Superfoods, are they just a fad?



What makes a food super?


So many foods are what I would call super, but those we label a ‘superfood’ are “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being”, according to the Oxford English Dictionary definition.


Usually superfoods tend to contain high concentrations of antioxidants, thus benefiting the entire body and its detoxing capacities, reducing inflammation and scavenging free radicals. But you don’t need to focus on 'exotic' superfoods to meet your nutritional (and antioxidant) requirements.


Many non-superfood plants contain varieties of phytochemicals, which although are proven protective against many diseases, are not classified as essential nutrients for body function. They are still so important and can mean the difference between feeling egh ☹️ and feeling zesty 😊!


Well marketed superfoods, which are great, but may cost you an arm and a leg are: goji berries, acai berries, acerola cherries, wheatgrass, spirulina, bee pollen, manuka honey, and more. By all means, include these in your diet if you can afford to, but none of these are vital to health or will act as a ‘magic bullet’ to cure you of your ills!


Some more humble options, also packed with nutrients and which you may be able to grow at home (if you have a garden) or buy cheaply are: tomatoes, legumes, blueberries, blackcurrants, rosehips, cranberries, blackcurrants, garlic, coriander, chilli, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, chia seeds, avocados, olive oil.


Here are my own 'super' food staples and how I like to prepare them:


Blueberries & Raspberries

I like to keep a big frozen bag of mixed berries in the freezer - which I add to smoothies probably 3-4 days of the week. Keeping frozen fruits in the fridge is an easy way to make sure you always have stock, and when you add them to your blender they make the whole smoothie nice and cold as an added bonus. I also keep fresh blueberries and raspberries in the fridge to top muesli when thats my brekkie of choice.

Fruits with purple & blue skins contain antioxidant anthocyanins which I like to get as much of as possible to support immune health and fight free radicals in the body.


Rolled oats

An unprocessed wholegrain, whole rolled oats are delicious and easy to prepare. I add them to smoothies and muesli, and make overnight oats with them. They're a great source of fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals, and are associated with lower cardiovascular risk. They store well so I keep a big jar of them in stock.


Garlic

Again, this one stores well so I keep a few bulbs in ready to use in all sorts of recipes. Most hot meals start with onion and garlic such as soups, pasta dishes, chillis, curries, stir frys - it can be added to most things! It contains a compound called Allicin which can help to reduce cholesterol levels and is also anti-bacterial and anti-viral. Pro tip - after chopping leave on the chopping board for 10-15 mins before adding to the heat. This will concentrate the amount of Allicin released from the garlic before you eat it, increasing it's benefit.


Peas

I always have a big bag of peas in the freezer to add to EVERYTHING ;). they're a really nice protein source as well as containing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre. They're also heart healthy due to their flavonol (phytonutrient) content. Here's 3 unusual ways to increase the peas in your diet. Cook (steam, not boil) 1 cup of peas then add to a blender with 1 avocado & a handful of fresh mint. When blended this makes a great creamy pasta sauce, or you can spread it on top of wholegrain toast instead of hummus and drizzle with balsamic & black pepper, or use as a dip with some oat crackers, pitta bread or carrot crudites. Yum!


Spinach

I always keep a huge bag of some sort of dark green leaf in the fridge, ready to add to salads, smoothies, stir frys and stews. I find if I don't always keep a bag in the fridge I rarely remember to eat leaves at all which are so important to include thanks to their iron and magnesium content, along with other vital nutrients. Always opt for the darker leaves rather than lighter lettuces for extra nutritional value such as spinach, watercress, rocket, and kale.


Bulgur wheat

An absolute game changer. This chewy grain is quick and easy to prepare and I often use it in place of rice when I am in a hurry. You simply add 1/2 a cup of the grain to a bowl, pour over boiling water from the kettle, cover with a plate for 12 minutes, then strain and serve. Try squeezing some lemon juice over the grain and mixing in some chopped parsley for a refreshing yet filling addition to your meals. As with all wholegrains, bulgur wheat is packed with fibre, vitamins & minerals, and is a great option to improve heart and gut health.


Tins of beans

Every couple of weeks I add a load of these beauties to my basket. I grab a couple of tins of each type availble, so usually end up with chickpeas, kidney beans, green lentils, brown lentils, black beans, butter beans, and cannelini beans. Almost every meal I eat contains a big portion of pulses and I add a whole tin per person. They are the most underappreciated plant food in my opinion - full of resistant starch that feed our beneficial gut bacteria, a fibre powerhouse, and loaded with minerals and vitamins, it really is a good idea to get them into your diet on a regular basis! Buying them tinned means they are already cooked and you can just drain and rinse well before eating, but you can also buy them dried and soak & cook them if you have the time.


Including a variety of plant food types, and switching them up regularly is more beneficial to health than focussing on specific nutrients or foods, since diversity of plant foods is the key to good health. Try to create a rainbow of colours on your plate at each meal and a variety of macro-rich foods i.e. a handful of protein-rich food, a handful of greens, grains, different colours, a small amount of fat etc… Keep it varied for optimal health.


There are many other essentials I keep stocked and rely on daily or weekly so the above is just a selection of some of my favourite 'super' staples. What do you like to keep in stock? Are any of the above on your shopping list? Comment below to let me know :)


Thanks for reading! :) A x


 

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