbling of colors that range from grey to beige to white.

Raw oysters have a refined, mild oceanic flavor that varies from oyster to oyster depending on the species, the region from which it came, and the time of year it was harvested. Some oysters are sweet and fruity, while others are more briny or mineral tasting.

Cooking oysters will bring out a savory, fishy flavour.  The meat will lose its slipperiness; however, unless it is overcooked, it will still be delightfully tender.

Nutrition Info

A serving of six medium-sized oysters (about 84g) has 43 calories, 4.8 grams protein, 1.4 grams of fat, 2.3 grams of carbohydrates, 0.5 grams sugar, and no fiber. Oysters are exceptionally high in zinc, and are also a rich source of vitamin B12, iron, and selenium.

Selection

Oysters are usually best purchased at specialty seafood markets staffed by trustworthy fishmongers that are known for consistently providing quality products.

Oysters can purchased raw, either live and still in the shell, or already shucked. Shucked oysters may also be found frozen. Additionally, canned smoked oysters can be found in many large grocery stores and gourmet food shops.

If you are buying live oysters in the shell, look for shells that are undamaged and shut tight. If you find one that is slightly open, tap it. If it is alive, it will close promptly and firmly. The shells should feel nice and heavy, as healthy ones will be full of seawater.

If you are buying fresh shucked oysters, find those that appear shiny, fleshy, and firm. The liquid they are stored in should be clear, not milky, and should not have any sour or unpleasant odor.

Many oyster aficionados proclaim that fresh oysters are best harvested during months that contain the letter “r”. Rumor has it that the coldest water yields the tastiest oysters.

Storage

For best flavor and safety, live oysters should be kept on a bed of ice and be eaten within a few hours after purchasing.

Oysters that have already been shucked and whose meat is stored in its own liquid are also best eaten sooner rather than later, but can last up to a week in an airtight container in the fridge.

Once they are cooked, they will keep in the fridge for up to three days.

Whether raw or cooked, oysters can also be frozen. In a well sealed container, they can last in the freezer for up to three months.

Like most canned goods, canned smoked oysters have a very long shelf life. Follow the expiration dates on the label.

Preparation

Live oysters can be slurped up without a drip or dash of seasoning or condiments, but first you have to open them, which takes some skill.

If you can, have your fishmonger do the shucking for you. Otherwise, follow these directions:

First, run the shells under cold water and scrub off any sand or debris. Then, hold the oyster shell with a clean cloth. The cloth is there to prevent slipping and to protect your hand should the knife slip (which it tends to do during this task). Use a shucking knife or a (not too sharp) paring knife, and insert the blade between the two shells, near the hinge. Twist the knife until the shells pop apart; this may take a bit of effort and wiggling. Twist off the top shell, detaching any meat with a sharp knife. Repeat this for the bottom shell, sliding the blade of the knife under the muscle to detach it from the shell.

Purists will recommend eating the oyster as is, while others prefer a squeeze of lemon, some hot sauce, or a simple vinaigrette.


Call out “Salmon” and about eight species of fish will answer: Atlantic salmon, chinook salmon, chum salmon, coho salmon, masu salmon, pink salmon, sockeye salmon, and Danube salmon.

Wild salmon are found in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, as well as in fresh waters in eastern North America, Northern Europe, and South America. Salmon is also farmed around the world. Farmed salmon now accounts for about 80% of the world’s salmon supply.

While this article mainly concerns the nutritional value of salmon, the life cycle of this resilient fish is worth highlighting:

Although some species are restricted to the same body of water their entire lives, most salmon are born in fresh water, migrate to the ocean, and then return to fresh water to spawn. Relying on olfactory memory to find their way, salmon often return to the exact spot where they themselves were spawned.

During their migration from the ocean back to fresh water, salmon make amazing journeys that span hundreds of miles against rapids and forceful currents. Once they spawn, the vast majority of salmon die.

This migration is also known as the “salmon run”, which is a predictable, seasonal event usually occurring between September and November. This is an exciting event for hungry bears, predatorial birds, and sports fisherman.

Like most cold water fish, salmon are fatty (particularly in omega 3 fats) and delicious, with iconic coral-pink flesh.

Identification

Salmon is a large fish. Depending on the species, a salmon can range from about 20 inches up to several feet long, and can weigh anywhere from four to over a hundred pounds.

In color, salmon flesh ranges from pale pink to sunset orange to a deep coral-red. Their skin is dark and slightly silvery, and will crisp up when applied to heat.

When raw, a salmon filet will display white lines running across its flesh. This is fat. Wild salmon will generally not exhibit this build-up of fat between its muscles.

Salmon is a favorite among fish lovers and has a rich, fishy flavor and, when cooked properly, a soft, moist, luxurious texture.

Nutrition Info

Three ounces (about 85g) of cooked wild Atlantic salmon* has 155 calories, 21.6g protein, 6.9g of fat, and no carbohydrates, fiber, or sugar. Salmon is an excellent source of vitamin B12, selenium, and vitamin D, and a good source of vitamin B3 (niacin) and phosphorus.

Nutritionally, farmed salmon is different from wild salmon. Compared to their farmed equivalents, wild salmon are richer in omega 3 fats and the carotenoids (particularly astaxanthin) that give them their vibrant coral color.

*Nutritional content may vary slightly species to species.

Selection

Salmon is widely available (in some form) in most North American food purveyors. Higher quality, wild, fresh varieties may only be available in specialty stores and fish markets.

Salmon comes in many different forms: Fresh / raw, frozen, pre-cooked, canned, dried, or smoked. Fresh or frozen varieties, which may be sold as steaks, fillets, or chunks, are usually the best choices as they are the least likely to contain added ingredients. However, other varieties can be great to have on hand for convenience sake.

If your salmon comes in a package, read the ingredients. Avoid products that add dyes or have long lists of unpronounceable ingredients.

Fresh salmon should be displayed over ice and should look moist, but not wet, with little separation between the muscle fibers. If you can smell it, give it a whiff. Fresh salmon should have only a faint, but pleasant and fresh fish smell. Trust your nose. If it smells “off”, look elsewhere.

Storage

The length of time fresh salmon can be stored depends on when the fish was caught, so that is useful information to obtain at the time of purchase. Generally, salmon can be kept (well-wrapped in plastic and preferably over ice) in the fridge for about five days after it is caught. If you don’t know when it was caught, eat it within a day or two.

