Whilst you can find good nutrition in the wonderful whole foods that you come across in the supermarket – some ingredients just give you more bang for your buck.
Nutritionally dense foods can power-pack your meals and enhance your daily intake. Think of it like adding NOS to your Fast and Furious engine (what year is this? sorry I seem to have travelled back to 2001) – you can plod along perfectly fine with your average wholesome foods but by including a little bit of extra variety you can really add that extra vavavoom. Some common foods like berries or dark green leafy veggies (DGLV) are great examples of this – they are packed with antioxidants providing all sorts of benefits – but more and more we are seeing new and interesting ingredients emerge in health food stores.
Erbololgy is one such company doing amazing things with powerful (and delicious) plant-based ingredients. Using incredible foods with wonderful names such as sea buckthorn, aronia berries, nopal cactus and tiger nut – they have managed to make them accessible in everyday foods such as granola, seed oils, drinks and energy balls. Not only are these food high in vitamins and minerals, but most impressively they contain impressive amounts of phytonutrients.
For the love of Phytos
Phytonutrients are the unsung hero – for many years people have touted the benefits of vitamins and minerals (and for good reason) but phytonutrients should be given a much bigger profile. These nutrients or chemicals are produced by plants which use them within their own immune system to stay healthy by protecting them from things like UV damage and insect attacks.
Well, us humans can also benefit from the protective effects of phytos by using their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions . Phytonutrients may also enhance immunity and intercellular communication, repair DNA damage from exposure to toxins, detoxify carcinogens and alter oestrogen metabolism. Studies are now showing what consuming a phytonutrient-rich diet seems to be an “effective strategy” for reducing cancer and heart disease risks.
4 New Kids on the Nutrition Block
Ok ok, so now actually ‘new’ – these ingredients have been used in cultures for thousands of years for their medicinal properties but you may not have picked them up in your weekly big shop…
Tigernut: Interestingly this tuber (not actually a nut) was cultivated in Egypt and traditionally used as a medicine. This is a sweet veggie root rich in Vitamin E, iron and magnesium. Tigernuts have prebiotic properties – probiotics are what feed your gut bacteria – and are also rich in fibre, so great for bulking out those stools reducing the risk of constipation (come on you knew there would be some poo talk.)
Sea Buckthorn: This plant has been used for thousands of years for medicinal properties from supporting immune system to optimising skin health. Originally from a plant in the Himalaya’s (they have all the best things) it is popular in Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) remedies. This goody is particularly high in the phytonutrient quercetin – pay attention allergy sufferers – a natural anti-histamine. Furthermore it’s known to be high in potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, B-vits and vitamins C and E. The icing on the cake? Sea buckthorn oil is one of the only plant based oils that provide all the omegas – omega 3, omega 6, omega 7 and omega 9.
Nopal Cactus: Actually a common food in Mexico – the nopal (or prickly pear cactus) is making it’s way to our shores. Touted for it’s antioxidant, antiviral and neuroprotective properties research has shown it can protect against nerve damage, help to regulate blood sugar levels and even reduce the severity of hangovers if taken before drinking!
Poppy seed oil: Now you may know about poppy seeds when it comes to pharmaceuticals – poppy products contain a very small amount of opium alkaloids. In moderation, these can be used to soothe your nervous system, combat the effects of stress, and increase your ability to cope with physical pain – using a teaspoon before bed can even enhance sleepiness. TCM still uses poppy seed for the respiratory system, pain relief and digestive support. Robust research is still lagging behind the thousands of years of use unfortunately but the users of this oil have boasted benefits for skin, hair and even fertility.
So how do you use these wonderful ingredients? As with everything in nutrition – it’s all about variety when and where you can. Using products like these can be welcome additions to your current diet – I added the granola and energy balls to my favourite buckwheat porridge (see recipe below) and the poppy seed oil is often included in my salad dressing or even as a moisturising face oil! No one food contains EVERYTHING you need. It’s all about positive nutrition – what can you add? Be adventurous.
So, whilst current news reports continue to bang on about calorie counting (yawn – maybe they’re stuck in 2001 too?!) as a way to combat the health issues of the population and reduce COVID complications – many of us know its NUTRIENTS not numbers that count for long term and protective health.