Everyday 'superfoods'

Which nine foods available from the supermarket could help you live a longer and better quality of life?
 
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02.The everyday 'superfoods'


Blueberriesblueberries

Full of anthocyanins that act as antioxidants, as well as vitamin C, dietary fibre and essential minerals, blueberries pack a nutritious punch. Dietitian Dr Rosemary Stanton says they are a worthwhile addition to your diet, but that there are many other antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables. Preliminary studies suggest blueberries are high in flavonoids and may be associated with slower rates of cognitive decline. 

The dietary guidelines encourage eating all fruits on the basis that there is now strengthened evidence between the consumption of fruit and decreased risk of some cancers.

Fishfish

Fish, especially oily fish, is a great addition to a healthy diet, with iron to help transport oxygen and regulate cell growth, zinc for the immune system, and vitamin B12 for healthy blood cells and a good dose of omega-3 polyunsaturated fats. 

According to Stanton, dozens of research studies support the value of omega-3s in reducing the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as offering a benefit to rheumatoid arthritis sufferers. Additionally, clinical trials have also shown a dramatic drop in second heart attacks in those who eat fish twice a week (for more info, read our story on omega-3s). 

To introduce more fish into your diet, eat tuna or salmon at lunch. When shopping for canned tuna, beware of the added sodium in those canned in brine, the additional kilojoules of those packed in oil, and the added sugars and preservatives in flavoured varieties.

Ginger and chilliginger

The US National Institutes of Health says ginger is possibly effective for nausea and vomiting following surgery, as well as dizziness, menstrual pain, arthritis pain and for preventing morning sickness. It may also reduce cholesterol and possibly help to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, although further human trials are needed to confirm this.

Also a popular dietary condiment, chillies contain vitamin C and minerals, including potassium (to maintain normal body growth and break down carbohydrates), and some B vitamins. Red chillies offer a good boost of betacarotene – an important antioxidant and precursor to vitamin A, essential for immune function, vision, reproduction and the normal function of the heart, lungs, kidneys and other organs. Although the amount of these nutrients consumed in chillies is fairly small, as a condiment they’re far healthier than bottled sauces, which can be higher in sugar and salt.

Legumes and pulseslegumes

Based on current Australian consumption data, we should be eating more legumes, which provide a valuable low-saturated fat source of protein as an alternative to meats. 

The Heart Foundation recommends legumes and pulses for their high-fibre content and low glycaemic index (which keeps you feeling fuller for longer). They are also a good source of iron for vegetarians. Legumes and pulses can be added to soups, casseroles and meat sauces, such as bolognese, to extend the meal and use less meat, making these dishes lower in fat and cheaper.

When buying tinned legumes and pulses, we recommend choosing lower-salt brands or buying dried varieties, some of which need to be soaked overnight before cooking.

Green vegetablesbrocolli

Accredited practising dietitian Melanie McGrice names spinach and broccoli as some of the most nutritious foods – spinach for its good source of vitamin A (important for vision) and broccoli for its high vitamin C content – twice the daily recommended intake in just 100g. 

Green veggies such as bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and cabbage are generally also high in folate, which is essential for the development of new cells, especially for pregnant women, and other valuable nutrients, while being low in kilojoules. 

Accredited nutritionist Catherine Saxelby elevates broccoli to “powerhouse” status as it appears to switch on cancer-fighting enzymes, as well as maintain bowel health and boost vitamin intake.

Wholegrainswholegrains

Grains consist of three major parts: bran – the outer layer (a good source of fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals), endosperm – the main part of the grain (mainly starch), and germ – the smallest part of the grain (rich in vitamin E, folate, thiamine, phosphorus and magnesium). Wholegrains, such as brown rice, barley and oats, provide you with all three components, as opposed to refined grains (think pasta, white rice and white flour). Wholegrains are free from cholesterol, low in saturated fats and an excellent source of carbohydrates. 

There is evidence that dietary patterns consistent with relatively high amounts of wholegrains, in conjunction with a balanced diet, may be associated with excellent nutritional levels, quality of life and survival in older adults. There is also a positive association between consumption of wholegrain cereals and decreased risk of heart disease and excessive weight gain.

Oats deserve special attention, according to Saxelby. They’re high in beta-glucan (a soluble fibre that helps keep your cholesterol down), low GI (to keep diabetes at bay) and full of B vitamins and minerals.

yoghurt

Yoghurt

Regarded as a source of protein, vitamins B2 and B12, iodine and zinc, yoghurt and its beneficial good bacteria can do wonders for your health as part of a balanced diet.

Yoghurt is also full of calcium in a readily absorbable form, and probiotics – live organisms that are similar to the beneficial microorganisms found in the stomach – may help with some digestive issues and diarrhoea associated with antibiotics. 

The dietary guidelines indicate there is now strengthened evidence to suggest eating two or more serves of (mostly) low-fat dairy foods per day is probably associated with reduced risk of heart disease and stroke. Beware of fruit-flavoured yoghurts as many include added sugar.

Olive oilolive-oil

Olive oil has high levels of the healthy dietary fat known as monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). Consuming MUFAs instead of saturated fats (for example, choosing olive oil instead of butter for baking and pan frying) may help lower your risk of heart disease by improving blood lipids related to cardiovascular disease.

Studies have also shown that olive oil may have a protective role against breast, colon, lung, ovarian and skin cancer development.

Compounds specific to olive oil, known as phenolics, are antioxidants that may be able to reduce oxidative damage to DNA.

 

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