We asked our experts to round up the best bites to boost your health this summer
A study published in BMC Medicine looked at more than 800,000 participants and found eating at least 20g of nuts a day can reduce the risk of heart disease by 30 percent, cancer by 15 percent, 40 percent for type 2 diabetes and slash the risk of death from respiratory disease by half. One of the best for health is the humble almond. “Almonds have a wonderful nutrient profile,” says Belle Amatt, a nutritionist with Nutritionist Resource (nutritionist-resource. org.uk). “They are a rich source of protein, fibre and monounsaturated fats. This balance of macronutrients means that the almond – in moderation – is a perfect snacking item as the fibre and protein content keeps our blood sugar from rocketing and improves satiety too. “Monounsaturated fat, a healthpromoting fat also found in olive oil, helps to reduce bad cholesterol therefore reducing the chances of heart disease; so almonds can be considered a heart-healthy food too. “In terms of micronutrients, almonds again score well. Rich in vitamin E, they are a great provider of antioxidants and their impressive magnesium content may help to lower blood pressure levels, as part of a balanced diet of course. Calcium can also be found in abundance in this nut, therefore almonds would be a wise choice as part of a bone-friendly diet. “To improve digestibility of these nutrients, it may be worthwhile either grinding the nuts or soaking them. The latter is known as ‘activating’ which involves submerging the nuts in double their volume of water for a minimum of eight hours. “Above all it’s important to eat these wonderfully nutritious, but highly tough and fibrous pods of nutrition in the way nature intended – unsalted, in moderation and as part of a balanced diet.” Try SAF Raw Activated Nuts, £3.79, saf-life.com
...just not the kind mixed with milk and packed with sugar. European regulators have found that flavanols extracted from cocoa help tackle cholesterol and blood flow, and so it’s been approved as a medicinal food. But to get the amount of antioxidant needed, someone would have to eat 400g of dark chocolate, which would clock up 2,429 calories – more than a woman’s RDA! If you fancy avoiding obesity but still want the goodness, try FutureYou Health’s Blood Flow+, £25, futureyouhealth. com, a supplement containing Cocoactiv, a highly potent cocoa flavanol extract, which contributes to normal blood flow by helping to maintain the elasticity of blood vessels.
A dinner party favourite in the 1980s, globe artichoke’s medicinal use can be traced back as early as 400 BC where it was used as a digestive aid by the aristocracy of the Roman Empire. And those ancient upper classes were on to something – extract from the large leaves of the plant have been shown to be liver-protective, blood fatlowering, and contain antioxidant properties. Clinical studies have shown the large leaves can improve digestion and cholesterol levels, so it’s a shame to throw them away when preparing the choke part. Scrape the edible leaf bases with your teeth to reap the benefits – alternatively try a supplement such as Healthspan Artichoke Extract, £9.45, healthspan.co.uk.
This one may be a little less kitchen storecupboard, but its profile makes it worthy of inclusion. “Naturally high in food state nutrients and rich in the detoxification pigment chlorophyll, this single-cell algae is one of nature’s most powerful green superfoods,” says nutritionist Penny Hatzis. “Chlorella supports digestive health by stimulating the growth of probiotic bacteria and cleansing the bowel by clinging on to toxins and eliminating them from the body. Boosting your digestive health will help to minimise the toxic effects of a modern lifestyle and promote optimal health and wellbeing.” Try Sun Chlorella A (£21.95, sunchlorella.co.uk)
These little berries pack a mean punch in the superfood ring, but perhaps most interesting is the research being done around dementia, where blueberries have shown promise in improving brain function. In a recent study, scientists gave 47 adults aged 68 or older who had shown mild cognitive decline either freeze-dried blueberry powder or a placebo every day for 16 weeks. The group who took the powder had improved cognitive function compared to those who didn’t. The benefits of consuming these berries are too many to list here, but some other big claims include them protecting against heart disease, cancer and the general affects of ageing due to their high antioxidant content.
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