A ‘Superfood’ is considered to be any food that has a higher than average benefit in terms of promoting healthy body functioning. This list of foods grows as science uncovers more information on how the body’s systems work and what they need. Nature really has provided us with some amazingly nutrient-dense and functionally superior food choices. Here are four affordable Superfoods that you may not know about. I’ve included some helpful tips on how to add them to your nutrition plan:
1. Sweet potatoes:
Sweet potatoes are a fantastic source of carbohydrates, especially for more active people. They are lower on the Glycaemic Index than regular potatoes, which makes them good for controlling blood-sugar levels. They are also much higher in nutrients – especially vitamin A – than normal potatoes and thus can be counted toward your vegetable tally for the day.
How to add them to your nutrition plan:
Try this tasty alternative to traditional mashed potatoes: Boil/steam a selection of coloured root vegetables e.g. sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnip, celeriac and swede. Mash these with some ground black pepper and a little olive oil. Sweet potato wedges are also quick and easy to cook. Just peel and slice the potatoes and then drizzle with a little olive oil before baking in a medium oven for about 15 minutes. Add a sprinkle of chilli powder for extra flavour.
Quinoa is an ideal protein superfood for vegetarians, vegans and ‘omnivores’ because it contains all the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. Yes, it is slightly more expensive than rice, but one cup of uncooked quinoa doubles in size, and is enough to feed two adults (as a substitute for rice in a meal, etc). There are also a variety of different brands, so shop around and compare the prices of the different brands until you find one that suits your budget.
What is quinoa?
Quinoa is a seed from a grain-like plant originating in South America. It resembles couscous and can be cooked and used in a similar way. However, quinoa has the advantage of being gluten free. One cup of cooked quinoa provides eight grams of protein and four grams of fibre. It’s also a good source of manganese and copper. In fact, quinoa is such a nutritious food that it has been use to feed astronauts! Traditionally, quinoa is thought to improve milk production in breastfeeding mums.
How to add it to your nutrition plan:
Quinoa is available in health food stores and supermarkets. It can be used instead of couscous or rice in salads or as an accompaniment to casseroles, etc. Quinoa flour can be used in baking as a substitute for wheat flour. A tip for cooking quinoa is to boil it in vegetable stock, as this gives it more flavour.
3. Nuts and seeds:
Nuts and seeds are great foods because they are so nutrient-dense. They are a good source of protein, minerals and B vitamins. They also contain good amounts of polyunsaturated fats which have been shown to have numerous benefits for the body.
“But nuts are so expensive!”
Yes, nuts are pricey when you look at the cost per kilo. But you don’t need to eat kilos of them every day. A handful of nuts as a snack costs almost as much as a chocolate bar, or a pie, but packs a far more nutritious punch. They will also keep you fuller for longer. Each nut and seed has a different nutrient profile. Here is a selection of some of the most nutritious nuts and seeds:
- Almonds are high in calcium. They are also very alkaline, so they assist in balancing out the acidic nature of many of the other foods we eat.
- Walnuts contain omega 3 fatty acids and an unusual and beneficial form of vitamin E called gamma tocopherol. The skin is also high in health giving phytonutrients. Eating a handful of walnuts per day may also help prevent heart disease.
- Flax seeds: These small yellow seeds contain omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. They are high in phytoestrogens so may help with hormone balance in the menopause. Flax seeds can really help with constipation. They are best eaten after soaking in water or with a glass of water.
- Pumpkin seeds: These small green seeds contain omega 3 fatty acids and zinc.
- Sesame seeds: These tiny seeds contain omega 3 and 6 fatty acids as well as many minerals includingcalcium.
- Brazil nuts: Brazil nuts can make a great source of selenium, an important antioxidant.
How to add them to your nutrition plan:
It’s best to buy your nuts fresh and unsalted. They can be ground and added to smoothies, yoghurts, breads and cereals for added nutrition and to increase satiety (the sensation of feeling full). Nuts and seeds make great standby snacks as they are easily transportable. Eat them with fresh fruit for a sustaining snack which keeps your blood sugar levels stable. They can also be added to stir fries to add a crunchy texture.
4. Brussels sprouts (and other green, leafy vegetables):
Almost all leafy greens, including lettuce, rocket, salad leaves, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts are jam-packed with important vitamins and nutrients that the body needs to stay healthy. Leafy greens are high in:
- Folic acid
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
Leafy greens are actually very easy to grow for those health-conscious people who like to grow their own. They are also some of the most affordable vegetables in supermarkets. One group of green vegetable has been shown to be particularly beneficial for those suffering from or, at risk for breast cancer. Brassica/cruciferous green vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage cauliflower and watercress, contain chemicals such as indole 3 carbinols (known as DIM) and sulfurophane which have been demonstrated to inhibit breast cancer cell growth. Some studies have demonstrated benefits of eating these vegetables at the same time as undergoing chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer.
How to include them in your nutrition plan:
Many people do not enjoy the taste of leafy greens and avoid eating them. However, if you were to use them in some of the foods that you do enjoy eating, you would probably never know that they were there as you wouldn’t be able to taste them. One of the most obvious ways to use leafy greens when preparing foods and meals is to use them in salads. Topped with a nice healthy dressing, spinach makes a great choice for a snack or appetizer before a meal. If you do not want to eat your leafy greens raw, then it only takes a few minutes to steam them. Add a bit of garlic and a squeeze of lemon juice for extra flavour. Adding them to stews and soups is another effective method for disguising the taste but still get the nutrition from them. You can also juice them with some apples and carrots. What action can you take right now? If you feel like you need help achieving balance in your relationship with food take a look at www.atwnutrition.com. We offer tailor-made coaching that will help you achieve your optimum health and best body.