Salmon can also be frozen for about two months. Wrap it well to prevent freezer burn.

Once it is cooked, salmon can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for five to six days, or in the freezer for a few months.

If you have bought salmon in a package, follow the package directions for storage information.

Preparation

Fresh salmon, if the quality is high enough, can actually be eaten raw. Salmon of this caliber will usually be labelled as “sushi / sashimi grade”.
Otherwise, salmon can be cooked.

Fresh salmon cooks quickly, especially if it is cut in fillets or smaller chunks. Salmon steaks, due to their thickness and the presence of the bone, will take longer.

A fresh salmon fillet may be simply prepared on the stove-top. To do this, place some butter or olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Wait until the oil is popping before placing the salmon in the pan, as this will help to prevent sticking. Cook on one side for about four minutes, or until this side turns golden brown. Flip it over and cook for another three minutes or so, or until the flesh feels firm and has lost its translucency. Season with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of fresh citrus, and serve.


The name “sardine” refers to more than twenty types of small, oily, saltwater fish in the herring family. They may be eaten fresh or preserved.  

The term sardine was first used in English around the 15th century, probably in reference to the island of Sardinia, where large schools of these fish were once found. Spain, France, Norway, and Portugal are now the leading suppliers of tinned sardines, but the fish are common throughout the Atlantic, Pacific, and Mediterranean.

For many years a neglected food, sardines are enjoying new popularity. Sustainably fished, low in contaminants, and high in nutrients and taste, they’re an excellent choice.

Identification

Sardines are less than six inches long. (Larger than that, and they are called pilchards.) They are silvery in color, soft-boned, and oily-fleshed.

Nutrition Info

The nutrient value of sardines varies according to the type and the preparation. One tin of Atlantic sardines (3.8 oz or 92g) contains 191 calories, 22.7g of protein, 10.5g of fat, and no carbohydrates, fiber, or sugars.

Sardines are one of the best available sources of vitamin B12, which is important for supporting cardiovascular health. They are also rich in selenium, phosphorus, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and vitamin D. In addition, they contain significant amounts of calcium, vitamin B3, vitamin B2, copper, and choline.

Because they are low in the food chain and eat mainly plankton, sardines are relatively low in contaminants such as mercury.

Selection

You can buy sardines fresh or in cans. If buying fresh, select as you would any fish. Look for shiny skin, bright eyes, a flat (not bloated) belly, and do the sniff test. If it smells “off,” it probably is.

When buying tinned sardines, check the “best before” date to ensure they are still good. Choose sardines packed in olive oil or water rather than those packed in soybean oil.

Note that canned sardines may be prepared in a variety of ways. Some may be smoked, while others may be flavored. Ensure you are getting the type you prefer.

Storage

Fresh sardines spoil quickly and normal refrigerator temperatures are not really cold enough to prevent this. It’s best to keep sardines between 36-40°F (2-4°C).

After buying, remove them from the store packaging, rinse them, place them in a plastic bag, and cover with ice cubes or an ice pack in the fridge, replenishing the ice as required. Eat them as soon as possible, within two days at most.

Store canned sardines in one of your cooler kitchen cupboards (i.e. not the one right on top of the stove). Turn the tin every now and again to ensure the fish are all exposed to the oil or water they are packed in. Eat by the expiration date, and store any partially eaten cans in your fridge.

Preparation

Canned sardines require little preparation. Simply rinse off the excess oil and serve as you like, cold or warmed.

Fresh sardines or pilchards need to be scaled, gutted, and boned. Your fishmonger may do this for you. It’s not a difficult job, but may take a bit of extra time if you are doing it yourself.

Sardines can then be grilled, fried, broiled, or baked. Because the fish are small, cooking time is short—usually around 10 minutes.

For simple grilled sardines, begin by heating your grill. Next, brush the fish with olive oil to keep it moist. Cook for about 5 minutes, and turn gently with kitchen tongs. Cook on the other side. Serve.

Sardines are great simply squirted with a bit of lemon juice, salt, and pepper. They’re also tasty with a sauce of balsamic or red wine vinegar and a bit of olive oil.

Olives, capers, fennel, roasted garlic and peppers, parsley, tomatoes, oregano, and rosemary are traditional and tasty accompaniments. 


Shrimp are small, swimming crustaceans that can be found near the seafloor of most coasts and estuaries, and sometimes in lakes and rivers.

Shrimp are numerous in species. Tiger shrimp and White shrimp are two common varieties. They are typically available frozen year-round.

Note: Sometimes shrimp are referred to as prawns. This is the common term for shrimp in the UK.

Identification

Shrimp have long, narrow abdomens and long antennae; they look somewhat like small lobsters. They have a thin but hard outer shell, which should be removed before eating.

Raw, shrimp have a blue, translucent hue. Once cooked, they turn opaque and pink.

Shrimp range in size: the smallest are about as big as a thumbnail while colossal shrimp may be as big as your palm.

Nutrition Info

Three ounces of raw shrimp contains approximately 72 calories, 18.0g of protein, 0.0g of carbohydrates, 0.0g of fibre, and 0.5g of fat.

Shrimp does contain some cholesterol: approximately 137mg per three ounces of shrimp.

Shrimp is a good source of vitamin D, B12, and B3.

Selection

Shrimp can typically be purchased frozen, in bags. There are usually several options when picking shrimp: First, decide if you want to buy them raw or cooked. Next, you will need to select whether you prefer whole, shelled, or “EZ Peel.” The latter option means the heads have been removed, the meat and shell have been slit down the back, and sometimes the black ‘vein’ running through the shrimp has been removed.

Finally, consider the size of the shrimp. Sizes range from tiny to colossal. Check the bag for the number of shrimp it contains per pound: usually, the lower the number of shrimp per pound, the bigger the shrimp.

Avoid buying “fresh” shrimp from the grocery counter – it is usually defrosted shrimp and not as fresh as the frozen kind.

Storage

Keep frozen shrimp in the freezer. You can defrost the shrimp overnight in the fridge, or take it out of the freezer shortly before cooking if using a ‘quick defrost’ method (see below).

