Before you think it, kale is not on the list, I purposely left it out as I wanted to highlight other foods that I felt people wouldn’t normally think of or expect. These are all easily available in all shops and at very cheap prices.
There are also many, many more that I could add to this list but I decided to keep it short so that I didn’t bore anyone with too many long explanations, so remember that there are others out there and that eating a varied diet is a great idea.
This post is also very similar to another one I did called Everyday superfoods so I suppose you could see this as a part 2 in a way, I hope you find the info in both helpful.
Where do I begin with these beauties? Firstly, the humble mushroom in my opinion doesn’t get enough praise, they are an amazing food and have a great unique type of fibre in them called “beta glucan”, this fibre helps to stimulate your immune system by activating immune cells meaning they’re primed and ready to deal with invading pathogens, so if you’re like me and hate being ill then start eating more shrooms. Click here for further reading.
Mushrooms can also be a source of vitamin D if grown in/exposed to sunlight but the levels can vary so it’s best not to solely rely on them for this vitamin therefore make sure to eat other vitamin D containing foods or take a supplement, especially important during winter months.
Ongoing research into the benefits of mushrooms have on multiple occasions shown an association between high mushroom intake and lower risk of cancer particularly breast cancer.
This study shows even greater risk reduction when the women had both mushrooms and green tea in their diet.
These little gems come in so many varieties and are lean and filling due to their low fat but high water and fibre content, therefore they’ll help to keep you full but not only that, they will also give you energy but release it slowly meaning your insulin doesn’t spike unlike with processed sugary energy snacks.
A relatively unknown benefit of many beans is their antioxidant content, yes, it’s not just blueberries and green tea that provide this benefit, each bean will have different types of antioxidants and in different amounts which is a good reason to have a variety in your diet rather than relying solely on the same can of baked beans!
Beans can also benefit your good cholesterol (also called HDL cholesterol) which help to control the bad kind (LDL) and this study showed that reducing white rice intake for beans had positive effects on cholesterol, diastolic blood pressure and fasting glucose levels (used as an indicator of diabetes), in other words, your body loves you when you eat them!
Furthermore, beans/legumes (especially cooked and cooled ones) contain resistant starch which is helpful for good gut bacteria growth and then these bacteria use this starch to create beneficial compounds known as “short chain fatty acids”. Although more research is required into the benefits for humans, early studies have shown benefits for insulin sensitivity as well as inflammation levels. Table 2 in this paper shows that beans have some of the best levels of resistant starch while also being low GI.
Use avocados as a source of healthy fat to help absorb fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, K) in salads that may have otherwise been fat free. Carotenoids are pigments in red/orange fruits and veg that have antioxidant effects and avocado (and its oil) helps with their absorption. See here for further reading.
They are also a good source of potassium containing more of this mineral when compared, gram for gram, with bananas. Potassium is important for blood pressure (BP) control and one of the most natural easiest ways to begin lowering a high BP.
Thanks to a type of fibre called “beta sitosterol” even though avocados are high in fat they can actually lower bad cholesterol and increase the good type which helps control the bad.
Probably even more interesting is this study that showed that consumption of some avocado with a hamburger, regardless of the extra fat and calories, actually preventedblood vessel constriction and reduced inflammation compared to eating a burger without any avocado, that’s just how amazing they are!
My creamy avocado based chocolate pud!
One of the best things about tomato puree is that because it’s a concentrated form of tomatoes it only takes a small portion to count as 1/5 day, roughly, 1 generous tablespoon. This means it’s super simple to sneak into food, simply squeeze some on to omelettes or onto homemade pizzas. Many people forget that the tomato puree they add to food counts as 1 of your 5 a day, bonus!
My pizzafied omelette with tomato puree
Tomatoes are also a great source of a carotenoid called “lycopene” which is a strong antioxidant, but a good tip to remember is that it is better absorbed from cooked tomatoes rather than raw, just another reason to make delicious herbed tomato based pasta sauces (like you needed another one!).
This study here found that higher levels of lycopene in the blood of people compared to those with lower levels were less likely to suffer a stroke. Various studies over the past few years have shown an association between lycopene consumption and a lower cancer risk, click here for further reading
Not only is this fruit delicious and relatively low in sugar but they also pack a fair vitamin C punch, on average just 1 kiwi will contain around 55% of the daily vit C needs for a woman. If you’re like me and aren’t a huge fan of oranges then these gems are perfect, plus you don’t have to sit and peel them beforehand, just slice open and eat.
They’re also a good source of vitamin K and a type of fibre that really helps to keep things moving!! Plus they contain a variety of antioxidants which may benefit heart health. See study A and study B for more details.
Garlic is anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and may help to thin the blood meaning better heart health. A great overall review of many studies on garlic (found here) highlights its benefits on cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
To get the most anti-cancer effects from your garlic it’s best to eat it raw or cut/crush it then leave it for 10mins before cooking it, this way an enzyme in the garlic has time to create the beneficial sulphur compounds. Check out this article for more details.