Eight of the best superfoods
Cherries contain a powerful antioxidant named anthocyanin.
Legumes, or beans, have made something of a comeback in recent years, with cannellini, kidney and borlotti beans featuring regularly in a range of cuisines including Mexican, Italian and Lebanese. All beans are extremely nutritious because they contain a mix of low-glycaemic-index carbohydrates, dietary fibre and protein (their relatively high protein content makes them a popular meat substitute for vegetarians). The soluble fibre found in beans has been shown to help lower blood cholesterol levels and beans also contain high levels of B-group vitamins, iron, phosphorous, calcium, zinc, magnesium and folate. While legumes are often used as the base of meals for vegetarians, beans can also be used in a range of dishes, including soups and salads, to add bulk and an extra nutritional hit. Best of all, legumes are extremely cheap, making them an economical addition to any meal.
As a general rule, the more natural a food, the better it will be for us - and raw oats are a well-established superfood for the range of nutritional benefits they offer. Not only do oats have a low glycaemic index, which means they help to keep glucose levels tightly controlled, but a single serve each day provides a substantial amount of soluble fibre - the type of fibre known to help reduce blood cholesterol levels and support a healthy heart. Just remember, when choosing your oats, the coarser the better.
Often forgotten, cottage cheese is one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can enjoy. With more than 16 grams of protein per half-cup, plus calcium, magnesium and vitamin B12, adding a serve of cottage cheese is a great way to bump up your intake of essential nutrients for very few kilojoules. When you consider that more than four million Australians have osteopenia, or a low bone density, eating calcium-rich foods daily needs to be a priority throughout our adult lives.
The rich, bright colour of beetroot signifies a high nutrient content, including a number of extremely powerful antioxidants known to support cell health, and with minimal kilojoules per serve it should be a daily part of your diet. Roast it and add to salads, use it to make vegetable juice, or grate and keep it handy as an addition to sandwiches, crackers, dips and spreads. Recent research also confirms that the high level of nitric oxide in beetroot helps to improve blood flow and is a perfect dietary addition for anyone with high blood pressure and/or heart disease.
We have been aware of the nutritional benefits offered by nuts for some time, and despite their relatively high fat content, research has shown that a single serve each day has no long-term negative impact on our weight. While almonds are often thought of as the healthiest nuts of all, walnuts contain some of the highest amounts of the long-chain plant source of omega-3 fats. Research suggests that just 10-15 each day will give you a great dose of these essential fats and significantly reduce blood cholesterol levels.
Oily fish, including salmon, contain some of the highest concentrations of omega-3 fats, those vital anti-inflammatories many of us pop a pill for. They're a must for those with high blood pressure or triglycerides, not to mention creaky joints. Aim for two or three serves of oily fish each week and remember that fresh is always best, as it contains much less salt than smoked or tinned varieties.
Although the cherry season is short, exciting new research recently reported that a single serve of cherries each day can help to relieve the painful symptoms of inflammation experienced by gout and arthritis sufferers. These health benefits appear to be related to a powerful antioxidant named anthocyanin, and to enjoy these benefits, we should aim to eat 30 cherries or drink a glass of unsweetened cherry juice every day.
While good-quality protein is required to protect us from muscle breakdown as we get older, the extra saturated fat found in fatty cuts of red meat or chicken legs and thighs is not. Often forgotten, turkey meat is exceptionally lean, a great source of protein and relatively cheap compared with red meat - it's not just for Christmas dinner! As well as fillets, look for turkey burgers and turkey mince, which can be used as an alternative to mince and sausages and in pasta sauces.