In nutritional terms, a superfood is a nutrient dense food packed full of vitamins and minerals and other health promoting properties, which may help to boost our health and protect us from diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Some are over-hyped! All real foods are superfoods in a broad, well balanced natural eating regime, but some are particularly stand out in terms of their nutrient profiles and functions – it makes sense to try to eat these as regularly as we can.
Beetroot is high in nutrients including folic acid which is essential for a healthy pregnancy. It also contains beta‐carotene and betacyanin, powerful antioxidants which can help improve liver detoxification. Whether you juice it, grate it into a salad, roast it, or make a soup, beetroot is a great cleansing food, and its vibrant colour will brighten up your plate.
Natural antiviral and antibiotic properties make garlic great for warding off coughs and sniffles. Garlic has been shown to reduce levels of bad cholesterol making it a superfood for the heart, and it contains good levels of vitamin B6 which also benefits the heart. If your friends can take it, eat it raw.
Along with kale, cabbage and cauliflower, broccoli is part of the cruciferous family of vegetables, which are all high in vitamin C and fibre. Broccoli also contains phytonutrients, which have anti‐cancer properties and can boost immunity, cleanse the liver and protect our eyes. Eat it raw or lightly steamed for maximum benefit.
For something so small, an egg crams an awful lot in. Eggs are a brilliant source of protein, and provide good levels of iron, zinc, B vitamins and selenium. They also contain tryptophan, the pre‐cursor to serotonin, our happy hormone, and choline which is vital for brain function and memory. A brilliant fast food, eggs can be whipped up into an omelette or scrambled in less time than it takes to order a take‐away.
With a high magnesium and monounsaturated fat content, almonds are good for our hearts, while a dose of vitamin E helps to protect our skin from damage. Almonds are also a great source of protein, fibre, B vitamins, calcium, zinc and iron. Add almonds to Greek yoghurt for a healthy breakfast, spread almond butter on toast, or for a more decadent treat, dip almonds in melted dark chocolate (another superfood!).
6. Green tea
Green tea is very rich in a group of potent antioxidants called flavonoids, which have immune enhancing and cancer protective properties. It is thought that one of the reasons why cancer rates are lower in Japan than the western world is due to the high consumption of green tea (around three cups daily). Studies have suggested that green tea consumption can lower the risk of coronary artery disease, and help promote fat loss. Kick your morning off to a healthy start by replacing your cappuccino with a cup of green tea.
Turmeric has been used for centuries in China and India as an anti‐inflammatory agent and can be helpful in cases of joint and muscle pain. Turmeric is also a powerful anti‐oxidant and a source of iron, manganese and vitamin B6. Add turmeric to curries and lentils or mix it with brown rice to give it a warm golden glow.
8. Hemp oil
Normally associated with hippies and illegal drugs, hemp is a member of the Cannabaceae family, to which marijuana also belongs. However, the ingredient that gets you high, tetrahydrocannabinol, is completely removed from hemp oil. The result is an incredibly nutritious oil which is very high in essential fatty acids and especially good for skin conditions such as eczema, hormonal imbalances such as PMS, brain and heart health. Take it straight off the spoon or drizzle onto salads and vegetables.
Seaweed is generally more associated with our summer holidays than the kitchen but this plant is an excellent source of energy giving B vitamins, magnesium, and a good source of iron and calcium. Seaweed is also very rich in iodine which is critical for good thyroid function, and it contains lignans which have cancer protective properties. Try nori (used in sushi), kelp, kombu and wakame sprinkle it on soups and salads or have a go at making your own sushi.
Known for its nutritional value, it is not technically a grain but a grass belonging to the same family as spinach and chard. Quinoa is an excellent source of protein which makes it a brilliant food for vegetarians. It also contains good levels of calcium, magnesium, B vitamins, iron and some essential fats. Now widely available in the UK, quinoa is a great alternative to rice or potatoes and is delicious used in salads.