Today marks the beginning of the first week after the autumnal equinox and the stunning Harvest Moon that marks the beginning of a true fall.
As we ponder the shorter, colder days ahead, our thoughts turn to improving winter-ready health and immunity. Doctors have already warned that we are in for a difficult time, with colds and seasonal flu worse than usual – and who knows what will happen with Covid.
Every year we hear about the latest ‘superfoods’ that are promised to boost our health – but how ‘super’ are they really?
Nutritionist Maya Oakley (nourished london.com) says there is often truth behind the claims about these nutrient-dense foods. “But you also have to ask yourself, how easy is it to get hold of and how expensive is it?” she says.
“No food is a substitute for a varied, healthy diet, or a quick fix for a poor diet. But making small adjustments with some carefully chosen nutritious foods can really make a difference to your health.’ Here Maya reviews the last five superfoods…
BALANCE HORMONES WITH FROG WEMEM
Nutritionist Maya Oakley gives verdict on five of the latest superfoods as doctors warn colds and seasonal flu could be worse than usual this winter (file image)
The market for wheat flour alternatives continues to grow: You’ve probably tried rye, spelt, and barley — but what about gram flour? It’s made from ground chickpeas – which also enjoy superfood status in their entirety.
Gram flour has more protein than virtually any flour, three times the fiber of wheat flour and half the carbohydrates — studies have shown it causes fewer spikes in blood sugar after eating.
It also has an amazing mineral profile: rich in iron and B vitamins, plus the essential trace minerals virtually absent in modern processed flour – magnesium, copper, zinc, manganese and phosphorus. Just one cup of ounce of flour (92 g) provides the recommended amount of copper for an entire day and nearly half that of zinc, both crucial minerals for the growth and function of immune cells.
Gram flour is also easy to find in Indian stores and Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Waitrose and Morrisons.
Nutritionist verdict: Chickpeas are a great source of fiber, which reduces the risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Gram flour is gluten free and also has good levels of vitamin B6 which is excellent for hormonal balance and nervous system health.
‘It is finely ground, so quite compact for baking; I’d mix it with another flour like spelled, but it’s good for flatbreads.’5/5
SWITCH CHOCOLATE FOR FILLING CAROB
Bad memories of this classic 1970s chocolate substitute? Now it tastes a lot better due to less added sugars.
Carob, made from the naturally sweet pods of the carob tree, is high in fiber and, unlike chocolate, contains no caffeine or headache-causing chemicals.
Maya cites research showing carob reduces production of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, so it may be helpful for weight loss
It contains twice as much calcium as cocoa, is gluten-free and contains vitamins A and B, which are good for skin and eye health, as well as a fair number of crucial minerals such as manganese, potassium, magnesium and selenium — plus the zinc and copper that are so important. are important for the immune system. Studies have shown that carob can help lower cholesterol, probably because of the fiber and powerful polyphenols it contains.
You can buy carob powder or chips at health food stores, or try Nine’s Carob, Berry and Chia Bars (tesco.com, £2.25 for four); Clarks Original Maple and Carob Syrup with 72 percent carob (£1.98 for 180ml, asda.com); or Natural World’s Hazelnut & Carob Spread (£5.49, ocado.com) which has eight times less sugar than your favorite chocolate-hazelnut spread.
Nutritionist verdict: “Carob won’t spike your blood sugar like chocolate does, which is why diabetic chocolate often contains it. Research has shown that it reduces the production of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and thus may be helpful for weight loss. “It’s also a good source of tannins, insoluble fiber that clears out the digestive system and nourishes our gut bacteria.” 4/5
LIVE LONGER WITH SEAWEED
The Japanese eat more seaweed than any other country, about 5 grams per day, and are among the healthiest and longest-lived in the world. Coincidence? Maybe not.
A review of 100 studies has shown that seaweed can lower blood pressure, cholesterol and improve heart health.
Maya said seaweed is extremely rich in insoluble fiber, which is great for gut health and a little goes a long way (file image)
Each variety has a slightly different nutritional profile (kombu, a kelp used to make miso soup, contains the most iodine; nori, a red algae used to wrap sushi, is high in vitamin B12). But they are all high in protein and fiber while being low in calories and fat.
