Easy to eat, find and cook, Everyday Superfoods – by Aisling O’Kelly
People hear the word ‘superfood’ and immediately think of slimy green powders, exotic fruit they can’t pronounce and a hole in their pockets! However, there are far more superfoods than matcha tea, sea kelp and acai berries and chances are you have some of best ones already sitting in your kitchen.
Think of super foods as multi-tasking machines! Not only are they jammed packed with vitamins and minerals but most of them have their own specific healing function/superpower in the body too.
Here are my top 10 picks:
1.Garlic– well known for it’s use in the prevention of high blood pressure and cholesterol. But I love garlic is for it’s immune boosting function; if you ever see green (mucous/phlegm)- think garlic! It kills bacterial and fungal infections. I find it great for colds, chest infections and sinusitis. TIP; Garlic is ‘activated’ after it’s chopped but it is killed by heat. Chop up your garlic first and throw in it to your meal very last, just before serving, to get the most benefits from it.
2.Flaxseed- a great source of Omega 3 fats- one of the things the typical Irish diet is drastically lacking in. Omega 3 is a natural anti-inflammatory. Think of inflammation as anything red, hot, raw, sore, achy and itchy. I find it particularly good for skin complaints; if you suffer with dry skin, eczema, psoriasis or acne- get your flaxseed in! Try adding 1-2 tablespoons on your oats or cereal in the morning or mix it with some greek yogurt and berries for a perfectly balanced snack.
3.Blueberries- one of the best sources of antioxidants you can get- blueberries deserve a lot more praise than just for their tasty pies. Antioxidants literally stop the ‘bad guys’ aka free radicals from damaging our cells. Nearly every symptom is linked with free radical damage; from aging, to cancer to heart disease to fatigue-so whether you’re 8 or 80- get them into you!
4. Greens, greens and more greens! Green veggies are low in fat and calories, while also being high in antioxidants, protein, fibre, calcium, iron and minerals- talk about multi-tasking! Broccoli, kale, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and cabbage are the kings- they contain enzymes that ‘deactivate’ and remove harmful toxins from the body-amazing huh!? Making a green smoothie is a great way to get your daily dose of greens in. Look out for frozen spinach pods in the supermarket- they are virtually tasteless and also keep your drink ice cold.
5. Chia seeds– probably the most ‘exotic’ of my picks but they are becoming more and more popular and you will find them in any supermarket. They also contain our much needed omega 3 fats and are a great source of plant based proteins; so if you are vegetarian or vegan, these should be on the top of your list! However, my favourite use for them is for digestion- packed with fibre- think of chia seeds like natural laxatives! Add in 2 tablespoons of chia seeds into your oats when you are cooking them to make a super nutritious and tasty chia seed porridge. (Add in some flaxseed and blueberries too, for some extra brownie points!)
6.Tomatoes- tomatoes are jam packed with a cancer fighting antioxidant called Lycopene. Latest, research is showing that lycopene is particularly good at fighting prostate, breast and skin cancers. Although heating tomatoes kill some of their C and B vitamins, cooked tomatoes are actually a richer source of lycopene. Better still, our bodies are able to absorb more lycopene from cooked or processed tomatoes such as puree or sauces! Did you know that one tomato is only 15 calories and counts as one of our 5-a-day!? Time to stock up.
7. Avocado– Saturated fat tends to get a bad wrap. But did you know that there is also good saturated fat, called oleic acid? Packed with oleic acid avocado’s are linked with not only reducing bad cholesterol but also with weight loss! Healthy fats are slower to digest which helps to control our blood sugar levels after a meal- balanced blood sugars= reduced craving for sugar. TIP; If the stem at the top of the avocado comes off easily then it is ready to eat. If not, leave it on the windowsill in your kitchen and it will ripen within a few days.
8. Beetroots are packed with B vitamins, potassium and boron. But their real super power is the ability to increase nitric oxide (NO) in the body. Think of NO as an oxygen booster for every cell in your body- brilliant for fatigue and increasing energy to your muscles during exercise. It’s also great for elderly people, who naturally, don’t have as much kiddy up as the rest of us anymore! I love starting my day with fresh carrot and beetroot juice. TIP: Don’t worry if you notice your urine or stools slightly reddish colour when eating lots of beets- this is perfectly normal and perfectly harmless!
9. Coconut oil- anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti- parasitic and an antioxidant- no wonder coconut oil is one of the most talked about foods recently. Coconut oil is also the best and safest oil you can cook with as it has a high smoke point. Other oils can’t withstand the high temperatures and they form a hard fatty wall around our body cells preventing oxygen getting into them-not ideal! Look out for unrefined virgin/extra virgin coconut oil when buying it- most of the supermarkets have it. I love using it for stir fries, cooking meat or for roast potatoes (melt it first in the microwave).
10. Walnuts– if losing your keys are a weekly occurrence then these should be on your next shopping list. Walnuts contain alpha linolenic acid, which promotes blood flow and oxygen to the brain; i.e. they help with memory and concentration! With state exams on the horizon, a bag of walnuts are great to throw in to school bags- combine them with a piece of fruit for a healthy snack on the go. All you need is one palmful, 4-5 days per week.
Aisling is a Nutritional Therapist who combines natural medicine with evidence based research to find the underlying cause of illness. Aisling designs personalised plans for each client including dietary and supplement recommendations and general lifestyle advice; exercise, stress management cooking tips etc. Find her on Facebook or visit www.AokNutriton.com