THE word superfood might conjure up exotic, unaffordable foods such as goji berries, chia seeds, exotic fruits and antioxidant-filled powders.
But with some of these foods costing more than our daily food shop, are they really worth the hype?
Turns out, there’s actually a wealth of ‘superfoods’ that each cost less than a quid, and offer many benefits to support our health.
Marilia Chamon Nutritionist, Gut Health Specialist and founder of Gutfulness Nutrition says it’s a big myth that we need to be spending lots on expensive foods in order to be healthy.
“Some pantry staples and humble ingredients offer excellent health benefits.”
But what actually is a superfood?
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Nutritionist Emily Doran says although the word ‘superfood’ doesn’t have a legal definition, it tends to mean the food is extremely nutritionally dense, with high volumes of minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and many more vital compounds.
“Some superfoods may have a bigger price label on them, especially when the word ‘organic’ is involved, but the rewards can be reaped on a budget,” says Emily.
Add these to your plate to reap the superfood benefits, without breaking the bank!
EGGS (Tesco, six eggs, 95p)
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“Eggs are possibly one of the most nutritious foods on the planet,” says Marilia.
“Egg yolk is a vitamin-rich food that contains all vitamins except vitamin C, while egg whites have high amounts of vitamins B2, B3, and B5 but also significant amounts of vitamins B1, B6, B8, B9, and B12.”
These B vitamins help with energy levels as well as brain function.
“Eating two eggs per day covers 10% to 30% of the vitamin requirements for humans.
“One egg also contains all essential trace elements including copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, selenium, and zinc.”
Marilia explains the body requires these trace minerals to maintain its proper function. Zinc for example, helps with our immune system as well as wound healing.
BEANS (ASDA, 400g can, 40p)
The humble bean packs in a wealth of benefits. In fact, consuming beans regularly has been shown to help lower levels of cholesterol and inflammation, as well as improve gut health, all thanks to the fibre and resistant starch they contain.
“Pulses, including all bean varieties, are rich in potassium, copper, phosphorus, manganese, iron, magnesium, and B-vitamins, contain almost no salt or fat, and are an excellent source of plant-based protein,” adds Marilia.
Emily adds that protein is an essential macronutrient, needed for various processes in the body such as appetite control – useful for weight loss, increasing and maintaining muscle mass, boosting metabolism and helping muscle recover after exercise.
If you’re buying tinned beans, opt for those with little to no sugar and salt.
GREEN TEA (Aldi, 40 teabags, 59p)
Try replacing your afternoon coffee with a green tea as it contains polyphenols, which, according to Marilia, studies have proven to help protect against cancer and other diseases such as diabetes, neurological and cardiovascular diseases.
“Multiple clinical studies have indicated that drinking three to five cups of green tea per day has significant protective effects against chronic diseases.
“The polyphenols in green tea can also modulate the gut microbiota by increasing the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.”
A healthy gut has been proven to help with immunity, brain health, sleep, digestion and even mood.
Just avoid green tea before bed, as it does contain caffeine, which could disrupt sleep.
TINNED MACKEREL (Sainsbury’s tinned mackerel in olive oil, 125g, 95p)
“Mackerel is an excellent source of essential fatty acid omega-3. This cannot be created by the body therefore they must be obtained through the diet,” says Marilia.
“Every cell in our body needs essential fatty acids for proper structure and function.
“They promote healthy nerve activity, help produce hormones, and play a role in inflammation.”
Inflammation is the root cause of many diseases, so controlling inflammation is key.
Emily reveals our brain is almost 60% fat, which needs to be continuously supported by healthy fats.
CABBAGE (Morrisons, sweetheart or savoy cabbage, 69p)
“Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, kale, broccoli and watercress are thought to play an important role in cancer prevention,” reveals Marilia, who adds that these vegetables contain phytochemicals known as isothiocyanates.
“These change the way the hormone oestrogen is metabolised or broken down in the body, which in turn may decrease the risk of hormone or oestrogen-related cancers like breast and ovarian cancer.”
Cruciferous vegetables are also good sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and manganese.
To retain these nutrients, Marilia recommends eating cruciferous vegetables either raw, steamed, or lightly sautéed.
ONIONS AND GARLIC (Tesco brown onions, 1kg, 85p)
According to Marilia, onions, as well as garlic and leeks, are sulphur-rich vegetables that offer anti-antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, helping kill bacteria and viruses.
She adds that sulphur is one of the ‘most abundant mineral elements in the human body’ and it's involved in hundreds of bodily processes.
Plus it’s required for the formation of glutathione – one of the most important antioxidants produced by the body.
“Onions are also rich in prebiotic fibre, serving as food for our gut bacteria, and are an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin B6.”
To get the most out of onions, slice and let sit for at least ten minutes before cooking to make their compounds more resistant to heat.
APPLES (Sainsbury’s, Granny Smith, 27p each)
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, as the old saying goes, however there may actually be some truth in this.
Marilia explains that apples are a great source of quercetin, one of the most important plant molecules.
Quercetin has been shown to possess anticancer and antiviral properties, plus it’s been shown to help treat allergies, eye and cardiovascular diseases, and arthritis.
OATS (ASDA Porridge Oats, 1kg, 70p)
The humble oat is a staple breakfast food for many. If you’re already eating this nutrient-dense food then we applaud you.
“Oats contain a type of fibre called Beta Glucan which can improve heart health by lowering cholesterol, plus it helps regulate blood sugar levels too,” says Emily.
Balanced blood sugar can help prevent disease, maintain energy levels and even help with hormones and mood.
Marilia adds: “Beta Glucan also supports the growth of our beneficial gut bacteria. And, oats are high in lignans, a natural source of oestrogen which can help balance hormones if you are experiencing low oestrogen production.”
GROUND TURMERIC (Aldi, Stonemill Ground Turmeric, 49p)
The golden spice, sprinkled in curries, added to stews and thrown in smoothies, could be the secret to a number of health benefits.
“Turmeric is a member of the ginger family and much research has been done on the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of its active components, curcumin and turmerones,” reveals Marilia.
Research has suggested that curcumin could help with the management of inflammatory conditions.
These include allergies, asthma and inflammatory bowel disease. Turmeric has also been shown to potentially help with muscle soreness after exercise too.
DARK CHOCOLATE (ASDA Smart Price Dark Chocolate, 100g, 30p)
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As if we needed another excuse to tuck into some chocolate, it turns out, dark chocolate with a cocoa percentage of 85 per cent and above, could help feed good gut bacteria, in turn improving our mood.
“Dark chocolate is an excellent source of magnesium, a mineral which supports energy production, blood pressure, blood sugar metabolism, bone health, mood, digestive regularity, and much more.”
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