Have you seen Jamie Oliver’s latest series (and book)? In Jamie’s Everyday Superfoods, the TV chef is introducing us to his way to a balanced plate – but not just any balanced plate. The plate is full of the superfoods eaten in 3 places where a long life is enjoyed: Costa Rica, Ikaria in Greece, and Okinawa in Japan. Jamie takes staples from the foods that promote health and long life in these places and uses them in everyday recipes. So what are these everyday superfoods?
Eggs are low in calories and are a rich source of protein. They are packed with essential nutrients considered vital to good health, particularly vitamin B12, vitamin D, choline, and selenium. Compared to other protein foods, eggs have the richest mix of amino acids that is essential for proper growth and repair. Thanks to the high levels of antioxidants, eggs also help prevent age-related eye disorders and other issues.
Feta is a traditional Greek cheese made from sheep’s or goat’s milk. Because it is kept in brine it has a salty taste. It is a good choice for the protein element of a dish. Almost a quarter of the calories in feta is protein and you get 10% of your protein RDA from 1 ounce. The cheese is packed with essential nutrients: chloride which aids digestion calcium and phosphorus for teeth and bones; and vitamin B12 which helps keep your metabolic system healthy.
A 100g serving of fish like salmon has only 116 calories with 3g of fat and loads of vitamin-A, folate, and choline. Fish and fish oil can help treat and prevent a seemingly endless list of conditions, from rheumatoid arthritis to heart disease, menstrual pain, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in kids, and obesity. The omega3 fatty acids EPA and DHA make fish great for your skin – these fats also help reduce pain and swelling and prevent your blood from clotting easily. Omega3s also help maintain flexibility of arteries, reduce cholesterol, strengthen cardiac muscles, prevent macular degeneration, improve skin texture, and add shine to eyes. Fish, salmon in particular, helps reduce chances of cancer of prostate, colon, and kidneys.
4. Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes are true hero foods because they are a great source of beta-carotene that your body uses to produce vitamin-A, which is important for immune system, mucus membranes, and good eye health. While passing through your digestive tract, they lower the potential health risk posed by oxidized radicals and heavy metals. Sweet potatoes contain vitamin B6, which helps reduce homocysteine, the chemical responsible for causing degenerative diseases, such as heart attacks. They are also a great source of iron, vitamin C, and protein that offer numerous health benefits.
5. Wild Greens and Herbs
This includes so many good things from stuff you can forage like wild garlic and sea purslane to savoy cabbage and wild marjoram. Include kale, spinach, watercress and other green veggies in your diet to get vitamin K that helps keep your bones healthy and enable effective wound healing. They also contain calcium, which is essential for maintaining healthy teeth and bones. Other greens such as cabbage, broccoli, chicory, beet leaves, Chinese leaf, cavolo nero, and Swiss chard are all loaded with manganese, potassium, vitamin C, iron, and B vitamins, such as vitamin B6 and folate.
An integral part of Oriental cuisines, tofu is a veritable storehouse of nutrition. A 100g serving of tofu contains only 76 calories, but it is loaded with protein, calcium, iron, vitamin B12, and essential amino acids. It helps lower levels of bad cholesterol and protects against cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Nuts are one of the few sources of plant-based protein so they are hugely important in a vegetarian/vegan diet however they shouldn’t be ignored by carnivores. To get a wide variety of vitamins and minerals and the maximum nutritional benefits it’s best to mix up the varieties you eat. Walnuts, for example, are one of the best nuts because they are a rich source of omega3s and are also rich in plant sterols, which help lower serum cholesterol levels. Walnuts also contain vitamin E, folate, copper, magnesium, protein, and loads of fiber. Thanks to all these ingredients, walnuts are anti-cancer, boost heart health, reduce risk of diabetes, help lower blood pressure, and even serve as natural anti-depressant.
Each variety of bean offers its own menu of nutritional benefits. Black beans have the highest protein content and are packed with fiber (to aid digestion) as well as being super-low in saturated fat. Chickpeas also have a high fiber content as well as a stack of micronutrients including copper which you need to keep your hair and skin healthy. Cannellini beans are what to eat when you want some vitamin C and magnesium. One portion of beans can also contribute to your 5-a-day.
Fruits are always an integral part of a balanced diet because they are packed with fiber, antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients that help you look better and live longer. Apples are great because they are loaded with fiber and their skin contains an antioxidant called quercetin that has anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties. Similarly, bananas are great because they contain plenty of potassium that lowers your blood pressure. Bananas are also a great source of a healthy carb called Resistant Starch that fills you up quickly and boosts your metabolism. Other true "hero" fresh fruits are blueberries, grapefruit, cantaloupes, cherries, grapes, oranges, kiwis, pomegranates, plums, and cranberries.
10. Turmeric and Ginger
Definitely two superheroes of the spice world. They are both crammed full of micronutrients and have tremendous healing properties. Indeed, both have been used in natural healing and medicines since year dot. Turmeric has a very high iron content which your body needs to make red blood cells and carry oxygen around the body – pretty important! Ginger is particularly rich in manganese and potassium for production and maintenance of connective tissue and healthy functioning of the nervous system respectively. Put them together and they make a powerful combo with anti-inflammatory properties.
Are you going to try any of Jamie’s recipes? I watched the series and was quite impressed that the dish looked and sounded very appetizing which cannot always be said for the healthiest food.