Native American Foods: 5 Super Healthy Choices (cont.)

4. Mushrooms

Mushrooms aren't usually thought of as especially nutritious. And while it's true they're not very nutrient-dense, that shouldn't be the only way we look at a food's value, says Grotto.

"If you look at the antioxidants in mushrooms, they're just wonderful," he says.

By helping to war off damaging free radicals -- molecules that may play a role in the development of heart disease and cancer -- antioxidants are what make mushrooms shine.

Even the lowly white button mushroom brings a lot of antioxidant pop to the table, as well as glucans, which may help lower cholesterol, Grotto adds.

While picking wild mushrooms is a hobby only for the well-informed, you can enjoy traditional foods with mushrooms found at the supermarket.

"Try a grilled Portobello and teriyaki sandwich instead of meat," suggests Grotto. Mushrooms can also take center stage in sauces, stir-frys, soups, pates, and spreads. Or savor them over acorn squash with sage and onion -- a perfect fall treat.

5. Beans

Completing the three sisters trinity, beans were a staple of the Navajo, Creek, Iroquois, and others.

Tiny nutrient powerhouses, beans like black, red, and pinto pack a healthy punch. Along with being fiber-rich, they're good sources of cardiovascular-boosting potassium, B vitamins, and folic acid. An excellent low-fat source of protein, they're cholesterol-free, too.

Reporting on a study that rated 100 foods for their disease-fighting antioxidant capacity, Grotto tells WebMD that small red beans topped the list, with red kidney beans and pinto beans following in third and fourth place. Black beans showed up in the top 20.

Traditional ways to enjoy them include succotash and bean salad. Beans of every stripe can also find their way into chili, soups, burritos, and tacos.

Published October 6, 2006.

SOURCES: web site. National Endowment for the Humanities web site. American Dietetic Association web site. Harold H. Baxter, DDS, recipe developer, author, Dining at Noah's Table. David Grotto, RD, LD, national media spokesman, American Dietetic Association, author, 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life. Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, consultant, WebMD; author, Comfort Food Makeovers.

©2006 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.

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