by Gemma Corby
We all know the benefits of regularly eating foods with a high nutritional content but let’s face it, sometimes the busy pace of modern life can get in the way of our good intentions.
Yet, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here are five simple ways to get superfoods into your diet, without any extra effort.
- Porridge/Overnight Oats
Sprinkling nuts, seeds, berries and cinnamon can boost the nutritional value of your (already saintly) oats:
- Cinnamon – adds sweetness whilst doing a lot of good. Among its properties, cinnamon is an antioxidant, an anti-inflammatory and a prebiotic (so is good for your gut health). And if that’s not enough to convince you, it also regulates blood sugar levels and lowers the risk of type-2 diabetes.
- Milled flaxseed – a rich source of vitamins and minerals, flaxseeds also contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids (which have anti-inflammatory benefits) and fibre (essential for good gut health). If you do not eat meat or fish, flaxseeds could be your best source of omega-3. Please note, milled flaxseed is more easily digested than whole flaxseed, so has greater health benefits.
- Sunflower seeds – add delicious crunch to your oats. Sunflower seeds also contain high levels of protein, vitamin E and healthy fats, as well as antioxidants. They are thought to reduce your blood pressure and support your immune system.
- Pumpkin seeds – similar to sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds add texture. Additionally, they can help to improve sleep quality, regulate blood sugar levels, support heart-health and are antioxidant rich.
- Chia seeds – are tiny but powerful. These Central-American wonder-seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 (over half of the chia seed’s fat is omega-3), protein and calcium – so they can be hugely beneficial to people following a plant-based diet. Please note, chia seeds are best eaten pre-soaked. For this reason, I prefer to add them to overnight oats, rather than adding them to porridge, as this gives them time to absorb the liquid. Eating chia seeds dry could potentially dehydrate you and could present a choking hazard. You can eat them whole or ground.
- Hemp seeds – these nutritious and scrummy seeds contain exceptionally high levels of omega-6 and omega-3 fats, plus, 25% of their total calorie content is high-quality protein. They are a great source of vitamin E and several minerals, including zinc and calcium.
- Blueberries – not only do they add sweetness, blueberries are high in antioxidants. They are also low in sugar and high in fibre, so may help to improve insulin sensitivity, (important for those with type-2 diabetes or pre-diabetes, as well as women with polycystic ovaries). Regularly eating blueberries is thought to protect against age-related macular degeneration – thanks to improved blood and oxygen flow to the eyes. You can also use the equally delicious and nutritionally-rich raspberries and/or pomegranate seeds.
For the extra time-pressed, consider Linwoods pre-mixed nuts and seeds – they are available in Holland and Barrett as well as many supermarkets.
2. Breakfast Cereal
Not all breakfast cereals are born equal. Many are laden with sugar but there are healthier options out there, especially those made of oats, such as Oatibix. The only issue is, the healthier the cereal, the greater the possibility it tastes like cardboard.
Adding a spoonful of pre-mixed flaxseed, pumpkin and sunflower seeds by Linwoods not only adds taste but also has plenty of health benefits (see above!).
3. Pasta Sauce
Or any dinner involving a sauce… making you own sauce needn’t be a chore, plus you are able to control what goes into it, without the risk of lots of hidden sugars, preservatives and fats.
You can add the following to most sauces:
- Garlic – this contains the superhero compound allicin, which reduces inflammation, boosts circulation and supports your immune system. To maximise the amount of available allicin just follow the 10-minute rule – read my post on why garlic is the ultimate health and beauty food.
- Fresh tomatoes – contain 40% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C, as well as the antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene is essential for a healthy heart and protects your eyes against macular degeneration.
- Tinned, plum tomatoes – plum tomatoes are less processed than chopped toms – so are more flavoursome and are naturally sweeter. They also have all the health benefits of fresh tomatoes (as mentioned above).
- Spinach – is better eaten cooked than raw. Cooking reduces levels of oxalic acid (which obstructs the absorption of minerals) and makes spinach’s beta carotene up to three times easier to absorb.
You can, of course, add and/or swap in veggies that suit your tastebuds and/or the recipe.
I also like to add to tinned sardines to my pasta dishes; I just stir them in after everything else has finished cooking.
Sardines not only contain one of the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids, they also do not eat other fish, so contain the lowest levels of mercury of any fish (just cast your mind back to learning about the food chain at school!). And that’s not all – these fishy friends are an excellent source of vitamin D and calcium – so support bone health.
Not completely unlike pasta sauces (see above), curries are another opportunity to sneak in some superfood goodness, without much effort.
Beside onion and garlic, which are a given, consider adding in:
- Turmeric – contains the yellow pigment curcumin (which gives turmeric its distinct colour). Curcumin is an antioxidant with antibacterial, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. All the antis!
- Ground black pepper – combine turmeric with black pepper for maximum impact. Ground black pepper increases curcumin absorption by 2000%.
- Fresh ginger – ginger is from the same family as super spice turmeric. It has anti-viral properties, soothes the intestinal tract and relieves bloating. A 2015 study found that 2g of ginger per day reduced blood sugar by 12% in those with type-2 diabetes.
Most of us reach for the kettle several times throughout the day.
If you drink a lot of black tea and coffee, try swapping them for the following (particularly after noon – when you may prefer less caffeine):
- Green tea – green tea is less processed than black tea, and contains less caffeine (approx. 35 – 80mg). Green tea’s caffeine content could boost your brain function and metabolic rate. It is also high in polyphenols (e.g., flavonoids), which are potent antioxidants.
- Hemp tea – contains CBD (cannabidiol), which is said to boost mood and counteract stress. Hemp is also anti-inflammatory and is full of antioxidants. Drink it before bed for a deeper and more restful sleep.
- Peppermint tea – drink after eating a meal to aid digestion and to reduce bloating. Apparently its vapours can help alleviate nasal congestion too.