Preparation

Thaw shrimp overnight in the freezer or defrost quickly by putting shrimp in a colander and sitting under cold running water for about 15 minutes.

If the shrimp are whole, pull off the head first. Then, pull off the legs. For “EZ Peel” shrimp, the legs and shell should pull off in one smooth motion.

If removing the tail, squeeze the tail at its base, close to where it meets the end of the shrimp. This will help you avoid losing any extra tail meat.

De-veining is a final step. If this has not been done already, take a pair of tweezers or a paring knife and pull out the thin, black thread (it is actually an intestine) that runs through the shrimp. The ‘vein’ is edible but not aesthetically appealing.

Once your shrimp are ready to be cooked, you have many options. Here are two:

Grilled shrimp: Defrost unpeeled shrimp, dry well with paper towels and sprinkle with 1tsp salt. Meanwhile, heat a gas grill to medium-high. Using long-handed tongs, arrange the shrimp on the grill grates, positioning them so they don’t fall through the cracks. Close the grill but don’t go far: the shrimp will cook quickly. After they have been cooking for 2-3 minutes, turn the shrimp and cook for another 2-3 minutes. The shrimp are cooked when they are no longer opaque, and the flesh is starting to curl. Serve with melted butter or ghee, or cocktail sauce.

Poached shrimp: Defrost shrimp but leave them peeled. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. If you wish, you can flavour the water with peppercorns, bay leaves, and sliced lemon. You can also substitute up to 2 cups of the water with white wine. Once the liquid is boiling, reduce it to a gentle simmer. Add the shrimp, cover, and let poach for 4 minutes. Turn off heat and let shrimp sit covered in the hot water another 2 minutes. Remove shrimp from pot and check for doneness (they should no longer be opaque). with a slotted spoon remove shrimp and let sit until cool enough to handle.


The squid is a member of the cephalopod family. Cephalopods are organisms whose feet grow directly out of their heads.

Aside from having this interesting physical configuration, squids are also a delicious seafood.

There are many varieties of edible squid, and they are found in both saltwater and freshwater habitats, although the North Atlantic Ocean hosts the densest population.

And, despite internet controversy, according to expert sources we consulted for this article, there is no difference between squid and calamari.

Identification

Squids have a tubular, slightly tapered, oblong body with little fins at the tip. Attached to this are eight shorter arms and two longer tentacles, all textured with tiny little suckers.

The flesh of a prepared and cooked squid is opaque and white with a mild, slightly sweet flavor. When cooked properly, squid should be soft and tender. Generally, smaller, younger squid are more tender than larger, older squid.

Nutrition Info

3 oz of raw squid (inedible parts removed) has 78 calories, 13.3g protein, 2.6g of carbohydrates, 1.2g of fat, and no fiber or sugar. Squid is a good source of zinc, selenium, and B12.

Selection

Squid can either be found frozen or fresh, and is found in most larger grocery stores or fish markets.

Frozen squid is typically already cleaned and prepared and may be sold with its body intact, in whole tubes, or chopped into rings. It may be sold with or without tentacle portions. If preparing squid from frozen, thaw squid out in a colander under cold, running water.

Fresh squid can be found either whole or prepared. When shopping for whole squid, look for specimens with moist flesh that is purple to white in color, and that smells clean and sweet. Avoid squids that are brown or foul-smelling.

Squid is also available for purchase battered or stuffed. In this case, read the ingredients! These prepared versions may contain high amounts of trans fats, flavoring agents, and/or preservatives.

Storage

Fresh squid can be kept in the fridge in an airtight container for up to two days. After two days, squid should either be cooked and consumed or frozen for later use.

Once cooked, squid will keep in the fridge in a sealed container for two to three days.

Both raw and cooked squid freezes well, and can be kept frozen for up to three months.

Preparation

Most of the squid is edible: the body, the arms, the tentacles, and even the ink. Only the beak (aka. squid mouth) and the gladius (an internal shell-like body part) are inedible.

If you happen to get a whole, unprepared squid, here is how to get it ready for your belly:

First, detach the body from the limbs. They should come apart easily.

Next, prepare the limbs by cutting off the head just below the eyes. Discard the head and the associated guts attached to it, and reserve the portion with the limbs attached. Pick up the portion with the limbs and “pop” out the hard, ball-shaped beak of the squid, and discard that as well.

Then, reach inside the hollow body, and pull out the hard gladius, which is not unlike the blade of a small, transparent plastic sword. Discard the gladius.

Now you can skin the body of the squid using your fingers or a small knife. It should come off fairly easily if you are careful. Discard the skin.

The squid is now ready to be fried, grilled, or marinated. You can leave the parts as they are, cut the body into rings, or score it with a knife in a cross-hatch pattern.

Squid takes only a few minutes to cook. About two minutes over high heat should be enough. The squid body will become opaque and the tentacles will curl slightly when it is ready. Overcooked squid will turn tough and rubbery – this can happen fast, so watch it closely!


Tuna comes in a small can, but it’s a big fish.

Tuna is a saltwater fish that belongs to the Thunnini tribe, which includes subgroups like yellowfin, bluefin, albacore, skipjack, tongol, and bigeye. Some tuna species measure under two feet long and weigh less than four pounds, whereas others are more intimidating; a large bluefin can measure up to 15 feet long and can weigh up to 2000 pounds.

Tuna is also a big industry. In North America, a large tuna can easily be worth $20,000 or more. In Japan, tuna fishing can be even more lucrative. Records have been set with a mid-size bluefin selling for over $1.5 million USD.

However, as a result of commercial demand and overfishing, several species of tuna are threatened for extinction. In particular, bluefin tuna are in critical condition. Albacore, skipjack, and yellowfin still populate oceans in better numbers and are therefore better choices for environmentally conscious consumers.

Due to concerns about mercury content, the Environmental Protection Agency suggests limiting consumption to one 6 oz can of tuna a week for individuals weighing under 110 lbs, and two cans for individuals who weigh more. Larger species, such as bluefin and albacore, have higher positions in the food chain and accumulate more heavy metals from their diet. If mercury is a concern, consumption of these species should be minimized.

Despite the aforementioned concerns, tuna is America’s fish sweetheart. After shrimp, it is the second most popular seafood. The vast majority of tuna is sold in cans, and made into sandwiches.

