Health benefits of common foods
Food trends come and go and while they teach us to try new things there’s a lot to learn from Grandma’s kitchen. Getting back to basics and allowing a little twist on tradition means you eat well and never go out of style.
Why? You know how the saying goes, ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’, which could be thanks to their high antioxidant activity, especially when eaten with the skin on.
Tradition: Munch on seasonal varieties from Pink Lady to Granny Smith and allow room for a portion-controlled winter crumble.
Twist: Look out for newer varieties such as Jazz – grown using conventional farming – that offer added crunch and zing.
Why? Grown as a staple crop for centuries, it’s no surprise that Sunday roasts and Christmas dinners feature them heavily. Today you can easily pick up sweet potatoes or low-GI varieties of white potatoes like Carisma for slow-release, nutritious carbs.
Tradition: Try an easy meal of a baked jacket potato with canned tuna, corn, spinach leaves and grated reduced-fat tasty cheese.
Twist: Slice sweet potato into wedges, spray with olive oil and sprinkle with rosemary and a little sea salt. Oven bake as a healthier alternative to hot chips.
Why? Legumes such as chickpeas, lentils and mung beans make a nutritious base for casseroles and hearty soups. They’re high in fibre, protein and essential vitamins and minerals.
Tradition: Switch on the slow cooker and enjoy a soup of lamb shanks, winter vegetables and nourishing legumes.
Twist: Add a dash of coconut milk, lemongrass, fresh ginger and chilli to spice up a tomato and lentil soup. Top with fresh coriander.
Why? Along with useful amounts of vitamin D, zinc, selenium, vitamin B12, folate and iron, whole eggs provide all the essential amino acids (building blocks of proteins) in amounts that closely match human requirements.
Tradition: Add hard-boiled eggs to a wholegrain sandwich or slice them into a salad.
Twist: Try shakshuka-style eggs – bake them in a small non-stick frying pan with a base of spicy tomato sauce made from fresh tomatoes, red chilli, capsicum, garlic and onion.
Why? Rich in lycopene phytochemicals that may protect against cancer, tomatoes are a staple of Mediterranean cooking from Morocco to Rome.
Tradition: Whip up a pasta sauce with canned tomatoes, crushed garlic, sliced onions and extra-virgin olive oil. Stir through pesto or fresh basil.
Twist: Make an easy winter soup from blended, crushed, canned tomatoes, chicken stock, green lentils and fresh chilli or hot sauce.
Traditional rolled oats
Why? A staple Scottish breakfast, wholegrain oats are naturally rich in beta glucan, a soluble fibre that’s great for lowering cholesterol. Plus, oats have a low GI for sustained energy and protein to help bust hunger.
Tradition: Warm up on a cold morning with a bowl of steamy porridge with stewed pear and cinnamon sprinkled on top.
Twist: Blend oats into smoothies or bake your own healthy muesli slice.
Why? Grandma said to eat your greens and there’s no escaping the benefits of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, all studied for their cancer-fighting properties.
Tradition: Lightly steam and serve with minted peas.
Twist: Roast a whole head of broccoli in the oven with a drizzle of lemon-infused olive oil.
Why? First made by Turkish shepherds, this traditional staple is an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, protein, probiotics and other bone-building nutrients.
Tradition: Scoop a dollop onto mixed fruit at breakfast time.
Twist: Make your own popsicles for a healthier dessert by blending no-fat Greek yoghurt with berries and then freeze for 4 hours.
5 trendy foods to try
1. Matcha - Sip a matcha latte or look for gourmet gelato flavours made with this finely ground green tea powder.
2. Kimchi - Try Korean pickled cabbage – a fermented food – that’s lauded for its gut benefits. Buy it from Asian supermarkets or look up a recipe to make your own.
3. Teff - Check out this Ethiopian grain, similar to quinoa, used to make injera bread (a traditional Ethiopian flat bread). Find it in health food stores.
4. Kalette - Roll over kale! The new veg on the block is a hybrid between kale and Brussels sprouts! Check your local supermarket.
5. Achacha - Look out for this tropical orange fruit with a zingy, “honey kiss” taste that hails from the Andes, but is now grown in Queensland. Go to www.achacha.com.au to see where to buy.