Forget what we should not be eating, instead let’s focus on the powerful super foods that pack a serious nutrition hit for their punch and which, when consumed daily help to build a strong health platform for your body long term.
1) Berries.Berries are not only low in calories but they contain some the highest known food concentrations of antioxidants as well as good amounts of fibre and a number of key vitamins including Vitamin C. Any berry will do, fresh or frozen, and just ½ a cup a day made into a smoothie, eaten with low fat yogurt or added to cereal in the morning will give you a daily antioxidant hit.
2) Green tea.Swap a coffee or two for a strong cup of green tea a day and your weight and immune system are likely to benefit. Not only is green tea exceptionally high in antioxidants, there is also some evidence to show that it can help with fat metabolism. Aim for a cup after each meal and caffeine free varieties are available if you find you are caffeine sensitive. If you do not love the flavour of plain green tea, the flavoured varieties are fine and remember, the longer you leave the tea bag in, the better it will be for you.
3) Probiotic yoghurt.Probiotics, found in a number of yoghurts are the microorganisms naturally found in the human digestive tract that improve the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut. Probiotics have been shown to help reduce digestive symptoms such as constipation and bloating, help restore gut flora after consuming a course of antibiotics and help rebalance the bacteria required for optimal nutrient absorption. Research is also building to show the link of gut health to overall immune function which gives even more reason to include probiotics in your daily food regime.
4) Red-capsicum.Forget an apple a day; a red capsicum will give you a massive Vitamin C boost for minimal calories. A rich source of carotenoids, the group of antioxidants known to play a powerful role in helping to down regulate a number of inflammatory pathways in the body. Individuals who have had a higher intake of carotenoids during their lives have been associated with lower risks of mortality from common disease states including heart disease, cancer and stroke in large population based health studies. Red capsicums are a great vege snack teamed with hommus or cucumber dip.
5) Tomatoes.Rich in Vitamin C and beta carotene, cooked tomatoes in particular will give you a daily dose of the nutrient lycopene another powerful antioxidant linked to reduced incidence of some cancers including stomach and pancreatic cancer.
While all nuts have a number of health benefits, the unique thing about walnuts is that they are the nuts richest in long chain polyunsaturated fats. Just 30g of walnuts each day again helps to optimise cell wall composition and has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and helps to provide more of those vital plant forms of omega 3 fats. Grab a handful a day or add to salads or baking – just 10 a day is all you need.
7) Oily fish.Fresh tuna or salmon give massive doses of omega 3 fat, the type of fat associated with reduced inflammation in the body. It is well documented that the long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids; DHA and EPA, that found in highest concentrations in deep-sea cold fish have a number of roles that are beneficial for health. The numerous other health benefits of omega 3 fats including reduced triglycerides, blood pressure and inflammatory processes in the body also support their use. Fresh Atlantic salmon is one of the richest natural sources of these fats; and 200g provide the recommended daily requirement of omega 3’s for heart and potentially head health.
8) Broccoli.Not the dietitian’s favourite vegetable for nothing, the phytonutrient content of broccoli is difficult to find in many other foods. Broccoli is a rich source of folate; the antioxidant lutein that can delay the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and the phytochemical called sulphoraphane that has specific anti-cancer properties. Lightly steam to retain as much of the nutrition as possible and add to salads, stir fries or dips on a daily basis.
9) Vegetable SoupWhether you make it yourself, or keep a ready prepared supermarket variety, keeping a vegetable based soup handy means that you never have an excuse to not eat your vege, no matter how busy you are. Whether you enjoy it as a light meal, use it as a filling option before you head out for a big night or use it to manage hunger during the day, soup is a must have fridge staple for weight control. In fact, studies from The Pennsylvania State University have shown that you eat up to 25% fewer calories when you enjoy vegetable based soup as part of a meal.
10) Dark Chocolate.If you are going to enjoy some chocolate regularly, make it dark. Chocolate made with a high proportion of cocoa contains high amounts of the antioxidant molecules the flavonoids and the phenolic phytochemicals and is actually rated higher than both tea and red wine in terms of antioxidant capacity but naturally controlling your portion size is the key. Aim for just 20g for roughly 100 calories and 5-7g of fat.