Identification

Tuna is a very large fish, and therefore, most consumers will never see one in its entirety, unless they frequent specialty fish markets.

Mostly, tuna is sold in cans or portioned into steaks and fillets, sold fresh or frozen.

Fresh tuna has a deep, reddish brown color and a firm, meaty texture. Raw, as it is sometimes found in sushi and sashimi, it has a delicate, slightly sweet flavor and a smooth, pleasantly oily texture. When cooked, the oceanic flavors become more pronounced and the texture toughens. Most culinary experts prefer tuna served lightly seared rather than cooked through.

Canned tuna can be packed in water, oil, or in sauces or broths, all of which will influence flavor. Canned tuna has a slightly tough, dry texture and ranges in color from blush to dusty rose, depending on the species. Canned tuna has a pronounced fishy flavor; opening a can will provoke all the neighborhood cats to come running.

Nutrition Info

One (drained) can of light tuna, packed in water (about 165g) has 142 calories, 32.1g protein, 1.6g of fat, and no carbohydrates, fiber, or sugar. Tuna is an excellent source of vitamin D and phosphorus, and a good source of iron.

The Environmental Protection Agency suggests limiting consumption to one 6 oz can of tuna a week for individuals weighing under 110 lbs, and two cans for individuals who weigh more.

Selection

Tuna is most widely available in a can, where it can be found in most stores that sell food.

When canned, or less commonly, jarred, tuna can come in solid, chunk or flaked varieties, which are further categorized as either “white” or “light”. Tuna may be packed in either water, oil, brine, broth, or flavored sauces.

Solid tuna is usually more expensive and means the tuna was packaged as a whole loin. Chunk tuna is made from broken pieces of the loin, and flaked tuna are the leftover pieces, which tend to be very small fragments of the loin.

The “white” or “light” descriptor refers not only to the species of tuna, but also correlates to the mercury content. Generally, white tuna refers to yellowfin and albacore tuna, and light tuna refers to skipjack and tongol. Light tuna typically has lower levels of mercury than white tuna.

Most tuna is packed in water, but you may also find it packed in oil or other flavored mediums. As with all packaged foods, read the ingredients. Skip over products that contain high amounts of sugar, poor quality oils, or unpronounceable ingredients.

Fresh or frozen tuna can be found at larger grocery stores and fish markets. Shop at stores you trust that are known to have fresh products.

When buying fresh tuna, look for cuts that look moist (but not wet) and almost translucent looking with a deep color. Raw tuna should have a fresh seaside smell as opposed to a strong fishy smell, which may be a sign that it has gone bad. Other signs that tuna is going bad include dullness or browning (a sign of oxidation) or “gapping”, which occurs when the muscle starts to separate into flakes, creating gaps in the meat.

Storage

Unless it remains in a sealed can (in which case it will have a long shelf-life; refer to the label’s expiration date), tuna should be kept refrigerated or frozen.

Raw fish is best prepared the day of purchase, although it will keep for about 24 hours in the fridge. If you know the tuna you have purchased was not previously frozen and then thawed, you can freeze it. Simply wrap it securely in plastic and freeze for up to three months. If however, you purchase tuna that was frozen and thawed, it’s best not to refreeze it.

Once cooked, tuna will keep in the fridge for three to four days, or frozen in an airtight container for up to three months.

A tuna salad prepared from canned tuna with mayonnaise should be kept in a sealed container and will last in the fridge for three to five days.

Preparation

Canned tuna is ready to eat straight from the can, although a little seasoning may be required to make it taste more interesting if it was packed in water.

Fresh tuna is best when cooked lightly, so that the outside has a nice sear and the inside is still tender. Here’s how to do that:

First, using a clean piece of paper towel, pat the outside of your tuna dry. Excess moisture on the outside will prevent the lovely caramelization that is characteristic of a good sear.

Then, add your choice of oil or butter to a pan and heat over medium-high heat. Allow to heat until oil / butter is shimmering.

Place your tuna cuts onto the pan, and season with salt. The meat should begin to sizzle as soon as it meets the pan. Cook each side of the tuna for 1-2 minutes. Try not to lift or shuffle around the pieces until this time has elapsed, as this will prevent proper searing. If your cut of tuna is especially thick (over an inch), you may want to increase this time to 2-3 minutes on each side.

Once cooked, the tuna is ready to serve. Top with additional seasoning if desired.

Vegetables Knowledge Base


Asparagus is a flowering perennial that comes into season during spring and early summer.

The plant produces tasty edible shoots which are picked and eaten before the buds open and the stems turn woody.

Asparagus has a sweet, slightly herbaceous, somewhat nutty flavor that pairs well with other garden-fresh veggies. It’s also a nice accompaniment to richly flavored foods like eggs, soft cheeses, and steak.

Identification

Asparagus grows in spears, which typically range between 5” – 8” long. Along each spear are fine scale-like leaves. At the top of each spear is a leafy, pointed tip, and at the bottom is a stout stem.

Green asparagus is most common, though white and purple varieties can also be found. Those varieties have subtle differences in taste and texture as well.

Stalks can range in thickness – some spears are thin and spindly while others are thick and stocky.  

Nutrition Info

One cup of raw asparagus contains 27 calories, 3.0g of protein, 0.2g of fat, 5.2g of carbohydrates, 2.8g of fiber, and 2.5g of sugar.

Asparagus is a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, and phosphorous. It’s also packed with vitamin K (one cup contains more than 100% of your daily vitamin K intake).

Other nutrients include folate, copper, vitamin B1, selenium, vitamin B2, vitamin C, and vitamin E.

Selection

Look for the freshest asparagus you can find.

When you purchase asparagus, you may find it sitting in a sheet pan of water – this is a good sign, as the water keeps it from drying out.

The base of the stalks (where they were cut) should look green and moist; if the base looks dry and yellow that’s a sign the asparagus has aged and is losing its freshness.

Storage

To maximize its flavor (and nutritional content), asparagus should be eaten as soon as possible.

If you can’t eat your asparagus on the same day you purchase it, wrap the base of the stems in a damp paper towel and store in a loose, open bag in the crisper of your refrigerator.

Once cooked, asparagus will keep in the fridge for 3-5 days.

