Thinking healthy? Consider the succulent and gastronomically versatile snow crab. Low in fat and calories, but high in protein and vitamin A, Newfoundland's internationally sought-after export -- worth a tidy $363 million last year -- is also a gold mine of selenium, a trace element that triggers apoptosis, or cancer cell death. And that's not all. If you suffer immune system overload, selenium stimulates your white blood cells into action to help fight off disease.
To increase your intake try: Crab and Roasted Pepper Bisque
Decades after your mother plied you with cod-liver oil, Canadian scientists say it's not just good for you; it could even be a lifesaver. Eating cod several times a week lowers your risk of developing lymphoma (a cancer of the lymphatic system) by 30 per cent. Protein-rich cod is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help prevent heart disease, depression, dementia and arthritis. But if the taste of cod-liver oil haunts you still, there are other healthy omega-3-rich fish to grill or bake, such as mackerel, herring and salmon.
To increase your intake try: Cajun Cod
Having trouble recalling where you put the car keys? Spend a day in the blueberry patches of Nova Scotia, the world's second largest producer of low-bush berries. Blueberries are one of the richest sources of antioxidants, and researchers say the fruit's phytochemicals can help reverse existing short-term memory loss. How much is enough? Just one cup a day; you can eat them alone or on cereal.
To increase your intake try: Blueberry Lemon Blintzes
A lobster boil on your next Maritime holiday isn't just good for your soul; it's pretty healthy for your heart, too. Lobster has no saturated fat, contains dashes of vitamins A and B6, iron, zinc, calcium and iodine and, most significantly, it's loaded with omega-3 fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Studies show that DHA can help reduce high levels of blood triglycerides, which have been linked to heart disease.
To increase your intake try: Classic Lobster
A carrot a day? Why not. Several epidemiological studies looking at the powerful antioxidant effects of carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, show that one serving a day is all you need to reduce your chance of developing heart disease and postmenopausal breast cancer. And carrots also help you see better, at least in the dark. Beta-carotene helps make rhodopsin, a reddish-purple pigment necessary for night vision.
To increase your intake try: Carrot Lentil Soup
Prince Edward Island
P.E.I.'s best-known crop, the humble spud, is also one of the healthiest. While its skin is high in fibre, the pulp is loaded with vitamin C, copper and potassium. One baked potato, which weighs in at a mere 100 calories, also delivers a shot of B6, used by the body for everything from building DNA to dealing with stress. While Europeans initially refused to eat them because they weren't mentioned in the Bible, potatoes are now the world's most widely consumed comfort food, deserving their Latin name Solanum tuberosum, or soothing tuber.
To increase your intake try: Potato Pancakes With Smoked Salmon And Dill Creme Fraiche
Back in 1623, missionary Brother Gabriel Sagard "discovered" wild garlic in New France -- and the delicately flavoured leek look-alike hasn't been off discerning menus since. While overharvesting by enthusiasts has reduced the natural spread of this plant by 20 per cent, some companies have begun to harvest the crop sustainably. Wild garlic remains a native wonder, available at select farmer's markets. It contains thiosulfinates, sulfoxides and dithiins, all powerful antibacterial and antiviral agents that can battle your colds, flu, peptic ulcers and candida. Eat any type of cooked garlic, two or three times a week, and it could also protect your colon from cancer-causing toxins.
To increase your intake try: Roasted Garlic and Beet Salad
Fiddleheads are the stuff of culinary dreams -- not in the least for easterners living in western exile. "Back home, fiddleheads mean one thing: spring!" says Joanne Bilecki, 43, who now lives in Grande Prairie, Alta. "The West is great, but some things you just can't replicate." A traditional New Brunswick crop, fiddleheads are loaded with vitamins A and C, as well as niacin, riboflavin, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, which can lower your blood pressure and protect you from stroke.
To increase your intake try: Fiddlehead Pasta Primavera
As sweet as sugar but better for you, maple syrup is loaded with more than just flavour; it's also a good source of zinc, which boosts male sex hormone production and synthesizes fatty acids and cholesterol. Maple syrup also contains iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium and polyphenolic acids, which have key antioxidant properties. Just three tablespoons (50 millilitres) -- enough syrup for a few pancakes -- provides 25 per cent of your daily zinc requirement.
To increase your intake try: Maple Granola Baked Apples
Onions have done it all. They've been used to pay Egyptian pyramid workers, served as a breakfast food in the Middle Ages and doubled as sixth-century Indian medicine. And like other vegetables of the allium or garlic family, onions are loaded with nutrients. They're high in vitamins C and B6, chromium and sulphur compounds. Eat several a week and they may help keep your insulin under control, lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, reduce inflammation and help prevent heart disease.
