by Registered Dietitian & Award Winning Health Blogger Nichola Whitehead from NicsNutrition.com
Did you know that that there’s no agreed definition of what a ‘superfood’ actually is?!
Superfoods are generally those foods that are bursting with vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients, which means that they are great for our overall health and wellbeing. Superfoods could be bursting with protein and essential omega 3 fatty acids, packed with antioxidants, fibre and vitamin C, and/or a great source of soluble fibre; for example salmon, vegetables and oats.
My philosophy is to focus on eating more healthy whole foods (including superfoods) so you’ll naturally eat less of the less nutrient dense foods such as biscuits, sweets and cake; foods which other than providing taste and calories, don’t provide much else! However, I personally follow and advocate the 80/20 rule where moderation and balance is key; a little bit of what you fancy does you good (I call it soul food!).
As there isn't an official definition for the term ‘superfoods’, ANY food could be labelled as one (as long as it’s justified!) .. and here are my personal top ten favourites that I would always include in my week of food.
My Top 10 ‘Superfoods’
• Almonds: Almonds are packed with healthy fats and are a great source of protein. I personally promote that snacks are based around ‘protein and produce (fibre)’ which means that a small handful of almonds with a couple of dried apricots makes a delicious, filling and healthy on the go snack. I love the combination of textures too!
• Avocados: The Oleic Acid (healthy fats) in avocados can help to combat hunger pangs and are great for your heart health. They can also help to add both a creamy texture and delicious taste to a salad or a smoothie. my favourite way though of enjoying avocados is in a chocolate pudding (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!).
• Blueberries: Blueberries are very low in calories, are packed with fibre as well as antioxidants which help to keep us healthy (darker coloured fruits and vegetables tend to be more nutrient packed). They are such a great snacking option or addition to porridge, yoghurt or pancakes!
• Broccoli: Broccoli is both low calorie and very filling. It’s rich in fibre and water (great for our digestive system) and is also packed with vitamins and goes great in a salad - just remember to save the stalks for it too as these are particularly sweet (marinate in your salad dressing over night to soften) or in a stir-fry.
• Kidney beans: Kidney beans are packed with protein and soluble fibre and can easily be incorporated into meals and recipes. I personally love them in salads, spaghetti Bolognese, curry or a meat-free casserole dish.
• Lentils: When you add lentils to your diet, you’re adding both fibre and protein, enabling you to keep hunger pangs at bay and feel full without having to resort to larger portions. Lentils taste amazing when added to soups and curries.
• Oats: Including just half a cup (40-50g) of oats in your breakfast provides energy as well as fibre to keep you feeling full. Oats are packed with soluble fibre which is great for your heart health and doesn't cause bloating. I personally love oats for breakfast either as porridge or overnight oats; to make, simply combine 1/2 a cup of oats with 1/2 a cup of any milk and 1/2 a cup of yoghurt, mix and leave in a bowl covered over night - the next day top with your chosen fruits, nuts and flavourings such as banana, almonds & cinnamon and enjoy!
• Pears: Pears are a great source of fibre and antioxidants to keep us healthy and they are a super tasty, highly portable snack too. I love the crunchy pears as a snack chopped up or in a smoothie with almond milk, pineapple and kale!
• Raspberries: Like blueberries, raspberries are relatively low in both calories and carbohydrate and make an ideal breakfast topper, snack option or dessert option with yoghurt (I love mine sprinkled with cacao nibs and drizzled with honey or in a a healthy Eton Mess with natural yoghurt instead of cream!).
• Salmon: Salmon provides a healthy source of protein, leaving you feeling fuller for longer. This fish is also packed with healthy fats (omega 3 fatty acids) which is great for your circulation. My favourite way to enjoy salmon is baked in the oven topped with Greek yoghurt & crumbled rye crackers!
Eating more superfoods is always going to be a good idea, however we need to ensure that our overall diets are super too.. eating superfoods won’t undo a ‘bad diet’ but they can help to increase the consumption of vitamins and minerals! What are your favourite superfoods?
You can follow Nichola on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook & YouTube. Nichola works as a dietitian specialising in weight loss and she regularly features on BBC Breakfast T.V., helping the nation to eat healthier before they leave the house!