Super foods pack the proverbial nutritional punch and we all should be adding more of them to our diets. There are LOTS of super foods and mostly anything that is fresh, raw and unprocessed; is brightly coloured and vibrant in taste and smell can generally be classified as a super food (of course there are exceptions to this rule!).
In this week’s article I thought I’d share some of my very favourite super foods for you to start enjoying if you are not already.
Coconut has to be my favourite super food. It is so versatile and it tastes absolutely delicious!
I have a rule not to put anything on my skin that I wouldn’t eat. So when it comes to moisturisers the only thing I allow my skin to eat is coconut oil. It is so incredibly soothing and healing for the skin I couldn’t think of a better choice. It’s beautiful on the face and full body alike and its antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties also make it perfect for helping to treat skin conditions such as acne, ringworm, eczema and psoriasis.
According to research over the last four decades coconut oil has been shown to be beneficial for a healthy heart and has been shown to decrease LDL cholesterol levels and it seems to aid in weight loss.
Although coconut oil has gained some bad press in the past because it contains saturated fats it is important to understand that the predominant type of fatty acids present in coconuts are medium chain. These fatty acids are processed differently by the digestive system to other types of fats. They are used mostly in energy production thus not contributing to arterial fatty deposits — one of the biggest causes of heart disease.
Easy ways to enjoy coconut
- You can simply buy young fresh coconut and drink its water followed by eating its delicious flesh
- You can use coconut flakes, flesh and/or water in your smoothies instead of milk
- Coconut cream and water can be used to make porridge
Chillies pack a mighty punch in nutrition terms. They have a strong concentration of vitamin C , around two to three times greater than citrus fruit, and are high in fibre, minerals like potassium and some of the B vitamins. Chilli consumption for its health benefits is certainly a case of the more, the better!
Red chillies, a more mature stage of ripeness than green, offer plenty of beta-carotene, a prominent antioxidant and precursor to vitamin A. Dried chillies have less vitamin C than fresh or bottled, but are still rich in beta-carotene, other related carotenoids and minerals.
Chillies are known to raise the metabolic rate, one of the reasons why a curry often warms you up. This has been promoted as an advantage to dieters, as a body with a ‘super-speed engine’ burns fuel faster. In any case, chilli and chilli sauces can certainly pep up an otherwise bland diet meal.
Chilli lovers swear that chillies stimulate the secretion of saliva and gastric juices and act as a digestive aid. If used in large enough quantities, they appear to have anti-bacterial qualities which are valued in hot climates where refrigeration is often absent. Ointments and lotions with capsaicin have also had success as an external remedy for nerve pain and itching. Capsaicin blocks substance P which is part of the body’s pain-and inflammation chemistry.
Easy ways to enjoy more chillies
- For an Asian meal, have fresh chopped chillies on the table so people can add as much or little as they like
- Pour sweet chilli sauce over a slab of ricotta or light cream cheese and serve as a dip with raw vegetables.
Eggs are an incredible source of nutrition in a tiny package for a very modest 355 kilojoules (85 calories); it gives you every vitamin except vitamin C and a host of essential minerals. Worth mentioning are vitamin B12 (vegetarians often don’t get enough) and folate, a B vitamin which can help minimise birth defects.
In addition, eggs are a surprising source of two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin , natural compounds related to the beta-carotene of carrots and usually found only in vegetables and fruits. These two anti-oxidants are now under study for their role in preventing macular degeneration of the eye, a common cause of blindness in the elderly.
The Heart Foundation believes an egg a day poses no problem for cardiovascular health. Just don’t fry it in bacon fat or coddle it in cream.
Easy ways to enjoy eggs
- A poached egg with asparagus and chutney on toasted Turkish bread makes a delicious and easy light meal.
- Add boiled eggs to salads and rice dishes.
- Beat eggs with chopped green onions (shallots), chopped parsley, grated cheese and a little smoked salmon and cook for a quick omelette breakfast or dinner.
- A raw egg cracked into a smoothie will boost the protein and make a well-rounded breakfast-on-the-run (not suitable for pregnant women).
Chia seeds (pronounced chee-ah) are new on the food scene but have a long history. For centuries, the Chia plant (Salvia hispanica) has been growing in its natural habitat of Central and South America. It was a highly valued oilseed crop by the Mayans, Aztecs and Southwest Native Americans as a staple food because of its energy and sustenance properties. Chia seeds look like tiny sesame seeds and can be black, white or grey. They are sold in a packet, unprocessed. Producers say you can sprinkle them over or add them to just about anything — muesli, smoothies or yoghurt — without disturbing the flavour.
When combined with water they form a thick gel if left for long enough (about 15 minutes)
Ways to use Chia seeds
- Sprinkle over cereal and muesli.
- Use them to coat rissoles, meatloaf or burgers — they add a pleasant crunch to the exterior just like poppy seeds
- Because of their neutral taste and light colour, white Chia seeds make an ideal part-replacement for white flour in home baking.
- Replace 2 tablespoons of the flour with white Chia seeds.
- Mix 1 or 2 tablespoons of the seeds into one cup of water and add the gel to smoothies, juices, yoghurts and soups.
Blueberries are the nutrition powerhouses of the fruit world. They are not only low in kilojoules but also happen to taste absolutely delicious! They make the healthiest snack straight from the container or fabulous in smoothies, or healthy desserts.
According to researchers at the USDA Human Nutrition Centre anthocyanins — the pigments that give the berries their blue-red colour — help blueberries rank as number one for antioxidant activity when compared to other fresh fruits and vegetables. These antioxidants also help to slow down the aging of the brain. In addition to boosting memory and brain function as we age it also protects the eyes from cataracts and glaucoma.
Easy ways to enjoy blueberries
- Eat a handful as a fruity snack or to finish a meal.
- Sprinkle over yoghurt or ice cream.
- Fresh or dried blueberries add a tangy colourful punch over breakfast cereals.
- Add fresh or frozen blueberries to a blender with 1 cup water, 2 tablespoons of Chia seeds, ½ cup coconut flakes, and a raw egg and make a delicious smoothie.