There’s a lot of talk this month about “detoxing”, or “foods to avoid” and “low fat diets”.
But what about what we should eat?
If you’re trying to eat well and recover from the excesses of Christmas, here are my Top 8 foods to include on your shopping list (see below for an explanation of the science bits):
As we all know, eggs are a great source of protein. But they also contain a mineral called chromium, which can help to reduce sugar cravings. This is because chromium helps to move blood sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream into the cells to be used as energy and to turn fats, carbohydrates, and proteins into energy. So start your day off with some eggs… Other foods that contain chromium are pears, Brazil nuts and tomatoes.
- Blueberries & raspberries
I know they’re not in season, but you can still get fresh or frozen berries in most supermarkets. These berries are high in vitamin C, they are rich in insoluable fibre and slow-release fibre, which can help control sugar cravings. They are also naturally low fat and low in calories. So it’s win-win-win!
Remember a few years ago when no-one ate avocado and if you got it in a salad you weren’t quite sure what to make of it and whether you liked it or not? Well that day is well and truly behind us, and avocado is now being consumed and promoted everywhere. Avocados are a great source of healthy (monounsaturated) fats , rich in nutrients, are high in fibre and incredibly versatile. The only thing it can’t do is pour you a glass of wine at the end of a long day and give you a massage.
Pronounced “Keen-wah” (I promise that’s how you pronounce it, I’ve checked), this grain-like crop has become a very trendy healthfood option to classic carbohydrates, such as pasta and rice. And for good reason. It is high in protein, it is the least allergenic of all the grains, is a very good souce of magnesium and you can use it at any mealtime, including breakfast!
There is definitely truth in your mother’s insistence that you “eat your greens!”. Leafy green veg are packed full of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. They’re also jam-packed with antioxidants, and are a great source of low-calorie carbohyrates. Again, you can use them at any mealtime and are great in a smoothie for breakfast or a snack.
As Brian O’Driscoll once commented “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit… Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad”. The humble tomato is high in vitamin C, antioxidants and is also linked to heart-health due to its ability to help reduce cholesterol. So if you’re making a curry or one-pot wonder, consider making a tomato-based one rather than cream or stock based.
“Beans, beans are good for your heart. The more you eat, the more…. fibre you get in your diet”. Many of us don’t get enough fibre in our diet, and we all know what the repercussions of this can be. Beans (such as kidney beans or cannellini beans) are excellent sources of souable fibre. So if you get your recommended 7-a-day of fruit or veg and some beans each day, you should be well on your way to getting sufficient fibre each day. Also, they are cheap as chips and can be easily added to most dinner dishes!
Gone are the days when the only time we saw salmon was a few slivers of smoked salmon for Christmas dinner. Nutritionally dense and now labelled as a “superfood”, this oily fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which is what has earned salmon it’s reputation as a brain food. The omega-3 fats found in salmon contribute to brain function, heart health and joint wellness.
And now for the science bit…
- Chromium – it is a mineral our bodies use in small amounts for normal body functions, such as digesting food. Chromium exists in many natural foods including brewer’s yeast, meats, potatoes (especially the skins), cheeses, molasses, spices, whole-grain breads and cereals, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Insoluable fibre – is found in foods such as wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains. It adds bulk and appears to help food pass more quickly through the stomach and intestines.
- Soluable fibre – attracts water and turns to gel during digestion. This slows digestion. Soluble fiber is found in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables. It is also found in psyllium, a common fiber supplement. Some types of soluble fiber may help lower risk of heart disease.
- Monounsaturated fat – From a chemical standpoint, monounsaturated fats are simply fat molecules that have one unsaturated carbon bond in the molecule, this is also called a double bond. Oils that contain monounsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature but start to turn solid when chilled. Olive oil is an example of a type of oil that contains monounsaturated fats.
- Magnesium – this is the second most abundant element inside human cells and the fourth most abundant positively charged ion in the human body.Within the body’s cells, it serves literally hundreds of functions.
- Antioxidant– this is a molecule that inhibits the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that can produce free radicals, leading to chain reactions that may damage cells. Antioxidants terminate these chain reactions.
- Omega-3 fatty acids – class of essential fatty acids found in fish oils, especially from salmon and other cold-water fish, that acts to lower the levels of cholesterol and LDL (low-density lipoproteins) in the blood. (LDL cholesterol is the “bad” cholesterol.)