Foods to eat more of
If healthy eating was one of your New Year resolutions, here are a few foods that you might like to eat more of;
Apples are often overlooked in preference to more exotic produce, simply because they’re so plentiful and familiar to us. However, they are extremely rich in important flavonoids; powerful antioxidants which help to neutralize the damage to our bodies caused by free radicals, which accelerate the ageing process and are implicated in diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma and stroke. Apples are also a good source of fibre and vitamin C, and as the majority of the nutrients are concentrated in the skin – be sure to leave the peel on!
· Add diced apples to salads.
· Braise a chopped apple with red cabbage.
· Core and stuff with sultanas and cinnamon, then bake.
Avocados are rich in healthy monounsaturated fats and carotenoids (which give fruit and vegetables their colour), and have been shown to improve cardiovascular health, support weight management, and protect against DNA damage, osteoarthritis, and age-related eye and skin conditions. Researchers have found that the combination of monounsaturated fats and carotenoids, increases the absorption of the carotenoids and improves the conversion of some, such as beta-carotene, into active vitamin A. So it’s a good idea to add avocado to meals comprising other (virtually fat-free) fruit and vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes and leafy greens, to improve their bioavailability.
· Serve in a salad with orange or lime dressing.
· Pile smashed avocado on toasted rye bread, topped with grilled mushrooms and tomatoes.
· Mix 1 avocado, 1 banana, half a cup each of cocoa, peanut butter, and maple syrup with a quarter cup of milk. Whip in a food processor, turn into glasses, and chill.
The health benefits of broccoli’s unique combination of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification components are well documented. Rich in vitamins A, C, and K, and a good source of fibre, folate, omega-3, and carotenoids, it can help lower our cholesterol and the risk of developing cancer. The research is strongest in showing a decreased risk of prostate cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, bladder cancer, and ovarian cancer. The particular compounds in broccoli that are so effective against cancer include the phytochemicals, sulforaphane and indoles. Sulforaphane is a remarkably potent compound that increases the enzymes that help rid the body of carcinogens, and actually kills abnormal cells. Indoles work to combat cancer through blocking oestrogen receptors in cancer cells, inhibiting the growth of oestrogen-sensitive cancers. A recent study has also identified the benefit of broccoli in preventing the development of liver cancer. See the full report here:
· Eat lightly steamed. Overcooking will destroy many of broccoli’s nutrients.
· Experiment with tangy dressings using garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, nuts and dried fruit.
Although flaxseed contains all sorts of healthy components, it is the combination of omega-3 essential fatty acids, phytoestrogens called lignans, and a water-soluble fibre known as mucilage gum, that gives flaxseed its ability to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. Our bodies can't make omega-3….we have to eat it, and it’s available in two forms. The type found in oily fish, called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). The other (of particular interest to vegetarians and vegans), is known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and is found in a small number of plants. Of these, flaxseed (together with walnuts and canola oil) has the highest concentrations.
· When eaten whole, flaxseed is more likely to pass through the intestinal tract undigested. So buy ready ground, or grind it yourself.
· Sprinkle ground flaxseeds onto hot or cold cereal.
· Add flaxseeds to homemade muffins, cookies or bread.
Part of the legume family (which also includes beans and peas), lentils are an excellent combination of fibre, protein, B-vitamins, and important minerals. A single serving of lentils provides around half our daily requirement for fibre; supporting our digestive system and helping reduce heart disease and diabetes by regulating blood–glucose levels and binding with cholesterol to transport it from the body. Also, because fibre is filling, it helps us maintain a healthy weight. Lentils provide more protein than whole grains like brown rice, and are a rich source of several essential amino acids. They contain a significant amount of folate, a B-vitamin that helps sustain the brain and nervous system, cardiovascular system, and reproductive health. And we can boost our iron stores with lentils because, unlike red meat (another source of iron), lentils are very low in fat and calories.
· To 4 cups of vegetable stock, add a can of tomatoes, a can of green lentils, and 1 each of diced carrot, celery stalk, onion, and garlic clove. Add 1 teaspoon each of olive oil, salt, tomato paste and mixed spices. Slow cook for 6 hours. Add 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar and fresh parsley before serving.
Oats are rich in complex carbohydrates as well as water-soluble fibre, which slows down digestion, and stabilises blood-glucose levels. A daily serving of oats (not the instant varieties) can reduce bad cholesterol (Low Density Lipoprotein) by around twenty percent, and is an easy way to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart attacks. Oats are also a very good source of B vitamins and minerals, including iron, manganese and zinc.
· Mix together half a cup each of oats, yoghurt, and milk. Add maple syrup, fruit, nuts and seeds to taste. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
· Mix together 2 cups of oats and 2 cups dried fruit, nuts and seeds. Add ¼ cup each of nut butter, maple syrup, desiccated coconut, and coconut oil. A pinch of salt and teaspoon of vanilla essence. Turn into a lined baking tray and cook for 25 minutes at 180 degrees.
Despite its grain-like quality, quinoa is actually a seed, and is naturally gluten-free. It is particularly popular with vegetarians and vegans, because as well as being an excellent source of fibre, minerals, B-vitamins, and flavonoids; it’s one of the very few plant foods that contain all nine essential amino acids (proteins). However, one problem to be aware of is that a substance called phytic acid (which is found in all seeds, nuts, legumes and grains), prevents our bodies absorbing all the zinc, iron and calcium they contain. But if we soak or sprout the quinoa prior to cooking, we can reduce the phytic acid content and make the minerals more bioavailable.
· Use twice as much water as quinoa, then cook uncovered until the quinoa has absorbed all the water. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Cover and let the quinoa steam for 5 minutes until fluffy. It should have a mild, nutty flavour and a satisfying crunch.
Fermentation is a method of preserving food that dates back more than 2,000 years. Current lifestyle factors such as smoking, stress, excessive antibiotics and alcohol consumption can negatively affect the number and diversity of bacteria in our gut, and harm our immune system. However, when we consume fermented foods, beneficial probiotics or ‘live bacteria’ are produced which ‘feed’ the good bacteria in our gut so that they can fight the harmful bacteria. These same good bacteria also support our natural antibodies and reduce our risk of infections, and may help those suffering with illnesses such as Crohn’s disease and ulerative colitis, and reduce our risk of conditions such as depression and Alzheimer’s.
· Finely shred a white cabbage and layer with salt. Cover loosely and apply weight for 5 days. Decant into jars, seal and refrigerate.
Despite its use in cooking and as an Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years, turmeric (and in particular its most active compound, curcumin), continues to surprise researchers in terms of its wide-ranging health benefits. Although acute, short-term inflammation has a positive effect on our bodies, it can become a major problem when it becomes chronic, and inappropriately attacks the body's own tissue. Studies have shown that turmeric’s anti-inflammatory capability is just as effective as some anti-inflammatory drugs when treating chronic conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's, and arthritis…….and it doesn’t have any known side-effects. It is also a potent antioxidant which can protect against the cell damage that free radicals cause (known as oxidative stress), which is also linked to ageing and chronic disease.
· Unfortunately, curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream, but consuming black pepper with it, enhances its bioavailability.
· Turmeric is a great spice to complement recipes that feature lentils.
· Give salad dressings an orange-yellow hue by adding some turmeric powder.
Thank you for reading this blog post. If you have any tips or favourite recipes that you’d like to share, or ideas for future posts, please do let me know. I would love to hear from you.