The Foods You Should eat often for Great Health
Not all food is created equal and some food should come wearing a cape since their power is so great. These foods are commonly known as superfoods. As their name implies, they are super dense with nutrients and super healthy for you. They are loaded with antioxidants, are low GI, low HI, and contain the good fats.
In Europe, they go by the term functional food, a concept originally conceived in Japan, rather than superfood. Superfood or ‘functional foods’ go over and beyond when it comes to nourishing the body. They also play a role in improving your health and preventing or reducing the risk of disease.
Depending on who you follow, will depend on what foods are on the Top 10 Super or Functional Food list. Most lists contain food choices whose nutritional value has been long recognised. For example, these would be berries, nuts and seeds in general, dark green vegetables (such as kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts and broccoli), citrus fruits, fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, vegetables with bright, dark or intense colours (such as beets and their greens, and sweet potatoes), certain wild mushrooms, many legumes (peanuts, lentils, beans, raw cocoa), and whole grains as a group.
However, more recently foods like acai, camu camu and goji berries, chia and hemp seeds, bee pollen, figs and maca have been present on more and more lists. I love the work of David Wolfe, who has been a pioneer in this area, particularly getting obscure foods out of the closet and onto dinner plates and into juices and smoothies. I barely make a smoothie or a batch of muffins without adding chia seeds.
Here’s a list of foods that I deem superfoods. Eat and enjoy them in abundance, and they should be a large part of your daily food intake (water too)!
Avocados are high in fat, but much of this fat is the good monounsaturated type, which resists oxidation and helps neutralise fat in other foods. Research also suggests that eating avocado can improve your cholesterol levels. They are a great source of Vitamin E, C and potassium.
I like to add avocado to many of my salads. Mix chopped avocado with poached organic chicken or prawns and finish off with chopped coriander, spring onion and a light dressing made from lime juice, fish sauce, honey, garlic and chilli.
Avocados also make fantastic, healthy dressings and dips. Blend with a little lime juice, honey, garlic, water, sea salt and cracked pepper for a delicious, healthy dressing for chicken, seafood and leafy salads.
BEANS AND PULSES
Studies indicate that regular consumption of beans and pulses, particularly lentils and soybeans, reduces the risk of cancer. Soybeans are an excellent source of low-fat protein and are included in foods such as miso, soymilk, tofu and tempeh.
Cooked red lentils make great healthy veggie burgers—just make a dhal and add grated carrot, finely chopped celery and fresh herbs, then stiffen the mix with some wheat germ (or ground almonds, if you’re intolerant to wheat or gluten). Dip in lightly beaten egg white and coat with more ground almonds. Spray lightly with olive oil and bake in a hot oven, or gently pan fry, until golden.
Figs are one of the highest plant sources of calcium and fibre, and contain potassium, magnesium, Vitamin B6 and antioxidants. They are rich in iron, copper and contain traces of zinc, with a mineral content much higher than most other fresh foods. Only cheese and a few nuts have a higher calcium content. They can be included in sweet or savoury dishes, or enjoyed simply on their own. One raw fig has about 40 calories, no cholesterol and no fat. Japanese researchers have discovered that figs contain a natural chemical called benzaldehyde that has been so effective in fighting cancer that it has been added to several medications in Europe and Japan.
Broccoli provides an awesome array of antioxidants, including Vitamin C and betacarotene, which help protect against cancer and other diseases. It is also rich in folate and high in fibre, providing maximum protection from disease when eaten raw or lightly cooked.
I like to make a delicious raw broccoli salad by finely chopping broccoli and adding chopped coriander, spring onion, raw seeds and nuts, then finishing off with a dressing made from tahini, lime juice, honey and miso.
Acai berries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries—all contain a whopping amount of antioxidants. Both blueberries and cranberries also help ward off urinary tract infections. Berries are delicious in all sorts of salads and desserts, and add moisture and little pockets of flavour to any healthy cake or muffin mix. For a quick breakfast, lightly spread sugar-free blueberry jam and low-fat ricotta on toasted rye bread, then top with sliced banana, blueberries and raw almonds. Yum!
Cabbage contains great anti-cancer and antioxidant compounds. One study found that those who ate cabbage once a week, compared with once a month, had only 66 per cent of the risk of colon cancer. Eaten raw or lightly cooked, it is an excellent source of Vitamin C and dietary fibre.
For a light and healthy low-carb lunch or dinner, make a tasty, low-fat coleslaw with coconut and lime dressing and serve with grilled or poached organic chicken. Stir-fry lightly in a little stock, finish off with a dash of oyster sauce and top with shredded omelette.
High in Vitamins A and C, and packed with betacarotene, carrots are legendary in fighting off ageing diseases. People with low levels of betacarotene in their blood are more prone to heart attack, stroke and various cancers. Studies have also shown that eating a couple of carrots a day can lower blood cholesterol by 10 per cent. Carrots are easy to incorporate into recipes. Just add chopped carrots to a pot of stock for a simple and delicious creamy carrot soup. Or lightly steam and toss with honey and oven-roasted sesame seeds. For a delicious, healthy salad, mix grated carrot with tahini, miso and mirin, then fold in a few raw seeds and nuts.
