Design the world's most nutritious meal -- that's the challenge we gave dietitian Barbara Gollman. It meant coming up not only with nutritious recipes, but with a menu that tastes and looks fabulous.
The result is a low-fat dinner anchored by broiled salmon with plenty of fruits and vegetables prepared in simple, but imaginative ways that maximize flavor and nutrients.
All the foods used promote better health in one way or another.
That meant increasing fruits, vegetables and grains, which contain heart-beneficial fiber as well as a multitude of substances that help reduce cancer risk. Vitamins C and E and beta carotene also may retard aging.
It also meant cranking up the flavor with chilies, herbs, citrus, garlic, ginger, peppercorns and vinegars.
Ms. Gollman also wove other nutrients into the meal: a wealth of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A for good vision; calcium for strong teeth and bones; folic acid to prevent birth defects; plenty of potassium, which helps maintain blood pressure; and iron.
The meal also contains lots of fiber, whose benefits range from reducing the risk of some cancers and cardiovascular disease to regulating blood sugar.
The heart of the meal, salmon is the most concentrated source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have excellent heart benefits, she says.
People tend to shy away from nutrient-dense wild rice (high in protein, vitamins, minerals, folic acid, iron) because it's so pricy, she says. But bought in bulk it can be economical. Or small amounts can be mixed with brown rice. Sweet potatoes are readily available, adding vitamins A and E, fiber and other nutrients.
Broccoli, with its awesome cancer risk-reduction properties, is a must on any healthful menu.
Both the spicy salsa and the salad are different approaches to serving nutrient-rich fruit. Ms. Gollman prefers seasonal fruits -- mangoes (fiber, vitamin C, beta carotene), cantaloupe (fiber, vitamin C, beta carotene, calcium), and strawberries (vitamin C, fiber). Tomatoes and bell peppers also are good vitamin C and fiber sources.
For the salad, spinach replaces iceberg lettuce because it is rich in vitamins and minerals (vitamin E, beta carotene, folic acid, iron, fiber)."
Dessert starts with yogurt. Its calcium helps prevent osteoporosis. Its lactobacillus boosts resistance to infection, Ms. Gollman says. The sauce provides the heart-beneficial effects of wine. (The alcohol evaporates in cooking.)
Some scientists think that reversatrol, the component believed to protect the heart, also is found in grapes, which complete this menu.
How menu ingredients work
* Grilled salmon with basil mustard crust: Salmon reduces the risk of heart disease.
* Mango-red pepper salsa: Mango, tomatoes and bell pepper reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, and are good vitamin or mineral source; mango promotes good vision.
* Wild rice and sweet potato pilaf: Wild rice and sweet potatoes reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer and are good vitamin or mineral source; rice reduces the risk of birth defects; sweet potatoes promote good vision; onions reduce risk of cancer.
* Spinach, strawberry and cantaloupe salad: Spinach, strawberries, cantaloupe and soy nuts reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer; spinach is a good source of iron; spinach and soy nuts reduce the risk of birth defects; strawberries and cantaloupe are good vitamin or mineral source.
* Broccoli stir-fry : Broccoli reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer and birth defects; is good vitamin or mineral source; and builds strong bones and teeth.
* Grapes in cabernet sauce with yogurt: Grapes and wine reduce the risk of heart disease; grapes reduce the risk of cancer; and yogurt builds strong bones and teeth.
* Kendall-Jackson Zinfandel 1991: Wine reduces the risk of heart disease.
Here are some ingredients used primarily for flavor -- and their benefits:
Garlic: Reduces the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. "Garlic is kind of like broccoli -- it does everything."
Lime juice: Adds vitamin C, an antioxidant vitamin: may help reduce cancer risk.
Mushrooms: Add lots of B vitamins.
Shallots: Help reduce cancer risk.
Grilled Salmon with Basil Mustard Crust
Makes 4 servings
3 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
3 tablespoons fresh basil, minced
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 pound skinless salmon fillet, 1-inch thick, cut into 2 pieces
Mix mustard, basil and olive oil. Spread mustard mixture heavily over both sides of fish. No flesh should be showing. Refrigerate until ready to cook.
Heat grill to very hot. Spray surface with oil, place fillets on it. Cook for 5 minutes, turn and cook 5 minutes more. Some of the crust may fall off. Or broil the salmon.
Remove from heat. Loosely cover with foil and allow to stand 5 minutes. Cut to make 4 pieces and serve.
Per serving: calories: 172; fat: 7g; cholesterol: 42mg; sodium: 229mg; percent calories from fat: 41 percent.
Mango-Red Pepper Salsa
Makes 8 servings
1 ripe mango, diced
1/2 cup fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced