Superfoods are expensive, a bit weird, not always tasty and it can be difficult to figure out what to do with them, right? I would say so when I think about goji berries, spirulina, wakame and a host of other ‘new’ foods that we read about regularly these days.
However, a superfood need not be expensive or weird. A superfood is just a food that is super-nutritious, packing a lot of goodness into a few mouthfuls. Fortunately there are lots of everyday foods that can provide us with a super-concentrated hit of vitamins, minerals and other components that can benefit our health.
Beans such as chickpeas, borlotti, butter beans, and even baked beans, are all good sources of fibre, protein, iron, folate, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese and potassium. Fibre helps with lowering cholesterol, benefits our digestive system and helps with blood sugar control at meal times. The vitamin and mineral content of beans also contributes to heart health. Canned beans are easy to use – add to salads, blend into dips, spreads and homous and bulk up soups, stews and casseroles.
Canned fish is a great choice when fresh fish is out of reach. Oily fish, like mackerel, salmon, sardines, herring and pilchards, contain omega-3 fats needed for a healthy heart, skin and brain. Fish is also rich in protein, vitamin B12 and various other vitamins and minerals, depending on the fish you choose. Tinned oily fish eaten with bones provides calcium. Canned fish are fuss free – add to salads, vegetable dishes or stir-frys, or simply have your favourite with toast for a quick meal.
An egg is one of the few foods that provides us with vitamin D, which the body uses to absorb calcium, as well as vitamin K and various B vitamins. Eggs also provide all of the essential proteins we need for growth and repair of our cells and tissues, as well as lecithin, useful to boost brain power and keep the liver and gall bladder healthy. Eggs are versatile and since there are no longer restrictions on egg consumption (cholesterol fears have been debunked) you can take full advantage of the health benefits they provide.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are high in protein, healthy fats and various vitamins and minerals, depending on the nuts you choose. Sprinkle your favourite nuts and seeds into your breakfast cereal or onto a salad.
Oats were originally used as medicine. Oats are rich in soluble fibre, manganese, selenium, phosphorus, thiamine (vitamin B1), magnesium, iron, zinc and calcium. Oats are most often used at breakfast time (in porridge or muesli), but can also be used in flapjacks and biscuits, for toppings (eg: apple crumble), to coat bean burgers, and to thicken stews, soups and casseroles.
Olive oil contains healthy fats, including omega-9, antioxidants and vitamin E. Healthy fats and antioxidants may help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and inflammatory diseases, like psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. Vitamin E contributes to healthy skin and sexual function. Use olive oil for roasting vegetables and as a salad dressing.
The Onion family
White, red and spring onions, shallots, leeks, chives and garlic provide nutrients that keep bacterial, fungal and viral infections at bay. These vegetables also contain vitamin B6, vitamin C, and a range of minerals, including manganese, selenium, iron, phosphorus, calcium and potassium, and are pre-biotics, supporting the growth of good bacteria in the digestive system. Use these vegetables in salads and cooked meals, like stews, soups or curries, whenever you can.
Tomatoes provide us with lycopene which may protect us from heart disease, cancers and eye problems. Eating processed tomatoes (juice, tomato paste) or eating tomatoes with olive oil is even more beneficial to our health.
So this is your superfood solution – choose these simple, everyday foods for a super-dose of healthy nutrients and see if they make a difference to your health. There is not a food or category of food that can undo or overcome the effects of a bad diet, but choosing a balanced diet that includes plenty of nutritious foods means that we can start to be healthier from today. There are lots more simple and nutritious foods that could benefit your health, but start with these…you have nothing to lose.