Everyday hero’s – 9 Staples for Good Health!

I’ve written about my favourite superfoods here. But what about the everyday hero’s that are commonplace in supermarkets and in our kitchens? While some of us love to try a variety of exotic plant-based foods from different cultures and traditions, we don’t always have to be all fancy and complicated when it comes to good health. These 9 wondrous food staples are easy, accessible and crucial to a healthy diet. If you’re not eating ’em, now is the time to start! Keep on reading for why, and how I like to include them in my day.

1. Walnuts

A brain healthy food, they even look like the brain! They contain neuro-protective compounds such as omega-3 fats, vitamin E, folate, melatonin and antioxidants. They are also contain heart healthy amino acids and fats that significantly assist cardiovascular function. Don’t be scared of fats! A small handful of nuts a day, has been proven to assist weight control as they are incredibly satiating.

Include: crushed over salads, fruit salads, as a snack, smoothie or porridge topping, in your homemade granola, breads, muffins or muesli slices! Try my creamy walnut Caesar dressing here.

2. Almonds

As above, if you are looking for a satisfying snack, a handful of almonds is a much better choice than a complex carbohydrate rich snack such as wholegrain toast. Naturally rich in monounsaturated fats, magnesium, vitamin E, selenium, calcium, protein and fibre, almonds are not only filling but also good for skin and bone health, as well as a prebiotic foods – meaning they promote the growth of good bacteria in the intestines. We want this!

Include: same as above, however I personally love a few almonds in 1 stuffed date for a sweet treat, or ground down to almond butter. Try making almond milk! Almonds are also delicious in stir fries or cauliflower rice and my pizza pops.

3. Pumpkin seeds / Pepita’s

Are a great vegan source of one of my favourite minerals, zinc. Unfortunately, it is a nutrient that a lot of people lack. Zinc is critical for cell growth, glowing skin, immunity, metabolism, blood sugar and reproductive health. Pepita’s are high in protein and omega-3 and they make great additions to snacks, smoothies or salads. Boasting healthy amounts of magnesium and potassium they are also great for our bones.

Include: same as walnuts, however I also like to include 1 tbsp blended into my smoothie, or lightly roasted in lime such as here.

4. Broccoli

An excellent source of antioxidants, vitamins E, C, K as well as dietary minerals such as iron, zinc and selenium and of course, our beloved fibre. Broccoli has a good variety of nutrients and phytochemicals that may work synergistically to help prevent cancer. Many of the benefits of broccoli are reduced if the vegetable is boiled so opt to lightly steam it or better still, chop it up finely raw in a salad.

Include: raw in salads, stir-fried, broccoli rice (same as cauliflower rice), or pureed for broccoli pancakes.

5. Blueberries

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capacity of blueberries is among the highest of fruits and vegetables, containing anthocyanins, reservatrol and pterostilbene.Blueberry consumption has been linked to improved brain function with research indicating their capacity to reverse age-related declines in neural and behavioural functions such as dementia. Studies have shown that the consumption of anthocyanins improve vision through protecting the retina from damage. Bluebs also contain high amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K and managanese.

Include: frozen or fresh in a smoothie, in porridge or bircher muesli, as a snack, or in homemade muffins or pancakes!

6. Avocado

Avocados are a good source of dietary fibre, potassium, vitamin E, folate and monounsaturated (healthy) fats. They are actually a fruit, but are very low sugar. Their fibre and healthy fat content has been shown to increase satiety and satisfaction from a meal, keeping you fuller for longer and supporting weight management. Clinical studies also show avocados role in lowering cholesterol, assisting cardiovascular health. The healthy fat present in avocado also facilitates carotenoid absorption (antioxidant compounds associated with cellular protection and growth). Avocados are a superfood because they not only offer so much nutrition but can make a meal taste amazing, from sweet to savoury! Personally, I have at least half most days!

Include: in any salad to add satiety, in smoothies, in chocolate mousse, in salad dressings and cake frostings.

7. Lemons

High in vitamin C and enzymes, lemon is a liver-loving, alkalising, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that boosts immunity, assists skin repair, balances your bodies pH (it may taste acidic and contain organic acid but it is in fact alkaline once digested) and stimulates digestion. This is is why adopting a daily habit of morning lemon water is so good for you – it wakes up your metabolism, re-hydrates you and boosts liver function to assist with the removal of toxins from the system. Lemon juice also contains citric acid. Evidence suggests that the presence of organic acids like citric increases the availability of calcium from vegetable foods. So squeeze it over your veggies to obtain the most calcium! Adding lemon juice to cut foods like apples or avocados can also prevent browning.

include: Daily lemon warm (not boiling hot) water! Salad dressings, or squeezed on top of smashed avocado on toast.

8. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is actually a bark, traditionally used as a stomachic and carminative for gastrointestinal issues. It has also been used to treat toothaches and bad breath! It has powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, neuro-protective and antimicrobial benefits and has been shown to have an effect on managing conditions such as diabetes due to its blood sugar stabilising properties.

Include: always in a smoothie! Or an almond milk chai tea, turmeric latte, chia pudding, cauliflower rice and stir-fries, or muffins.

9. Garlic

Another prebiotic food! Garlic has antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory properties and is known to assist detoxification and support cell health. Traditionally garlic has been used as a warming and blood cleansing herb to prevent and treat colds and flus, menstrual pain and expel worms and other parasites. Heat is thought to inhibit its antimicrobial properties however allowing crushed/chopped garlic to stand for 10 minutes before cooking may prevent this from occurring.

Include: in most warm meals – stir-fries, cauliflower rice, soups, marinades, dips, sauces, and salad dressings.