Preparation

To wash asparagus, rinse well under cool water. Rub the small leaves gently under the water to release any grime. If the asparagus is straight from the farm and still dirty, you can sit it in a bowl of cool water, give the water a swish, remove the asparagus, and rinse the dirt out of the bowl – then repeat for a few exchanges of water.

The base of asparagus stalks are usually tough and should be snapped off. You can either hold the stalk near its base and give them a quick snap, or cut the base off with a knife.

This multipurpose vegetable can be prepared in a multitude of ways: sautéed, roasted, grilled, or boiled.

It can also be eaten raw; try shaving it with a vegetable peeler and adding it to a salad, or blanching it quickly in boiling water (1 – 2 minutes), rinsing it in cold water, and enjoying it as part of a raw veggie platter.

The trick to enjoying asparagus is to avoid overcooking it: spears should be firm but tender (not floppy or mushy).


Bok choy is a type of Chinese cabbage.

Identification

Bok choy is a green leafy vegetable that resembles Romaine lettuce on top and a large celery on the bottom. A single leaf of bok choy is shaped like a soup spoon. In fact, the name “bok choy” originated from the Chinese word for “soup spoon” because of the shape of its leaves.

Nutrition Info

One cup of shredded bok choy has about 9 calories, 1.1g of protein, 1.5g of carbohydrates, 0.7g of fiber, 0.8g of sugar, and 0.1g of fat.

Bok choy is rich in vitamins C, A, K, and folate. It is also a good source of minerals including calcium, phosphorous, and potassium.

Selection

Look for bok choy that has firm pure white stalks (not “rusty”) and crisp dark green leaves. You’ll want to avoid bok choy that has wilted, broken or spotted leaves, limp stalks, or any discoloration.

Storage

Store bok choy in an open plastic bag in the crisper of your fridge for 2-4 days.

Preparation

Chop off the bottom inch of the stalk before washing. Wash well. You can then steam, boil, stir fry, or even microwave bok choy. You’ll know it’s ready when the leaves are just slightly wilted (usually about 3-4 minutes with all mentioned cooking methods). Note that you can purchase baby or full grown bok choy. Baby bok choy is more tender and less “chewy”.


Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable. As a Brassica, they are part of the cabbage family, along with broccoli, kale, and collard greens. The edible buds (the “sprouts” themselves) grow on a long, thick stalk, and look like miniature cabbages.

It has been suggested that Brussels sprouts were first cultivated in Belgium – hence the name. Today, they can be found in many cool, temperate climates, coming into season between September and March. As a result they are generally considered a fall or winter vegetable.

Among certain audiences (especially children) Brussels sprouts have a reputation for being unpalatable or even downright “stinky.” This unfair notion may have emerged from the fact that cabbages – when overcooked – can emit a sulfur smell. However, properly prepared Brussels sprouts can be quite tasty as well as nutritious; they have a mildly sweet, nutty flavor.

Identification

Brussels sprouts are small green buds made up of many tightly formed layers: they look like tiny cabbages.

The leaves are usually bright green, sometimes tinted yellow, and of slightly lighter color inside the cabbage.

Brussels sprouts are usually found removed from the stalk, though occasionally at farmers’ markets you may be able to find fresh stalks with the edible buds still attached. The stalk is quite large and the visual impact impressive.

Nutrition Info

One cup of Brussels sprouts has about 38 calories, 3.0g of protein, 0.3g of fat, 7.9g of carbohydrates, 3.3g of fiber, and 1.9g of sugar.

Brussels sprouts are nutritional powerhouses. In addition to fiber, they are an excellent source of vitamin C and K, as well as iron, manganese, folate, and carotenoids. They are also considered a source of antioxidants.

Selection

Brussels sprouts are usually sold loose in the produce section of your grocery store or market; this is preferable to buying them in pre-packaged bags. If possible, take your time to pick through the sprouts to select the freshest, best looking sprouts you can get.

Look for crisp, tight leaves with a bright green color. Avoid sprouts with leaves that are overly wilted, discolored, or decaying. Some yellowing or spotting is normal, but look for color consistency as much as possible. (Yellowing and wilting is a sign of age.)

Tip: smaller, firmer sprouts tend to be sweeter and better tasting than larger, leafier sprouts.

If you can find fresh looking Brussels sprouts on the stalk (at a farmers’ market for example) that may be your chance at the freshest tasting sprouts; however, buying them in bulk is just fine as long as they exhibit the above signs of freshness.

Storage

Keep the sprouts in an open plastic bag in your refrigerator crisper; they should keep for a week or more.

Once cooked, Brussels sprouts will keep in an airtight container for several days.

Preparation

If you’ve purchased a whole stalk, remove the sprouts where the bud meets the stalk using a sharp paring knife. In most cases, you won’t have to bother with this step.

To prepare the Brussels sprouts, trim the flat stump with a sharp knife and remove the first layer of leaves surrounding the sprout. (They will likely fall or easily peel off.) If there is any discoloration, just peel off the layers of leaves until the fresher, healthier part of the sprout is revealed.

You can then leave the sprouts whole (suitable for boiling), or halve or quarter the sprouts (ideal for roasting or steaming). If you would like to serve the sprouts raw in a salad, you may choose to halve them, then slice thinly into ribbons.

Brussels sprouts pair well with savory fall flavors. For example, try roasting them among a medley of vegetables such as butternut squash, mushrooms, shallots, and potatoes. The slight bitterness of the sprouts also responds well to the addition of rich, fatty flavors such as bacon, cream, or Parmesan cheese.

To roast Brussels sprouts, prepare and halve them as described above. Bring an oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the sprouts in a baking dish or on a baking sheet, drizzle them with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes; stir, then return to the oven for about 5 minutes longer. When cooked, the sprouts should have a golden-brown hue.

No matter the preparation, avoid overcooking the sprouts: they should be fork-tender and retain their bright color. If your sprouts turn out mushy, grey-ish or with a strong odor, reduce the cooking time. You may also find better results by changing up the cooking method: while boiling, steaming, and microwaving are all perfectly good options, roasting is one of the best ways to deliver a sweet, caramelized, nutty flavor from the sprouts. Stinkiness not required. 


A member of the squash family, butternut squash grows on a vine and comes into peak season in early fall through winter.

Though technically a fruit, butternut squash is cooked (roasting is a popular preparation) and eaten as a vegetable.