The orange is ‘the complete package’ when it comes to natural anti-cancer inhibitors. An excellent source of Vitamin C, which helps make the collagen that is essential for healthy skin, oranges also help maintain the body’s defence against bacterial infections. Another great citrus fruit is grapefruit, which has a unique type of fibre that can dramatically reduce cholesterol, protecting against atherosclerosis. Citrus fruit is fantastic in all sorts of salads. Try oranges and pink grapefruit with a drizzle of raw honey and a sprinkle of pistachio nuts. Or serve the segments with crisp salad leaves, crunchy walnuts and sliced fresh dates.
Omega-3 fatty acid is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of fish. The human body cannot manufacture this essential fatty acid on its own, so we need to consume small amounts in our diet. Research suggests that this polyunsaturated fat may help prevent against cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol and heart attack. Omega-3s also inhibit adult-onset diabetes, some skin diseases and rheumatoid arthritis. Good sources of omega-3 are found in fish like salmon, swordfish, anchovy, herring, mackerel, sardines and tuna.
Lightly cook a piece of tuna, flake it through a fragrant lettuce salad comprising shredded iceberg, grated carrot and bean sprouts. Finish off with a light dressing made with lime juice, fish sauce, sweet chilli sauce and raw honey. Topped onto whole grain toast, sardines make a delicious, quick and easy, high protein breakfast or snack. Or lightly poach salmon in a little chicken stock and serve on steamed green beans with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of fresh garden herbs.
GINGER, TURMERIC AND BLACK PEPPER
Ginger is great for circulation and nausea, turmeric acts as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant for the liver, while black pepper helps stabilise blood sugar. These all pack a powerful punch of health benefits and flavour to your cooking, without the use of too much fat.
Acai has one of the highest antioxidant contents in the world, neutralises free radicals, contains high levels of essential fatty acids, helps regenerate stem cells, has a very low GI, and fights cancer. Unfortunately, it is hard to get fresh and is generally put in drinks and then loaded up with sugar. If you are buying a pre-mixed acai product, read the label and ask about the added sugar—usually there’s a lot!
Red and black grapes contain 20 known antioxidants that work together to fend off free radicals. The antioxidants are in the skin, so the more colourful the skin, the more antioxidants. If you’re craving lollies and chocolate, these are a fantastic alternative sugar fix. Add to fruit salads or freeze and eat frozen for delicious home-made mini icy treats.
Rich in antioxidants, studies show that people who consume 1–2 cups of green tea per day have a lower risk of certain cancers.
ONION AND GARLIC
They might give you bad breath, but they also help prevent cancer, thin your blood by discouraging clots and raise the good type (HDL) of cholesterol. They also have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities, helping keep colds and flu at bay. Next time you have a bad case of the flu, try mashing a whole bulb of raw garlic and eating it spread on a piece of wholegrain bread (but preferably not when you’re going to be in contact with too many people!). These beauties are fantastic thrown into salad, soup, hearty low-fat casseroles and stir-fries.
When talking vegetables, we mustn’t forget the important benefits of sea vegetables. The most common varieties are kombu, used in soups and stews, wakame, which is normally found in miso soup, and nori, which is the kind used for wrapping sushi rolls. They are all rich in essential minerals and studies have found they are effective in helping prevent a variety of cancers. Try to add seaweed to your stocks, salads, soups, vegetable dishes and casseroles. They are great as a crispy snack too.
SPINACH AND KALE
Green, leafy vegetables top the list of foods most eaten by people who don’t get cancer. They are a super source of antioxidants and are high in folate. Serve simply with a drizzle of lemon and flaxseed oil with poached fish. Or toss with Thai aromatics like lemongrass, chilli, lime juice and honey and serve with organic chicken sprinkled with oven-roasted cashew nuts. Or blanch some spinach until wilted, then chop and add to veggie pies, creamy low-fat risottos or just drizzle with a little soy sauce and mirin to eat as a warm salad.
Tomatoes are the richest source of lycopene, which forms the red pigment in the flesh. New research suggests that lycopene may help preserve mental and physical functioning among the elderly and reduce the risk of prostate, pancreatic and cervical cancer. Tomatoes make delicious, fat-free pasta sauces. Or for a yummy, low-carb breakfast, grill and serve with scrambled egg whites and mushrooms. Lightly drizzle roasted tomatoes with good quality balsamic and serve with rocket leaves, low-fat feta and grilled fish. Very delicious and very healthy!
Don’t ever forget this super fluid! Water is vital for life and is needed to transport our superfood nutrients as well as to rid the body of waste products. Drinking enough pure water is also an excellent anti-ageing tonic, as it also helps the skin to stay hydrated, supple and fresh, as well as controlling the appetite and keeping hunger pangs at bay. When exercising, it is important remembering to increase water consumption to prevent dehydration, especially in hot weather. It is a good idea to hydrate well before your work-out, also during and after to replenish lost fluid stores. So make sure to drink up!