To increase your intake try: Caramelized Onion Pie with Rice Crust
"Twenty years ago," recalls Philippe Bonnet, an award-winning cheese maker and president of Damafro, a cheese company in Saint Damase, Que., "Quebec produced maybe 20 or 30 cheeses. Now, we're up to 300." And the province's internationally acclaimed goat cheese leads the way. Very low in lactose, goat cheese has long been considered a tasty alternative for anyone with lactose intolerance or health issues such as chronic ear infections, asthma and arthritis. Goat cheese also has potassium, riboflavin and more phosphate, protein and calcium than cow's milk cheese. And that's not just good for your bones; some studies suggest that together with magnesium, calcium may relieve migraines and PMS symptoms.
To increase your intake try: Asparagus Goat Cheese Toss
Found sprouting throughout Canada's woodlands, wild morel and chanterelle mushrooms are flavourful and unique -- and great for battling cancer. Studies show that mushrooms control circulating estrogen levels and may protect you from breast cancer. They're also a great source of riboflavin, pantothenic acid, copper, niacin, potassium, phosphorus and selenium, which repairs DNA and may help control asthma and arthritis. Wild mushrooms are increasingly available in supermarkets -- a good thing since mushroom-picking can be confusing for a novice.
To increase your intake try: Wild Mushrooms in Phyllo Crowns
The next time you sip a smooth Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Syrah or Pinot Noir from Niagara, raise a glass to toast your health. These three grape varieties contain the highest concentration of flavonoids, compounds that help prevent plaque from forming in arteries and increase HDL, or "good," cholesterol. They're also tops for the phytochemical resveratrol, an antioxidant that may slow cancer growth and could be key in treating neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
To increase your intake try: Red Wine and Rosemary Pot Roast
Eating an apple a day really can help keep the doctor away. An apple daily will give you enough flavonoids, pectin, and insoluble and soluble fibre to reduce your cholesterol, lower your risk of heart attack, colon and breast cancers and keep your bowels in top form. Research also shows that consuming more than three servings of apples -- or other fruit -- daily could lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration, a potentially devastating eye disease, by 36 per cent.
To increase your intake try: Apple and Spinach Salad with Cheddar
Strawberries mean summer -- and reproductive health, too. Their seeds are a great source of zinc, a mineral essential for a healthy pregnancy and sperm motility. David Wedge, a researcher at the University of Mississippi, says that in his studies, strawberry extract also reduced breast and cervical cancer cell growth by up to 77 per cent. "The phytochemicals may affect the growth of tumours by changing how cells respond to genetic or chemical damage," he says. Strawberries are a good source of vitamins C and K and manganese, as well as soluble and insoluble fibre.
To increase your intake try: Snappy Strawberry Salsa
Quintessentially Ontarian and unreplicated anywhere (forget the cold-cut slab Americans whimsically call "Canadian bacon"), peameal is also healthy, says Andrew Thomson, president of peameal manufacturer, TMF-The Meat Factory in Stoney Creek, Ont. Unlike side bacon, which is up to 40 per cent fat, peameal comes from the lean back loin of the pig and "has about four per cent fat and is lower in sodium these days," says Thomson. Peameal is also rich in vitamin B12, iron, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin.
To increase your intake try: Grilled Peameal Bacon
French emperor Charlemagne was so impressed with flaxseed's versatility, he passed a law in the eighth century requiring that it be planted and consumed. He was on to something. Flax is a great source of linoleic acid -- one type of omega-3 fat -- and lignans, compounds that are converted into hormonelike agents in the digestive tract. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids can help protect you from postmenopausal breast cancer, bone deterioration and heart disease.
To increase your intake try: Farmland Flax Cookies
Sure it's more expensive than brown or white rice, but for nutritional value, wild rice is worth every extra nickel. Although not actually a grain (it's classified as a wild grass) it thrives in Manitoba's ancient mineral bedrock. Wild rice beats white rice hands down for protein, vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and folic acid.
To increase your intake try: Wild Rice and Broccoli Casserole
Originally a 19th-century steam engine lubricant, rapeseed earned a place in nutritional history when two Canadian scientists bred out its bitter taste and renamed it canola, an acronym for CANadian Oil Less Acid. An excellent blend of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, researchers say canola oil will help lower your LDL, or "bad," cholesterol and reduce your risk of coronary heart disease, cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure.
If you want the skinny on soybeans, try this on for size. The legume, widely studied for lowering cancer risks in postmenopausal women, can actually make you leaner. It contains genistein, an active isoflavone that causes you to have smaller fat cells. For men, genistein is a natural cancer fighter that slows prostate cancer cell growth and even causes apoptosis, or cancer cell death.
