- Doctors warn that colds and seasonal flu could be worse than usual this winter
- Maya Oakley says nutritious foods can really make a difference to your health
- Nutritionists evaluate the latest five superfoods, including chickpeas and seaweed
Today marks the start of the first week after the autumnal equinox and the stunning Harvest Moon that marks the start of proper autumn.
As we think about the short, cold days, our brains turn to boosting health and immunity to prepare for winter. Doctors have already warned that we could be in a difficult situation, with colds and seasonal flu worse than usual – and who knows what will happen with COVID.
Every year, we hear about the latest ‘superfoods’ that promise to turbocharge our health – but how ‘super’ are they really?
There is often truth behind the claims made for these nutrient-rich foods, says nutritionist Maya Oakley (nourished london.com). ‘But you also have to ask, how easy is it to get hold of and how expensive is it?’ she says.
‘No food is a substitute for a varied, healthy diet or a quick fix for a poor diet. But making small changes using some carefully chosen nutritious foods can really make a difference in your health.’ Here, Maya rates the latest five superfoods…
Balance hormones with chickpea flour
Nutritionist Maya Oakley gave the verdict on five of the latest superfoods, as doctors warned colds and the seasonal flu could be worse than usual this winter (file image)
The market for wheat flour substitutes continues to boom: You’ve probably tried rye, spelt, and barley—but how about gram flour? It’s made from ground chickpeas—which enjoy superfood status even when they’re whole.
Besan has more protein than almost any flour, three times the fiber and half the carbs of wheat flour – studies have found that it causes a smaller rise in blood sugar after eating.
It also has a surprising mineral profile: high in iron and B vitamins, as well as important trace minerals that are virtually absent from modern, processed flours — magnesium, copper, zinc, manganese and phosphorous. Just one cup of gram flour (92 grams) provides about half the recommended amount of copper and zinc for an entire day, both of which are important minerals for the development and function of immune cells.
Besan is easily available in Indian shops and also in Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Waitrose and Morrisons.
Nutritionist’s verdict: Chickpeas are a great source of fiber, which lowers the risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Besan is gluten free and also has good levels of vitamin B6, which is excellent for hormonal balance and nervous system health.
‘It’s dense enough for baking; I would mix it with other flours like spelt, but it’s good for flatbreads.’5/5
Swap Chocolate for Carob Filling
Bad memories from this classic chocolate substitute from the 1970s? Now due to less sugar, its taste has become even better.
Carob, made from the naturally sweet pods of the carob tree, is high in fiber and – unlike chocolate – does not contain caffeine or headache-causing chemicals.
Maya cites research showing that carob reduces production of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, so it is potentially useful for losing weight.
It contains twice the calcium of cocoa, is gluten-free and contains A and B vitamins, which are good for skin and eye health, plus a decent range of important minerals like manganese, potassium, magnesium and selenium As well as zinc and copper which are very important for the immune system. Studies have shown that carob may help lower cholesterol, probably due to the fiber and powerful polyphenols it contains.
You can buy carob powder or chips from health food stores, or try Nine’s Carob, Berry and Chia Bars (tesco.com, £2.25 for four); Clarks Original Maple and Carob Syrup with 72 percent carob (£1.98 for 180ml, asda.com); Or Natural World’s Hazelnut and Carob Spread (£5.49, ocado.com) which has eight times less sugar than your favorite chocolate hazelnut spread.
Nutritionist’s verdict: ‘Carob will not raise your blood sugar like chocolate, which is why diabetic chocolate often contains it. Research has shown that it reduces the production of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, so is potentially useful for losing weight. ‘It’s also a good source of tannins, insoluble fiber that cleanses the digestive tract and feeds our gut bacteria.’ 4/5
live longer with seaweed
The Japanese eat more seaweed than any other nation, about 5 grams per day, and are among the healthiest and longest-living people in the world. Chance? Maybe not.
A review of 100 studies proved that seaweed can lower blood pressure and cholesterol and improve heart health.
Maya said seaweed is extremely rich in insoluble fiber, which is fantastic for gut health and a little goes a long way (file image)
Each species has a slightly different nutritional profile (kombu, a kelp used to make miso soup, contains the most iodine; nori, a red algae used to wrap sushi, contains vitamin B12. is higher). But all are high in protein and fiber while low in calories and fat.
Seaweed is rich in vitamins and minerals: A, C, E and K (for blood clotting) as well as important minerals, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as iodine, which is good for the brain. Its high fiber content also feeds our gut bacteria, so seaweed can greatly boost immune health and digestion.
Waitrose reports that sales of seaweed have increased by 71 percent since 2018. It stocks nori seaweed in a tub (£3, Waitrose.com) and Clearspring Green Nori Sprinkles (£1.99) as well as pouches of dulse for noodles or salad. £3). Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Tesco, Asada, Okado and Morrisons sell sheets of nori to make sushi.
Nutritionist’s verdict: ‘Seaweed is nothing new in our diets – our ancestors may have eaten this nutritious and abundant sea vegetable, which fell out of fashion over the years.
‘It’s extremely rich in insoluble fiber, which is fantastic for gut health. A little goes a long way,…