Forget what we should not be eating; instead let's focus on the powerful super foods that pack a serious nutrition hit for their punch and the foods that we should aim to eat on a daily basis. Once you build your diet around a few of these nutrient rich wonders, not only do you build a strong health platform for your body long term, but there is far less room left for unnecessary snacks and high-calorie extras that tend to slip in when our baseline diet is lacking.
It does not matter which type of berry you choose, they are all good for you. Berries are not only low in calories but they contain some the highest-known food concentrations of antioxidants as well as good amounts of fibre and a number of key vitamins including Vitamin C. You can enjoy them fresh or frozen, and just ½ a cup a day made into a smoothie, eaten with low-fat yoghurt or added to cereal in the morning will give you a daily antioxidant hit.
2) Green tea
Swap a coffee or two for a strong cup of green tea a day and your weight and immune system are likely to benefit. Not only is green tea exceptionally high in antioxidants, there is also some evidence to show that it can help promote fat metabolism. Aim for a cup after each meal and caffeine-free varieties are available if you find you are caffeine sensitive. If you do not love the flavour of plain green tea, the flavoured varieties do not affect the positive nutritional attributes and remember, the longer you leave the tea bag in, the better it will be for you.
3) Probiotic yoghurt
Probiotics, found in a number of yoghurts are the micro-organisms naturally found in the human digestive tract that improve the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut. Probiotics have been shown to help reduce digestive symptoms such as constipation and bloating; help restore gut flora after consuming a course of antibiotics and help rebalance the bacteria required for optimal nutrient absorption. Research is also building to show the link of gut health to overall immune function, which gives even more reason to include probiotics in your daily food regime.
4) Red capsicum
Forget an apple a day; a red capsicum will give you a massive Vitamin C boost for minimal calories. A rich source of carotenoids, the group of antioxidants known to play a powerful role in helping to down regulate a number of inflammatory pathways in the body. Individuals who have had a higher intake of carotenoids during their lives have been associated with lower risks of mortality from common disease states including heart disease, cancer and stroke in large population based health studies. Red capsicums are a great vege snack teamed with hummus or cucumber dip, roasted with a little olive oil and enjoyed with salads or as an ingredients in omelettes, frittatas and stir fries..
Rich in Vitamin C and beta carotene, cooked tomatoes in particular will give you a daily dose of the nutrient lycopene another powerful antioxidant linked to reduced incidence of some cancers including stomach and pancreatic cancer. Enjoy them drizzled with a little olive oil, cooked into a sauce with vegetables, as tomato paste or even in tomato sauce to reap the nutritional benefits.
Although all nuts have a number of health benefits, the unique thing about walnuts is that they are the nuts richest in long chain polyunsaturated fats. Just 30g of walnuts each day again helps to optimise cell wall composition and has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and helps to increase our consumption of the powerful anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats. Grab a handful a day or add to salads or baking – just 10 a day is all you need.
7) Oily fish
Fresh tuna or salmon give massive doses of omega 3 fat, the type of fat associated with reduced inflammation in the body. It is well documented that the long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids; DHA and EPA, that found in highest concentrations in deep-sea cold fish have a number of roles that are beneficial for health. The numerous other health benefits of omega 3 fats including reduced triglycerides, blood pressure and inflammatory processes in the body also support their use. When we think of oily fish we often think of tuna but salmon and sardines are also excellent sources and can be enjoyed on toast, in salads or with pasta dishes for a daily omega 3 boost.
Not the dietitian's favourite vegetable for nothing – the rich phytonutrient content of broccoli is difficult to find in many other foods. Broccoli is a rich source of folate; the antioxidant lutein that can delay the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and the phytochemical called sulphoraphane, which has specific anti-cancer properties. Lightly steam to retain as much of the nutrition as possible, or enjoy with a little olive oil and added to salads, stir-fries or dips on a daily basis.
9) Vegetable Soup
Whether you make it yourself, or keep a ready prepared supermarket variety, keeping a vegetable based soup handy means that you never have an excuse to not eat your vege, no matter how busy you are. Whether you enjoy it as a light meal, use it as a filling option before you head out for a big night or use it to manage hunger during the day, soup is a must have fridge staple for weight control. In fact, studies from The Pennsylvania State University have shown that you eat up to 25 per cent fewer calories when you enjoy vegetable based soup as part of a meal.
10) Dark Chocolate
If you are going to enjoy some chocolate regularly, make it dark. Chocolate made with a high proportion of cocoa contains high amounts of the antioxidant molecules, the flavonoids and the phenolic phytochemicals and is actually rated higher than both tea and red wine in terms of antioxidant capacity but naturally controlling your portion size is the key. Aim for just 20g for roughly 100 calories and 5-7g of fat and remember when it comes to the nutritional benefits of chocolate, the darker the better.