Dietitian susie Burrell points to proven superfoods that you should include in your diet as often as you can.
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 half a cup a day made into a smoothie, eaten with low fat yoghurt or added to cereal in the morning will give you a daily antioxidant hit.
Swap a coffee or two for a strong cup of green tea each 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’re caffeine sensitive. If you don’t 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.
Forget an apple a day; a red capsicum will give you a massive vitamin C boost for minimal calories. It’s a rich source of carotenoids, the group of antioxidants known to play a powerful role in helping 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. Red capsicums are a great snack teamed with hommus or cucumber dip.
Probiotics are the micro-organisms naturally found in the human digestive tract that help to improve the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut. They’ve been shown to help reduce digestive symptoms such as constipation and bloating, help restore gut flora after 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.
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’re the nuts richest in long chain polyunsaturated fats. Just 30g of walnuts each day helps to optimise cell wall composition and has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and help 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.
Fresh tuna or salmon give massive doses of omega 3, the type of fat associated with reduced inflammation in the body. It’s well documented that the long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (DHA and EPA) found in the 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 includes reduced triglycerides, blood pressure and inflammatory processes in the body. Fresh Atlantic salmon is one of the richest natural sources of these fats. Only 200g provides the recommended daily requirement of omega 3’s for heart and potentially head health.
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, lutein (an antioxidant that can delay the progression of age related macular degeneration) and the phytochemical sulforaphane that has specific anticancer properties. Lightly steam to retain as much of the nutrition as possible and add to salads, stir fries or dips on a daily basis.
Whether you make it yourself, or use a ready prepared supermarket variety, keeping a vegetable based soup handy means that you never have an excuse to not eat your veg, 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.
If you’re going to enjoy some chocolate regularly, make it dark. Chocolate made with a high proportion of cocoa contains higher amounts of antioxidant molecules, flavonoids and the phenolic phytochemicals that rates it 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.