In the words of Gandhi, “It is health that is wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.” The foods you choose to eat are the greatest contributors to this bank balance. Here are four of Angela Steel’s favourite convenient and nutrient-rich super foods that will tip the balance in your favour.
Taste and convenience alone make pumpkin seeds a super food in my view – they are so easy to sprinkle onto salad and soup, and delicious lightly toasted in a dry frying pan – no more than 5 minutes at medium heat so as not to damage their omega 3 and 6 contents. These healthy fats, as well as their generous concentration in vitamin E and Zinc, make them a perfect food for your skin. Of all the nuts and seeds, pumpkin seeds are one of the highest in phytosterols – a naturally occurring compound with cholesterol-lowering properties.
I’m a recent convert to red cabbage, having unjustly spurned it in the past. I just keep one in the fridge and slice off chunks that I eat raw as a snack or chop into my salads. The purply red colour and incredibly fresh, crisp texture make this a particularly attractive member of the Brassica genus of vegetables (which includes broccoli and cauliflower too). Brassica contain compounds called indoles, which are known for deactivating carcinogens. No wonder they have a reputation for dramatically reducing the risk of cancer! The red variety will also give you a healthy dose of anthocyanins, the same plant pigment molecules that make blueberries blue.
So many people are afraid of avocados because they believe them to be fattening. And yet the fats contained in this super food are the healthy monounsaturated fats, which have been linked to a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Among them are so called phytosterols, which have powerful anti-inflammatory benefits. This unique and creamy-textured wonder food contains a myriad of other nutrients including lutein – an antioxidant linked to eye and skin health – folate, vitamin E, and high levels of fibre, making them an ideal ingredient to boost your smoothie’s nutritious credentials.
Clients often ask about foods to help reduce high blood pressure, and beetroots are highest on my list. They are rich in nitrates, which get converted into nitric oxide in the body, a chemical known to dilate the arteries and bring down blood pressure. For the same reason, beetroot has been linked to increased blood flow to the brain, and possible dementia-preventing properties. Their deep red pigment, found also in small amounts in the stems of rainbow chard, signals a rich concentration of betalains, a phytonutrient with strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification properties.
Cocoa-rich chocolate (as long as it’s low in sugar – check the label) has many health benefits. Studies have found it helps prevent cardiovascular disease and strokes by reducing the clumping of platelets, which cause blood to clot. Recent research linking it to the cutting-edge field of ‘gut microbiome’ is particularly fascinating. Our gut bacteria are the interface between the food we eat and what our body takes from it, and it appears they love to feast on the components in dark chocolate (who would blame them?), turning them into powerful anti-inflammatory compounds.