Seaweed is packed with vitamins and minerals: A, C, E and K (for blood clotting) plus vital minerals, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as iodine, which is good for the brain. The high fiber content also feeds our gut bacteria, so seaweed can significantly improve immune and digestive health.
Waitrose reports that seaweed sales have increased by 71 percent since 2018. It has aonori seaweed in a tub (£3, waitrose.com) and Clearspring Green Nori Sprinkle (£1.99) for noodles or salads, as well as sachets of dulse (£3). Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Tesco, Asda, Ocado and Morrisons sell sheets of nori for making sushi.
Nutritionist verdict: Seaweed is not an exotic new addition to our diet – our ancestors would have eaten much of this nutritious and abundant sea vegetable, which went out of fashion for many years.
“It’s extremely rich in insoluble fiber, which is great for gut health. A little goes a long way too – a small handful a day is enough. Sprinkle it over your salads, stir-fries or noodles instead of salt for that rich umami flavor, or add nori strips to soup.’5/5
BREAD FRUIT OFFERS A NUTRITION INCREASE
Jackfruit and breadfruit are huge, knobby green fruits in the mulberry family. They don’t win beauty contests, but are high in protein and fiber. They’re also gluten-free, bursting with phytonutrients and minerals like potassium, iron and calcium, and high in vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant.
According to the guidelines, adults need 40 mg of vitamin C per day. It is vital to build your body’s natural defenses against disease as it stimulates the production of the immune system’s white blood cells and also protects these cells from damage.
Maya said breadfruit has more fiber, protein and antioxidants than potatoes. Pictured: Jackfruit
Breadfruit is a staple food in parts of Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, and its starchy flesh (which has a bread-like texture and smells when cooked, hence the name) tastes something like a chestnut-potato mix.
Roasted or boiled for stews and curries, it can also be dried and ground to make a nutritious flour, which researchers say is easier to digest than wheat flour.
Canned breadfruit and jackfruit are widely available: try grocery stores like Tesco, as well as Amazon, eBay, and tropicalsunfoods.com.
Nutritionist verdict: “Breadfruit has similar amounts of vitamin C as a potato (220 grams gives you 100 percent of your daily vitamin C). However, it contains much more fiber (4.9 g per 100 g compared to 2 g for potatoes), protein and other micronutrients such as antioxidants, which are good for immunity.
‘Most of us don’t eat nearly enough fiber (30 g per day) to keep our gut bacteria diverse and healthy. Because of the minerals in breadfruit and jackfruit, they are useful for regulating blood pressure and heart function.’3/5
ACEROLA CHERRIES ARE A VITAMIN SHOT
Maya said one cup of acerola cherries is equivalent to 16 oranges in terms of vitamin C (file image)
These sour fruits are not cherries at all, but in fact tropical berries. They also happen to be one of the richest natural sources of vitamin C and were described as an “unused functional superfruit” by researchers in the Journal Of Food Science And Technology.
They contain as much vitamin A as carrots, plus B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, copper, zinc and iron.
Acerola cherries are also very high in disease-fighting plant chemicals like anthocyanins, the phytonutrient in dark fruits that makes blueberries so good for us.
They’re hard to find as fresh berries in the UK, but are available in juices like Innocent’s Sour Cherry and Acerola Shot (£4 for three, sainsburys.co.uk) and Biotiful’s Kefir Shot (waitrose.com, £2 for four). ).
You can also find them in powder form in Verival’s Orange and Acerola Granola (£2, sainsburys.co.uk) to add to smoothies.
Nutritionist verdict: ‘One of our favorite antioxidants are anthocyanins; they reduce inflammation and your risk of chronic diseases related to inflammation and aging, such as Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis.
One cup (98g) of this is equivalent to 16 oranges in terms of vitamin C, the key nutrient for collagen production and can improve the appearance of cellulite and promote joint health.
“Acerola is more useful as a powder than in a drink, because vitamin C in liquid form is very unstable.”4/5