Good healthy food should be high in vitamins and minerals, low in fat, salt and fast releasing sugars. Often these foods are high in fibre, fight disease, are alkaline forming and low in calories. So a body fed on these foods does not crave empty calories in the form of cakes or sweets and so a healthy weight can be maintained. Many of these foods are so-called ‘superfoods’, which are found in nature and don’t require any processing or refining. The following list of foods are my favourite superfoods because they are particularly high in nutrients, have many protecting properties, are tasty and help maintain a healthy body, a clear skin and an active mind.
Bananas Although bananas are often consumed for sustained energy, they are in fact amongst the foods with the highest glyceamic load. They are higher in energy than other fruits and as a carbohydrate are ideal as an energy boost before, during and after exercise. As with all fruits, bananas contain antioxidants which protect cells in the body against damage from free radicals. With high quantities of potassium and vitamin B6, they also help lower blood pressure and maintain the health of skin and hair.
Blueberries All berries are considered to be ‘super’, and research shows that consuming all berries protects the brain from radiation damage and decline in learning ability. But it’s blueberries that are particularly interesting. Blueberries contain anthocyanin, a chemical which gives blueberries their colour and plays a role in their antioxidant properties. They are shown to have the highest antioxidant capacity when compared to 40 other fruits and vegetables.
Broccoli With just two florets counting as one portion of your recommended daily amount, this vegetable is an excellent source of many healthy compounds including vitamin C, beta-carotene, potassium and folate (folic acid) which all help prevent disease. Broccoli also contains two powerful anti-cancer substances, sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol. They work by destroying any ingested carcinogenic compounds and by killing certain bacteria which can cause gastric cancers.
Dark chocolate is highly nutritious and allowing yourself a treat is always good for you! Compared to other sources such as apples, tea and onions, dark chocolate contains the highest level of flavonoids, which help to lower blood pressure and improve blood flow. With a higher cocoa content, dark chocolate also contains protective antioxidants. By eating a small bar a day, dark chocolate can supplement a healthy diet.
Garlic is well researched as a superfood and trials have shown it to be an excellent cancer fighter. It helps to stimulate the immune system and has the ability to kill the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, a major cause of ulcers and stomach cancer. Some studies have also shown it be resistant against the newer super bugs such as MRSA.
Nuts (Brazil nuts, Almonds and Walnuts). Nuts are all generally healthy, but Brazils, Almonds and Walnuts are particularly good.
Almonds contain the richest nut source of calcium so useful for those that don’t include a lot of dairy products in their diet. With a good source of essential fats, B Vitamins and minerals, almonds are ideal as a snack.
Brazils are an excellent source of selenium which helps protect the immune system, helps depression and prevents damage to cells and tissues. They are high in monounsaturated fats (of which olive oil is a rich source).
Walnuts are a useful source of protein, slow releasing energy and Omega-3. With antioxidant properties and reasonable amounts of potassium, zinc, and vitamins B6, walnuts help with heart and circulatory problems.
Oily fish such as salmon, tuna, herring and mackerel are well known for their health promoting properties. Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, oily fish helps maintain a healthy heart, reduces cholesterol and protects against arthritis, lupus, asthma and the onset of dementia. All fish is an excellent source of protein and vitamins, but oily fish can reduce the risk of heart disease, blood clotting and inflammation.
Tomatoes are an abundant, highly versatile natural food. Studies show they can significantly reduce the risk of some cancers. The source of this protection is a carotenoid called lycopene which becomes more potent if the tomatoes are cooked. As an excellent source of potassium and vitamin C, they help maintain the health of the immune system and skin.
Whole grains Whole grain produce (such as those made with whole wheat, rice, millet, oats) help protect against cancer, diabetes, obesity and heart disease. It is therefore a wonder why Western countries do not consume the recommended three daily servings (rather than the usual one). Whole grains are rich in antioxidants including minerals and phenolic compounds which have been indicated to prevent disease. Whole grains contain a synergistic compound including lignan, plant stanols and sterols, vitamins and minerals all working to protect the immune system and maintain a healthy gut.