Identification

Butternut squash has a bell-like shape. Its tough rind has smooth skin and a creamy yellow-beige color.

The inner flesh of the squash is orange and pumpkin-like in both color and texture. The white flat seeds inside are similar to pumpkin seeds.

Nutrition Info

One cup of cubed, raw butternut squash typically has 63 calories, 1.4g of protein, 0.1g of fat, 16.4g of carbohydrates, 2.8g of fiber, and 3.1g of sugar.

Butternut squash also packs plenty of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium.

Selection

Look for squash with minimal bruising and no obvious cuts or oozy areas. The squash should feel  heavy for its size.

Tip: In the fall months, squash can sometimes be found at farm stands, farmers’ markets, or  “U-Pick” pumpkin and gourd farms. Purchasing at these locations can help you get a squash with maximum flavour.

Storage

If you plan on eating the squash soon, you can keep it on your countertop for up to a week. For longer storage, keep it in a cool, dark place such as a cold storage room. A properly stored squash can last for weeks or even months.

Diced raw butternut squash can be refrigerated for two to three days.

Once cooked, butternuts squash will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Preparation

Butternut squash is known for its pleasant, sweet flavor. In cooking, the flesh becomes smooth and soft; because it doesn’t get stringy like some squashes, it is excellent roasted as a side dish, or made into soup. It can sometimes be used as an alternative to pumpkin or sweet potato.

Roasted butternut squash: Roasting is a common, versatile preparation that accentuates the squash’s sweetness and buttery texture. To roast butternut squash, pre-heat oven to 475°F. Using a sharp knife, cut the top and bottom off the squash. Then cut the squash in half lengthwise. Next, using a sharp knife or sturdy peeler, cut the tough skin off the squash. Scoop out the seeds and stringy flesh with a large spoon. Then cut the flesh into a large dice (cubes). Place the cubes on a baking sheet. Drizzle generously with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for about 15 minutes. Flip the cubes and return to the oven until golden-brown and fork tender, about 5 to 10 more minutes.

Baked butternut squash: Cut a whole butternut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and stringy flesh with a spoon.  Next, place it on a cookie sheet, cut side facing up. Bake at 350°F for 45-60 minutes or until soft when poked with a fork.  Remove flesh from skin using a spoon. Enjoy as is, mashed and flavored with salt and pepper and butter, or use it in other preparations.

Microwaved butternut squash: Cut a whole butternut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and stringy flesh with a large spoon.  Place it on a microwavable plate. Place in microwave and cook on high for 15 minutes until fork tender. Remove the flesh with a spoon and enjoy.


Cabbage is a green or purple vegetable that belongs to the important Brassica family—a group that also includes brussel sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, broccoli, bok choy, and collard greens.

An excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate, and a great source of protective phytochemicals, cabbage has been a mainstay of many cuisines for thousands of years. Fresh and crunchy when eaten raw, it can also be fermented (as in kimchi or sauerkraut) or cooked in a variety of ways, including steamed, sautéed, braised, or stuffed.

Inexpensive and hardy, cabbage has understandably become a popular storage vegetable. But it’s at its best and tastiest in the fall to winter months, when it’s in season.

Identification

The word cabbage derives from the Celto-Slavic root, cap or kap, meaning “head”—and this is one easy way to identify the vegetable. A cabbage is typically about the size and shape of a person’s head!

Cabbages weigh between 0.5 to 4 kilograms or 1 to 9 pounds. Their multi-layered leaves may be smooth or crinkled, depending on the type. Savoy cabbage has darker green, crinkly leaves and a mild taste, while white or green cabbage is mid-green to very pale green with smooth, tightly packed leaves and a more intense crunch and flavor. Purple or red cabbage is eggplant-hued with white streaks towards the core. It is crisp, a bit sharp in taste, and usually smooth-leaved.

A related species is the Chinese or Napa cabbage. This variety is usually oblong in shape and has lightly crinkled, mild tasting, yellowish-white leaves. Chinese cabbage is excellent eaten raw in salads, dropped into soups and quickly steamed, or stir fried.

Nutrition Info

1 cup of raw green cabbage contains 22 calories, 0g of fat, 1.0g of protein, and 5.0g of carbohydrates. It provides 2.0g of dietary fiber (or 9% of your daily requirement).

It is an excellent source of vitamin C, offering 54% of your daily requirements, and a good source of vitamin K as well as several minerals, including iron, calcium, and manganese.

Recent research suggests that cabbage is especially high in cancer-protective glucosinolates. Savoy cabbage in particular contains high levels of sinigrin, which is known to help prevent colon, bladder, and prostate cancers.

If you want to preserve these nutritional benefits, it’s best to steam your cabbage. First, because steaming improves its cholesterol-lowering properties. Steaming also preserves more glucosinolates than microwaving, despite longer cooking time.

Purple or red cabbage is a special nutritional powerhouse. In addition to its other benefits, is very high in the polyphenol anthocyanin, which has special anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities.

Selection

Choose firm, tightly packed, and brightly colored cabbages with a fresh, crisp scent. Those that look shriveled, cracked, wilted, or bruised are less fresh and may be damaged at the core.

It’s best to buy cabbage whole rather than sliced because once it is cut, its vitamin C quality begins to go down.

Storage

For centuries, cabbage was one of the few green vegetables that people in northern climates could eat during the winter months. This is because it stores relatively well in a cold room and it can also be pickled and fermented.

To preserve the vitamin C content of cabbage as long as possible, store it loosely wrapped in plastic in the crisper of your fridge. Red and green cabbage will last that way for a couple of weeks. Savoy cabbage will last about a week.

Cut cabbage quickly begins to lose its valuable vitamin C content. So if you need to cut a cabbage in pieces, wrap the remainder tightly in plastic, keep it cool, and use within a couple of days.

Preparation

To prepare a cabbage for eating or cooking, first peel away the outer leaves. The inside is usually clean, but you may want to rinse it anyway. Ensure there is no damage at the core. If you see evidence of worms or insects, soak the head in salted or vinegar water for 15 to 20 minutes before proceeding with your recipe.

Use a stainless steel knife rather than carbon steel to cut cabbage. Carbon steel reacts with phytochemicals to turn the vegetable an unappetizing black. You can slice cabbage by hand, or in a food processor, or you can grate it.