To increase your intake try: Tofu Asparagus Stir-Fry
From arrow shafts and laxatives to a food staple, mis-ask-quah-toomina was a multitasking bush for the Cree and Blackfoot. Settlers caught on, shortened it to saskatoon berry and a Prairie legend was born. Saskatoon berries are a top source of vitamin C, manganese, potassium, calcium, beta-carotene and flavonoids. Researchers at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver say they rival blueberries for antioxidant mojo.
To increase your intake try: Grosse Isle Saskastrawberry Pie
Neither a wheat nor a grain, buckwheat (a seed related to rhubarb) nevertheless charts high for nutritional value. And it can be eaten like a grain. Filling and hearty, buckwheat can be made into a porridge or used as a flour, both of which are excellent sources of magnesium, insoluble fibre and flavonoids, which can reduce cholesterol and protect against heart disease and diabetes.
To increase your intake try: Buttermilk Buckwheat Cranberry Pancakes
Saskatchewan feeds the world in lentils, which is a good thing because they're a powerhouse of good nutrition. During one 25-year study, researchers found that legume-rich diets meant an 82 per cent reduction in the risk of death from heart disease. Why? High in cholesterol-lowering soluble fibre, B vitamins, minerals and protein, lentils lack one thing: fat. They also have plenty of magnesium, which relaxes veins and arteries, lowers the risk of heart attack and eases the flow of blood and oxygen.
To increase your intake try: Lentil Curry with Squash and Spinach
Venison may not be next to chicken in the meat aisle, but perhaps it should be. Packed with protein, vitamin B12, niacin and migraine-moderating riboflavin, it's also extremely lean -- just 1.2 per cent fat per 113 grams. "It tastes great," says Marlene Sam, whose Grovedale Game Ranch in Grande Prairie, Alta., exports to appreciative Europeans.
Once found only on upscale menus and now available at many alternative food stores, buffalo is nutritionally as big as the prairie it's bred on. Compared with beef, buffalo is 25 per cent higher in protein, lower in saturated fat and cholesterol and richer in iron. It's loaded with health-promoting zinc, phosphorus and selenium. And best of all, it won't shrink while cooking. That combination, say researchers at the University of North Dakota, means that buffalo is so nutrient-dense that it doesn't take much to satisfy you.
To increase your intake try: Rebel House Buffalo Burger
Feeling run down? Swallow a teaspoon of honey. Ancient Olympians ate honey and figs to boost their energy and modern science says it works. In one study of ergogenic foods (foods that enhance performance), weight trainers who ate honey not only maintained their blood sugar, but their muscles also recuperated faster. An added bonus: honey has been used for centuries to treat cuts and burns and may also keep infection away. Applied topically, its sugars draw moisture from wounds, while enzymes, antioxidants and flavonoids act as antibacterials. (Health Canada warns that children under 12 months should not consume honey because of the risk of botulism.)
To increase your intake try: Balsamic Honey Tenderloin
Baked, smoked, steamed or cut into sumptuous sushi-size strips, salmon is the glamour girl of west coast healthy food. A colourful delicacy, chinook and sockeye varieties are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Just two servings a week can reduce your risk of stroke and obesity. Salmon is loaded with vitamin B12 and cholesterol-lowering niacin.
To increase your intake try: Cedar Planked Salmon with Dill Sauce
Nearly 480 years before anyone heard of anticancer agents, herbalists first noted the raspberry's virtue as a pregnancy tonic that strengthened expectant mothers for delivery. These days, scientists are more interested in the ruby fruit's ellagic acid, which renders cancer-causing chemicals inactive, stops carcinogens from binding to human DNA and generally acts as a cancer cell scavenger. Raspberries also pack a punch in vitamin C, manganese and fibre.
To increase your intake try: Raspberry Oat Bars
A urinary tract infection hits and, like most women, you pour a tall glass of cranberry juice. But Canada's alpine cranberries do more than kill off bacteria; they also contain proanthocyanidin A-1, now being studied as a treatment for chronic venous insufficiency (a leaky or blocked valve that can disrupt blood flow between the lower limbs and the heart). Scientists say the compound also stops the herpes virus from replicating.
To increase your intake try: Cranberry Fruit Chutney
"We use tea in a lot of cooking," says Phoebe Sutherland, a Cree chef and co-owner of Sweetgrass, an elegant aboriginal bistro in Ottawa. "It adds flavour to food, and it's a very big part of our culture." Loaded with phytonutrients and antioxidants from ingredients indigenous to the North, such as sweetgrass, nettle and juniper berry, fragrant teas from companies such as the Algonquin Tea Co. and Northern Delights are bringing northern vision to southern sensibilities.