What do these foods have in common? Besides being versatile and delicious, they're absolutely packed with nutrients. Suki Hertz, F&W's health guru, looked at 10 categories of food—meat, fish, grains, greens and more—to find the most nutritious example in each; the F&W Test Kitchen shows you how to use these standout ingredients in 10 spectacular dishes.
VITAL STATS Butternut has more beta-carotene, a potent cancer fighter, than any other type of squash. One cup meets a person's vitamin A needs for the day and provides a healthy dose of the vitamin C and potassium requirements as well. Not bad for 82 calories. TIPS For roasting, any shape of squash will do; for dicing or slicing, choose elongated as opposed to bulbous squash—they're easier to handle. To facilitate peeling, cut the squash into chunks and use a sharp, sturdy peeler, like an Oxo.
VITAL STATS Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and brussels sprouts have a surprising relative, bok choy, the Asian green. With more cancer-fighting antioxidants than many of its siblings (plus vitamin C, folate, beta-carotene, calcium and fiber), bok choy deserves to be more widely known. TIPS Unless you are steaming bok choy whole, it's best to cook the crisp stems first and add the deep green leaves at the very end, since they cook much more quickly. Cook bok choy lightly to preserve nutrients.
VITAL STATS Turkey legs may not be as lean as those white-meat breasts, but they are much tastier—and a 3.5-ounce serving (without the skin) has a modest 3.5 grams of fat, making the legs an unexpectedly virtuous option. Plus they deliver protein, B vitamins, zinc and the antioxidant selenium. TIP When we think of cooking turkey, roasting is the method that first comes to mind. But the legs are better braised because they need long, moist cooking to turn the tough meat into something meltingly tender.
VITAL STATS Whether they're turned into tofu or simply steamed in the pod, soybeans, a.k.a. edamame, are undeniably trendy. And for good reason: They are rich sources of isoflavones, compounds that may help reduce cholesterol, fight cancer and strengthen bones. They're also a great source of protein, fiber and B vitamins. TIPS Look for plump, dark green pods about two inches long. To prepare for snacking, rub the pods with kosher salt to remove as much fuzz as possible, then boil or steam the beans until just tender.
VITAL STATS Quinoa, a grainlike vegetable similar to buckwheat and amaranth, is a vegetarian's dream: Its protein contains healthy amounts of all the essential amino acids. And anyone with food allergies should know that it's gluten-free. It's also an excellent source of iron and magnesium and a good source of many of the B vitamins and calcium. Reason enough to brush up on your pronunciation (KEEN-wah). TIP Rinse quinoa before cooking it to remove the soapy, bitter coating.
VITAL STATS Like many tropical fruits, mangoes deliver major amounts of antioxidants, which protect against heart disease and cancer. Generous quantities of vitamin A and fiber and a small (but helpful) amount of vitamin E are more incentives to eat mangoes. TIPS For slicing or dicing, peel mangoes, then cut the fruit off the large, flat, fibrous pit. For eating out of hand, slice the fruit in half off either side of the pit. Score each half in a deep crosshatch pattern; fold the fruit out, making the mango cubes pop.
VITAL STATS Omega-3 fatty acids have a vaguely science-fiction-y name, but don't let that put you off. These fats, found in large quantities in salmon as well as other fatty fish, protect the heart in several ways—by preventing blood clots and steadying heart rhythm, for instance. They may even (get this) alleviate depression. TIP When cooking salmon fillets or steaks in a pan or on the grill, wait until they're well browned to turn, so they'll release easily, without flaking, when you flip them with a spatula.
VITAL STATS With just 2 grams of fat and 98 calories per cup, buttermilk is hardly buttery. And it's a terrific way to get calcium, potassium, vitamin B-12 and riboflavin. TIPS A carton of buttermilk will sit happily in the back of your fridge for several weeks after its expiration date. But if you happen to run out of buttermilk and need it for a recipe, stir 1 tablespoon of lemon juice into 1 cup of milk and let stand for 10 minutes. Or substitute plain yogurt, cup for cup, or thinned slightly with milk (depending on the recipe).
VITAL STATS Unless they're on the Atkins diet, health-conscious eaters don't eat much beef—too many cuts are high in saturated fat. But beef eye of round has just 2.2 grams of saturated fat (and 260 calories) per 6-ounce serving. And it's high in protein, B vitamins, iron and zinc. TIP Treat eye of round like prime rib. Season it with salt and pepper and sear it in a skillet, then blast it at high heat in the oven until medium rare. Thinly slice the roast and use in sandwiches or in a light and refreshing Thai beef salad.
VITAL STATS There are plenty of reasons for nutrition-minded cooks to open a can of chickpeas (or, better yet, boil their own). A cup of chickpeas delivers a whopping 12 grams of fiber (half the daily requirement)—both soluble (which reduces cholesterol and the risk of heart disease) and insoluble (which helps digestion). Chickpeas are high in folate and iron, too. TIPS Smaller chickpeas tend to have thinner, more tender skins. Cooked chickpeas can be refrigerated in their liquid for up to four days.