The simplest way to eat cabbage is simply to slice and serve raw! It is a fresh-tasting basis for salads or a crunchy addition to other greens.

You can also toss slices or diced cabbage into a soup that you are preparing.

Steaming cabbage is simple. Slice in whatever way you’d like, place in a steamer basket over boiling water, and allow to cook, covered, until tender. Add a bit of salt, pepper, and oil or butter, along with any herbs or flavorings you might like, and serve.

Some people object to a slightly bitter taste in cabbage. But bitterness may actually indicate high nutritional value. So instead of seeking out milder tasting versions (or avoiding cabbage altogether) enjoy it in preparations that “sweeten” it. Examples include red cabbage braised with wine and apples; green cabbage cooked with ginger and garlic; cabbage braised with sweet onion, or cabbage, carrot, and beet slaw.


Carrots are a root vegetable. They offer a sweet, mildly aromatic flavor that makes them suitable for many cooking preparations, including raw snacking.

Carrots, which are actually a member of the parsley family, are recognized for their long, slender shape, and bright orange color. However, these characteristics vary among types of carrots; keep your eyes out for purple, yellow or white colored carrots at your farmers’ market. You may also find ‘baby carrots’ at the grocery store, but these are in fact cut from older carrots and not indicative of age or variety.

Carrots’ natural season is late summer and fall but you can usually find them year-round at the grocery store.

Identification

Common carrots look a bit like bright orange sticks. The bottom end of the carrot tapers into a root. At the market, the top end of the carrot may still have its green, leafy tops intact, or the tops may already be removed. Young, fresh carrots are usually bunched together with tops attached. Older carrots may be found in bulk or in bags, with tops removed.

When purchasing carrots, you may also come across parsnips. These may look like white carrots but there is a difference: parsnips have a stronger, more bitter flavor and are noticeably less sweet than carrots. Parsnips tend to be bigger than carrots.

Nutrition Info

1 cup of chopped carrots (from about 2 medium-large carrots) contains 41 calories, 0.93 grams of protein, 0.24 grams of fat, 9.58 grams of carbohydrates, 2.80 grams of fiber, and 4.74 grams of sugar.

Ever been told to “eat your carrots so you won’t go blind”? This comes from the fact that carrots are chock full of beta carotene, which helps promote good eyesight. In fact, beta carotene was named after carrots. In the body, beta carotene converts into vitamin A. Just a couple carrots will you give you more than a day’s worth of vitamin A.

Carrots are also a good source of other important vitamins and minerals, including biotin, vitamin K, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6.

Selection

Young, fresh carrots will have the brightest, sweetest flavor, and the best texture. Older, larger carrots can taste a bit ‘woody’, so buy smaller, younger carrots if you can. These are usually grouped together in bunches with the leaves still attached. Look for a bright color in both the leaves and the carrot itself.

Hold the carrot in your hand and bend it slightly (be gentle—don’t break it). If it feels rubbery, loose or limp, that means it is old and dehydrated. If it feels firm and crisp, like it might snap, you probably have a good carrot on your hands.

Storage

If your carrots still have the tops attached, cut them off before storing them. The tops will drain moisture from the carrots and cause them to dry out and become rubbery.

Keep your carrots in a loose / open plastic bag in your vegetable crisper.

Carrots can last for about a week in your fridge. If they are young, tender carrots, enjoy them sooner rather than later to enjoy their best texture and flavor. Older carrots which have already been stored may last longer.

Preparation

To prepare carrots, give them a quick wash and then peel them with a vegetable peeler. This will remove the outer layer which may be bitter. If your carrots are especially young and fresh you may skip this step—just wash them well before eating.

For a simple snack, simply cut the carrot into bite-size sticks and enjoy with your favorite dip.

Carrots can be cooked in a multitude of ways. Cooking time will vary by technique, and will depend on your preference. Longer cooking time will bring out the sweetness and soften the carrot’s texture, while a shorter cooking time will preserve crunch.

Tip: For a great side dish, try roasting carrots. Cut them into large chunks (about 1” lengths), drizzle with olive oil, and roast on a baking sheet in an oven at 425ºF for about 15-20 minutes (flipping once). Roasting brings out the carrots’ natural sweetness.


Cauliflower is part of the Brassica family, which includes common veggies such as kale, cabbage, and broccoli.

Unlike many of its deeply green cousins, cauliflower is generally rather colorless. Its pale color relates to lack of sun exposure: Early in the growing process, farmers gather the large leaves that surround an immature cauliflower head and tie them together at the top of the head like a ponytail made of leaves. This ponytail creates a dark cavern for the cauliflower to grow without direct exposure to the sun. Without sun exposure, the cauliflower head, which is actually made up of many tiny clumps of flowers, remains white and the flower buds remain closed.

While the most common cauliflower is white, there are other varieties that, through crossbreeding (which is not the same as genetic modification) are bright orange or purple.

There is also the Romanesco cauliflower*, which is lime green, visually mesmerizing, and with its configuration of peaked florets within peaked florets, is a mathematical marvel, being a natural example of a fractal pattern.

China and India are the biggest global producers of cauliflower, but in North America, California is the cauliflower hub. For a period of time in late 2015, due to drought issues in California, the price of cauliflower became truly unreasonable. It was a dark time for cauliflower lovers.

*Note: Sometimes Romanesco cauliflower is called Romanesco broccoli or Romanesco cabbage.

Identification

The common white cauliflower looks like a very solid round cumulus cloud of clumped florets. These florets are made up of tiny clusters of flowers called curds. Crossbreeding has also produced versions of cauliflower that are neon orange or purple, due to increased amounts of beta carotene or anthocyanins, respectively. All varieties have a mild and slightly creamy flavor with a pleasing starchiness.

The Romanesco cauliflower is beautiful if not alien-like, with its mathematically precise arrangement of peaked green florets. Romanesco cauliflower is similar in flavor to regular cauliflower, with a mild hint of bitter green.

Nutrition Info

One cup of ½” cut raw cauliflower florets (about 107g) has 27 calories, 2.1g protein, 0.3g of fat, 5.3g of carbohydrates, 2.1g fiber, and 2g sugar. In its raw form, cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C, and a good source of vitamin K.

Selection

Cauliflowers are found widely in most grocery stores. They are typically sold as entire heads.

