Forget the "food fallacies" of nuts being fattening snack food, say O'Connor and Lieberman: Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts and peanuts (technically a legume) actually are full of heart-healthy fats that boost "good" cholesterol. They cite findings that adding a few servings of nuts a week dramatically reduces people's risk of cardiovascular disease — and other studies that found regular nut consumption actually made people less likely to gain weight. In researching nut recipes, says Lieberman, "My biggest Eureka Moment came with making a cream sauce out of cashews. It was truly a revelation — eating is believing!"
Many Americans never have heard of this grain (pronounced keen-wah). But according to NASA scientists tasked with feeding astronauts in space, quinoa comes as close to supplying "all the essential life-sustaining nutrients … as any (food) in the plant or animal kingdom." Quinoa is very high in fiber, protein and minerals, and very low in calories and in fat. Studies have shown eating a daily bowl can lower rates of obesity, breast cancer, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. "Quinoa has become a staple in my house since writing this cookbook — I love it more than ever," Lieberman says. He incorporates it in a wide range of recipes, including Linguine and Quinoa Meatballs with Tangy Tomato Sauce.
It's "kryptonite to cancer cells," the authors say. Spinach contains so many anti-oxidants "that in some ways it's the equivalent of two or three servings of vegetables in one." Besides scoring high in the USDA measure of food's ability to rid the body of free radicals, spinach is packed with other nutrients including calcium, vitamins A and K, and omega-3 fatty acids. "I try to eat spinach every day," Lieberman says. "This is actually possible because spinach is so quick and easy to cook. I'm talking five minutes or under in lots of recipes."
Over the past decade, such authorities as the Harvard School of Public Health and the International Journal of Cancer have noted that regular consumption of tomato products can reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, thanks to tomatoes' powerhouse combination of vitamins and phytonutrients such as lycopene. Because cooking actually enhances tomatoes' health-promoting properties by making nutrients more easily absorbed, Lieberman considers canned tomatoes "a good alternative to fresh; quick, easy and inexpensive. The news about cooked tomatoes actually being healthier opened the field wide open for me to a great range of recipes, from pizza to tomato-based stews."