Latin-American Superfoods to Invite to Your Table

Latin-American Superfoods to Invite to Your Table

Add superfoods like papaya, quinoa and chia seeds to your favorite family meals.

There's no aspect of my life more international than the dinner table. My family loves to sample world cuisine, from African peanut stew to Chinese stir-fry. Of course, that means there's always room for Latin-American traditions – especially family favorites like what abuela andmamá used to make – but too often, my family's treasured recipes are relegated to holidays and celebrations.

Luckily, our ancestors' favorite foods are slowly pushing their way into mainstream dishes. They’re being recognized as superfoods – nutritional powerhouses that people go out of their way to include in recipes. And that means we can honor both our roots and our health, at least a few times a week, with these three Hispanic superfoods:

What's in a name? Well, if your name is quinoa, the answer is history. From the Quechoa word kinwa or kinuwa, this pseudocereal – essentially, a seed that's eaten like a grain – has been a dinner table staple of the Americas for approximately 6,000 years.

Andean peoples (so, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina) domesticated the indigenous superfood about 3,000-4,000 years ago. The Incas revered it as sacred, naming it chisaya mama or "mother of all grains," and incorporated it into their religious ceremonies. Many years later, quinoa's religious status caused scorn among the Spanish conquerors who tried to suppress its cultivation.

Mission failed, conquistadores. Though quinoa spent a few more centuries unloved outside the Andes, today it's one of the world's most revered superfoods. And with good reason: Quinoa is high in protein, fiber and a host of vitamins and minerals. What's more, it contains all the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. And it's rich in antioxidants.

Try these recipes: Cheesy Veggie Quinoa Casserole or Quinoa Salad with Ginger Dressing.

Papaya has a long and diverse history in Mexico, Central America, and northern South America, the regions in which it grows natively. You're probably familiar with the sweet, slightly musky fruit (technically a berry!), with its green-mottled orange exterior, soft yellow-orange flesh, buttery texture, and slick, black seeds.


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What you may not know is that papaya is popular throughout Latin America not only for its delicious flavor, but also for its medicinal and culinary properties. Our ancestors used the fruit to tenderize meat, and employed the leaves to treat malaria and dengue. And of course they, like us, appreciated papaya as a superfood – even if the term didn't exist a few millennia ago.

Indeed, papaya has earned its status as a nutritional powerhouse: It's rich in antioxidants. It has lots of fiber. It's chock-full of vitamin C, B-vitamins, and minerals like copper, magnesium and potassium.

Try these recipes: 4 Summer Drinks Your Family Will Love, 6 Easy Natural Fruit Juices Recipes, 5 Latin Snacks You Can Get Away with Overeating.

Those of us of a certain, ahem, generation can't think of chia without humming ch-ch-ch-chia! (Am I right? You know I'm right!) But nowadays, chia is more than a pet: it's a fierce superfood.

Native to Mexico and Central America, the teeny tiny chia seed was cultivated for centuries by the Aztecs, both as food and as tribute. One of its most traditional uses is mixed into drinks – the oily seeds turn gelatinous, similar to tapioca or flax – but the seeds have long been incorporated into various foods, due to their rich nutritional profile.

Because yep, this is another Latin-American superfood passed down from our ancestors. Chia is rich in omega-3s, including alpha linolenic fatty acid – the only known essential omega-3 that our bodies can't produce on their own. What's more, chia is rich in iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and other vitamins and minerals. And it has fiber and protein.

Try 3 Nutritious Fruit Smoothie Recipes.Latin-American Superfoods to Invite to Your Table

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