Superfoods You Need to Try
Step aside acai, kale and quinoa. From coconut flour to teff, there's a fresh new crop of superfoods to stock up on this.
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few years, you'll know that superfoods are nutritional powerhouses loaded with beneficial goodies such as antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre. Leading dietician Dr Sarah Schenker describes them as "stars of the food world that are packed with nutritional value."
But while many nutrition experts highlight the virtues of these wonder fruits, veggies, grains and so on, others are less keen on the superfood label. "No one food in isolation can have a profound effect on our health, or provide all the nutrients we need. Instead, we should strive for a 'super-diet', which includes a wide range of these so-called superfoods," says Kelly McCabe of the British Dietetic Association.
It's sensible therefore not to get too caught up in the hype. Ideally, you want to aim for a balanced 'super-diet' and avoid restricting yourself by focussing too much on one particular superfood – healthy eating is all about variety and everything in moderation. To help you mix it up and diversify your diet to the max, here are eight superfoods of the moment to add to your shopping list.
Have you succumbed to this summer's coconut craze yet? You've probably at least heard of the oil, milk and water, but coconut flour may have escaped your radar. Made from coconut meat that has been dried and grounded down to a powder, it's a healthy gluten-free alternative to wheat flour.
Potential health benefits: as well as being gluten-free, coconut flour has twice as much fibre as wheat bran and is relatively low in carbs and high in protein. The flour is low GI, so should help you maintain a healthy blood sugar level, and contains healthy medium chain fatty acids (MCFA), which studies show help regulate metabolism, support cardiovascular health and boost brain function.
Eating tips: use coconut flour in place of regular wheat flour in everything from cakes and scones to bread and biscuits.
Many people think of the blueberry, acai or goji as the ultimate superfood berry, but the good old British blackcurrant is far more deserving of the title. Research shows that blackcurrants contain more antioxidants than almost any other fruit or veggie. No wonder they're making such a big comeback this summer.
Potential health benefits: the currants' blue-black dye is ultra-rich and are an excellent source of immune-boosting vitamin C, B vitamins and trace minerals.
Eating tips: as well as baking currant buns, muffins and cakes, add the fresh fruits to your breakfast cereal or muesli, smoothies and fruit salads. They also work well in a savoury rice pilaf or couscous dish.
A staple in Ethiopia for thousands of years, teff is the world's tiniest grain – even smaller than poppy seed – but it packs a potent nutritional punch for its diminutive size. Bursting with micronutrients, good fats and fibre, as well as being gluten-free, the 'new quinoa' is set to fly off the shelves this summer.
Potential health benefits: like quinoa, teff is relatively high in protein and low in carbs, making it a healthier low GI alternative to refined wheat flour. The grain is rich in calcium and particularly rich in iron.
Eating tips: use teff in place of wheat flour in cakes, pastries and muffins. The grain is also delicious served polenta-style.
Dubbed 'the health food of 2015', baobab is an African superfruit that looks like a cross between a green coconut and a papaya. It tastes mildly zingy and sherbetty with a slightly sweet tint. A must for health food fans, baobab is mainly available in powder form in the UK.
Potential health benefits: highly regarded in Africa for its health-enhancing properties, baobab fruit boasts more than 10 times the antioxidant levels of oranges and more vitamin C. It's high in calcium, potassium, vitamin B6 and thiamine, which are all essential for good health, and evidence suggests that the fruit may help regulate blood sugar.
Eating tips: add the powder to smoothies, yoghurt or porridge, or simply mix a couple of teaspoons in a glass of water for a subtly refreshing drink.
Fermented foods are all the rage right now and kimchi is one of the most popular. A Korean version of sauerkraut and a bit of an acquired taste it has to be said, the pickle is made from cabbage, radish and onions, which are coated in a fiery chilli paste and fermented with probiotic lactic acid bacteria.
Potential health benefits: a 2012 review by researchers in South Korea analysing 130 studies reported that probiotic kimchi helps support the digestive system, aids healthy immune function, prevents diarrhoea and even protects against tooth decay.
Eating tips: kimchi is traditionally served with steamed rice but it's also yummy in a sandwich, a salad, a stew or an omelette.
Seaweed is another 'in' superfood you might want to sample this summer and dulse is the aquatic plant du jour. This red-hued lettuce-like algae is packed with nutrients and best of all, tastes like smoky bacon-meet-anchovies when it's fried. What's not to like?
Potential Health benefits: dulse is extra-high in vitamins and minerals, particularly B vitamins, vitamin A, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, manganese and iron. It's also an excellent source of iodine – essential for healthy thyroid function – high in fibre and relatively rich in protein.
Eating tips: crumbled dried dulse can be sprinkled on savoury dishes as a healthier alternative to salt, eaten straight-up as a snack, fried in a little oil or made into a miso-style broth.
The black 'forbidden rice' of imperial China was once the sole preserve of royalty. Thankfully, this rice is a lot easier to get hold of these days.
Potential health benefits: like blackcurrants, this type of rice is high in anthocyanins, hence the black-purple colour. Better for you than brown rice, black rice is richer in fibre and vitamin E.
Eating tips: nuttier and more chewy than white or brown rice, the black variety lends itself well to pilafs, salads and stuffing.
Popular right now, this wonder powder is made from the leaves of the moringa, an exceptionally hard fast-growing 'miracle tree' found in Africa and Asia, which is considered to be one of the most nutrient-packed plants in the world.
Potential health benefits: the powder is a decent source of essential vitamins and minerals, relatively protein-dense and is said to regulate blood pressure, support gut health, enhance immunity and combat fatigue.
Eating tips: stir the powder into smoothies or sauces to give them a nutrition boost. You can also mix the powder with water to make a sustaining drink.
How to eat healthily?
We all want to do the best for our family, and one of the best ways is through a healthy, balanced diet.