The power of super foods

Not all foods are created equal. Certain foods have been given the title ‘super’ for their ability to fight disease, immune disorders and the signs of skin ageing.

Although the different lists of super foods may vary slightly, most experts agree that the following health and beauty boosters should be incorporated into the average diet.

Avocados

Up until a couple of decades ago, avocados had a relatively bad name, thanks to their higher levels of fat than most fruits and vegetables. However, it has since been discovered that this fat is good fat: healthy monounsaturated fatty acids actually appear to lower ‘bad’ cholesterol levels and raise the ‘good’ levels.

Avocados are also rich in antioxidants, which are thought to slow the body’s ageing process by destroying free radicals and slowing oxidation. Antioxidants also reduce allergies and the risk of heart disease and cancer.

Berries

Cranberries, strawberries and blueberries each have their own benefits. Cranberries have long been used to ward off urinary tract infections and are also packed with antioxidants. More recently, it has been discovered that cranberries also contain anti carcinogenic compounds, which can prevent or delay the development of cancer.

Strawberries contain the antioxidants Vitamins C and E, as well as ellagic acid, which contains potential cancer-fighting properties.

Blueberries deliver high levels of antioxidants called anthocyanins, which have been shown to lower cholesterol, prevent blood clotting and protect body cells. They also contain Vitamins C and E, in addition to fibre and folic acid, which is of benefit to women who wish to fall pregnant.

Carrots

Your mother was onto something when she said carrots help you see in the dark. Carrots contain beta-carotene, the pigment that forms Vitamin A. As well as being another antioxidant, Vitamin A helps promote healthy eyes and has also been linked to cancer prevention. Carrots also have respectable amounts of Vitamins C and E.

Citrus fruits

Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit contain Vitamin C and flavonoids, well-known antioxidants which help lower blood pressure and prevent clogged arteries. Kiwifruit also contains Vitamin C and has lots of enzymes that help fight autoimmune disorders, allergies and cancer.

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is a surprisingly rich source of antioxidants, so indulging in a small amount has great health benefits (that doesn’t mean eating a whole block in one sitting, unfortunately). Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, and it is best to look for varieties that have higher percentages of cocoa solids for a better effect.

Garlic

Next time you’re worried about garlic breath, keep in mind garlic is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. For centuries garlic has been considered a cure-all and is said to be able to treat just about every ailment, most commonly the cold.

Studies have shown that garlic extract improves immune function, giving our natural defense system a boost and helping it to conserve levels of antioxidants in our system. It is this strengthening of the immune system that aids in its support for other health conditions.

Green tea

Most types of tea contain flavonoids called polyphenols, however, green tea contains less caffeine than black tea and is also thought to aid digestion and may stimulate the metabolism. Many green tea drinkers also report that drinking a couple of cups a day helps to maintain clear skin.

Mangoes

Mangoes are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and are high in fibre. Packed with beta-carotene, flavonoids as well as Vitamins C and E, mangoes are thought to aid the immune system, combat cancer, regulate the thyroid and help digestion.

They may also boost memory and help minimise the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The flavour captures the summer feeling so enjoy them while they last.

Oats

Oats are significant sources of dietary fibre that provide you with both insoluble and soluble fibre. Insoluble fibre keeps your bowel movement regular. Soluble fibre helps stabilise blood sugar levels. Oats can also help lower cholesterol and blood pressure and help you feel full.

Oily fish

Sardines, herring, trout and salmon are all rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent heart disease.

They’re also good news for osteoporosis prevention and can improve the texture of the skin and hair. Oily fish is also a good source of Vitamins A and D and can make a perfect light grilled lunch. Vegetarians can boost their intake of omega-3 by taking supplementary capsules daily.

Tomatoes

A low-calorie year-round helper, tomatoes contain Vitamins A and C and can improve both skin texture and colour.

They are packed with lycopene, an antioxidant which offers a host of benefits, including reducing blood cholesterol, preventing heart diseases and may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Interestingly, you can increase the absorption of the lycopene in tomatoes by cooking in a small amount of olive oil. Great news for pasta lovers!

Spinach

Leafy green vegetables are packed full of goodness, and spinach is the best of the bunch. It contains Vitamins A and C and folic acid, as well as magnesium, which is thought to help fight cancer and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. It also blocks free radicals, which cause signs of ageing on the skin, and may even help prevent osteoporosis. Using fresh spinach instead of lettuce can add a twist to your favourite sandwich.