The list of superfoods is ever changing. I’ve chosen some of the current favourites which are great to eat as part of a healthy, balanced diet alongside staying well hydrated by drinking up to 2 litres of water or fruit teas or infusions per day plus incorporating some regular, gentle exercise into your daily habits.
Blueberries are a great source of vitamin K and vitamin C and are also packed with fibre, manganese and other antioxidants including anthocyanins. Although the research undertaken so far on the benefits of eating blueberries to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke or cancer is inconclusive as the studies include a very small number of participants, blueberries remain a fantastic choice as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Blueberries are highly nutritious and low in calories compared to other fruits and include phenolic compounds with an antioxidant capacity considerably higher than vitamins C and E.
Goji berries have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years and are thought to help boost our immune systems and stimulate our brain activity, improve our life expectancy whilst also protecting us against cancer and heart disease. Goji berries contain vitamin A, vitamin B2, vitamin C, iron, selenium amongst other antioxidants. Goji berries are a great addition to granola, muesli or a smoothie in the morning for breakfast or as a snack with other mixed dried fruits and nuts.
Dark chocolate is the healthiest form of chocolate made from mainly cocoa beans containing less sugar and milk compared to milk chocolate or white chocolate. Chocolate when eaten in regular amounts is claimed to help reduce high blood pressure which is a major factor in strokes and heart attacks as well as protecting against cancer and lowering stress levels. Cocoa is a great source of several minerals and trace elements including iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous and zinc. It also contains the antioxidants catechins and procyanidins. As dark chocolate is energy dense and high in fats, in small amounts it can be incorporated into a healthy, balanced diet but large amounts can potentially lead to weight gain.
Eating fresh fish at least twice a week combining a mixture of oily fish and white fish is a great way to incorporate extra protein and omega 3 into your diet. Oily fish helps to lower blood pressure and improves blood lipids, both of which reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease which is currently the biggest killer in the UK. Oily fish includes tuna, trout, sardines, salmon, mackerel and anchovies amongst others. Whenever possible buy wild salmon rather than farmed salmon as it is a healthier, more natural option.
Wheatgrass has been a popular addition to health food diets for many years. However, claims that wheatgrass has a higher nutritional content than any other vegetable, protects against inflammation, builds red blood cells and improves circulation are not strictly true.
Wheatgrass contains chlorophyll, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron, calcium and magnesium. The nutrient content of wheatgrass juice is roughly equivalent to that of most green vegetables, such as broccoli, kale and spinach. There is no concrete evidence to support the claim that wheatgrass is more nutrient dense than other fruits and vegetables. Although it does contribute towards your recommended daily intake of fruit and veg, a single shot of wheatgrass doesn’t count as one of your five a day on its own. So as part of a fruit and veg smoothie or in soup, it’s a great ingredient.
Pomegranate is a Middle Eastern fruit which is now cultivated all around the world. It is a good source of fibre and contains vitamins A, C and E, iron and other antioxidants including tannins. Despite lack of research to prove conclusively that pomegranate juice is effective against cancers, especially prostate cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and inflammation, it is still a great addition to a healthy, balanced diet.
Green tea has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years as well as being the tea of choice for many people due to its caffeine content as an alternative to coffee. Green tea leaves are steamed rather than fermented like Oolong and black tea leaves, which retains a higher level of antioxidants in the leaves. Green tea contains B vitamins, folate, potassium, manganese, magnesium, caffeine and other antioxidants, notably catechins. Green tea, drunk as part of a healthy, balanced diet may help to boost weight loss as it helps to speed up the metabolism. Other claims that it can lower cholesterol, combat cardiovascular disease and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and cancer are as yet unproven as studies so far have been inconclusive.
Broccoli is a popular choice to accompany a roast dinner or other evening meals. It is a really good source of folate and vitamin C and also contains vitamins A, K, calcium, fibre, beta-carotene and other antioxidants. Steamed or baked broccoli tastes delicious as well as making a tasty soup or pizza base. Broccoli has been proven to help reduce the risk of cancer and lowers cholesterol levels and blood pressure as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Garlic has been used in cooking and medicinally for thousands of years. It contains vitamins C and B6, selenium, manganese and other antioxidants including allicin. The most recent evidence-based research indicates garlic may be effective against cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, cholesterol, colds and some types of cancer.
For centuries beetroot has been used medicinally to combat a range of ailments, including skin problems, fevers and constipation. Beetroot is an excellent source of iron and folate and also contains betaine, magnesium, nitrates and other antioxidants such as betacyanin. Most recent research shows beetroot can help lower blood pressure, boost exercise performance for inactive and moderate exercisers and enhance cognitive ability. Beetroot is great to eat cold in salads or smoothies and hot in soups or roasted with other green leafy vegetables.