Look for cauliflowers that are heavy for their size with tightly packed curds. Cauliflowers that have dark spots or little budding florets are likely past their prime. If a cauliflower only has a few very small areas of dark spotting and otherwise looks fresh, you can just trim off the dark spots during your preparation to eat it.

Storage

As an entire head, raw cauliflower will stay fresh in the fridge for up to a week. To protect its moisture content, keep it in a paper or plastic bag.

If you have purchased raw pre-cut florets, consume them within a day or two.

After cooking, cauliflower can be kept in the fridge for two to three days. Any longer, and it will emit a sulfur smell.

Preparation

After washing, trimming off any dark spots, and cutting into desired chunks, cauliflower is delicious in several ways.

Choose your own adventure:

Option 1: Eat it raw, just as is. Raw cauliflower is also a great vehicle for dip.

Option 2: Steam it. Place chopped florets in a steamer basket over boiling water and cook in a covered pot for about 5-10 minutes, the shorter time being for those who like to preserve a bit of crunch, and the longer time for those who like their cauliflower soft and smooth.

Option 3: Roast it. In a large bowl, drizzle cauliflower florets with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Toss to coat florets. Spread seasoned florets over a parchment paper-lined baking tray and place in preheated 400 degree Fahrenheit oven. Roast for 25-30 minutes, removing the tray halfway through to rotate the florets for even browning. The cauliflower is done when it turns soft and golden brown at the edges.


If there is one thing that stands out about celery, it’s that it is exceptionally crunchy.

In fact, celery is so crunchy that it is a favorite prop used by Hollywood sound effect designers to create the sound of breaking bones. Yes, celery, which is among the most inoffensive and unassuming vegetables, is used to create the gruesome, layered, splitting sound of bones being crushed and splintered. Ouch.

Less cringe-worthy, are celery’s culinary applications: It is an excellent vehicle for dips and is therefore a common guest on crudité platters, and it is an essential ingredient in “mirepoix”, a combination of sautéed onions, carrots, and celery that serves as a versatile flavor base for soups, stocks, and sauces. It can also be seen poking out of certain savory cocktails.

Celery is also a popular “diet food”, and many incorrectly believe that the metabolic effort required to consume celery exceeds its calorie content, making it a “negative calorie food”. Although this isn’t true, celery is, by volume, a very low calorie food.

Celery is thought to have originated thousands of years ago in Europe and the Mediterranean region, and there is evidence of celery being used as a medicinal plant in Ancient Egypt.

Celery is a cool season crop and today, most celery sold in North America comes from California.

Identification

Although there are many varieties of celery, the most common cultivar is the “Pascal” variety.

As a bunch, celery appears as a vertical arrangement of stalks that fuse together on one end, and finish in leafy projections on the other end. Each stalk is stiff and curved, forming a canoe-like shape. In color, celery is a vibrant green which pales in color toward the inner stalks.

Celery is exceptionally crunchy with tough, string-like fibers running along the length of each stalk. The flavor is watery and slightly bitter, especially in the outer, darker portions of the bunch. The inner portion of the bunch tends to be paler, sweeter, and more tender.

Nutrition Info

One cup of chopped, raw celery (about 101g) has 16 calories, 0.7g protein,0.2g of fat, 3g of carbohydrates, 1.6g fiber, and 1.4g sugar. Celery is a good source of vitamin K.

Selection

Celery is widely available at most grocery stores and fruit and vegetable markets.

When choosing celery, look for compact bunches that have stiff stalks with pale or bright green leaves. Avoid celery whose stalks are splayed out and bendy, or whose leaves are yellowed or spotted. The bottom end of the bunch should look white and clean; check here for signs of mold and if detected, pass these bunches over.

Storage

Celery can be stored in the fridge, either wrapped tightly in a plastic bag, or, in order to maintain maximum crunchiness, using this method: Slice off the bottom inch of the celery bunch, and submerge this sliced end into a bowl or mug of water and place in the fridge. This method may also be used as a way of reviving slightly tired or wilted celery. Using either the wrapped bag or the submerged-in-water method will keep celery fresh in the fridge for five to seven days.

It is not recommended that raw celery be frozen, as the texture will change drastically when thawed. If you want to freeze celery, cook it first, and then keep frozen for up to six months in an airtight container.

Preparation

Celery need only be washed and sliced before eating.

To do this, it is easiest first to chop off the bottom inch of the bunch, and also the top inch if it shows any signs of browning or dryness. Separate the stalks and wash them one by one under cool water, loosening any dirt (which will collect primarily at the bottom) with your fingers. Once they are clean, cut the stalks in desired shapes and eat plain, or dipped into something yummy, or chopped fine into salads, soups, or other cooked dishes.


Celery root, also known as celeriac, is a root vegetable harvested in the late fall. It has a mild, celery-like flavor with a starchy, rather potato-like texture.

Identification

Celery root is roughly round, with a knobby, uneven surface. The outside is an uneven brown color and the interior is creamy white.

Nutrition Info

One cup chopped has about 66 calories, 2.3g of protein, 14.4g of carbohydrates, 2.8g of fiber, 2.5g of sugar, and 0.5g of fat.

Celery root is rich in vitamins K, C, and the B’s. It is also a good source of minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, iron, calcium, and manganese.

Selection

Celery root is at its best in the cooler months of fall, winter, and early spring. It is sometimes sold with the stalks and leaves still attached.

When choosing a celery root at the store, look for one that feels heavy for its size and avoid any that have soft spots. If the stalks are still attached to the root, they should be fresh looking and not dried out, slimy, or wilted.

Storage

Store celery root it in a cool dry place. If you keep it loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in the fridge, it will last several weeks (even longer if it was freshly harvested). If you picked up a celery root with the stalks attached, be sure to snap them off before storing it – the celery root will last longer this way.

Preparation

Celery root needs to be peeled before eating. Peeling it requires a bit of effort. Use a sharp knife to cut away the outer knobby brown exterior in order to reveal the creamy, solid flesh inside.

Once peeled, chop up the celery root. You can eat it raw in a variety of salads or bake it.

Like potatoes, celery root will start to turn brown after being exposed to air. To prevent this, keep cut celery root in a bowl of cool water or peel it just before use. You can also sprinkle it with lemon juice to prevent some of the browning.