Thursday, 19 July 2012

How to be full of beans

Superfoods… they promise almost endless ways to improve vitality and fight off illness. Read Melonie Clarke’s guide to ensuring Olympic good health

Written by Melonie Clarke

Benefits Comes in a powdered or frozen pulp form, is one of the richest sources of the antioxidant anthocyanins and may help maintain metabolism and energy production. It can help weight loss and maintain a healthy cardiovascular and digestive system, thanks to its omega 3, omega 6 and omega 9 content. It also contains vitamin A, C, E, B1, B2 and B3, calcium, potassium, magnesium, copper and zinc, and as much protein as an egg.

Best served The powder can be sprinkled on cakes or cereal and the pulp is best mixed with fresh fruits or frozen yogurt.


Benefits Fresh, they are a good source of vitamins A, C, E, potassium, iron and beta-carotene. Apricots contain the antioxidant lycopene, which may help strengthen the immune system, and they are a good source of fibre, which helps maintain a healthy digestive system. Eating apricots regularly may help improve eyesight and prevent heart disease.

Best served Fresh (dried apricots are higher in carbohydrates) with natural yogurt and honey for a delicious breakfast option.


Benefits Packed with vitamin E, which can fight many diseases and may help lower cholesterol levels; and very high in carotenoid lutein, which may protect against macular degeneration and cataracts, and folate, which may help with stroke prevention. May help the body to absorb nutrients and inhibit the growth of certain cancers.

Best served Sliced in a green salad; with mozzarella and tomato in a salad; mashed on toast; or fresh from the skin.


Benefits High in antioxidants, fibre, potassium, which helps lower your risk of high blood pressure; and vitamin B6, which triggers the production of serotonin and plays a major part in the production of haemoglobin and cells in the immune system.

Best served Fresh from the skin or chopped with natural yogurt, honey and nuts. (Babies love them mashed.)


Benefits Contains high levels of dietary fibre, helping to maintain a healthy digestive tract, and pectin, which reduces cholesterol and enhances prebiotic bacteria in the large intestine. It also contains high levels of calcium and a higher level of antioxidant than many other fruits and superfoods, high amounts of potassium, essential for cell and nerve functioning, and high magnesium levels, which help maintain a healthy metabolism.

Best served Dissolve a tablespoon of baobab powder in water or milk as a drink, add to fresh fruit juices, or sprinkle over cereal.


Benefits The more beans you eat, the more protein, fibre, iron and calcium you will derive (and that includes tins of baked beans, too – the tomato sauce is full of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that may help to prevent heart disease and prostate cancer). Or, if you want to rustle up your own baked beans, go to

Best served On brown bread toast, or in a jacket potato.


Benefits One of the best sources of folate and betaine, which work together to help lower homocysteine (a compound that can lead to heart disease) levels in the blood. The pigment betacyanin, which gives beetroot its stunning colour, is also thought to help fi ght cancer.

Best served Fresh and raw, grated into a salad with olive oil and the juice of half a lemon.


Benefits Believed to be the ultimate superfood: just 100g contain the same amount of antioxidants as five servings of other fruit and vegetables. Blueberries may help fight cancers, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, asthma and arthritis, may help prevent cataracts forming, and offer protection against cystitis. Blueberries are also high in vitamin C, pterostilbene (which protects the heart) and anthocyanins (which may also fight cancer and heart disease). They can also stimulate the growth of brain cells and are thought to fight free radicals, which are a key cause of wrinkles.

Best served Raw as a snack, in a fruit salad, or added to natural yogurt or cereals; or bake them into muffins, meringues, pies, etc.


Benefits Contains calcium, iron, fibre, vitamins C, K and manganese, and has traditionally been used to help digestion and ease the effects of bloating and diarrhoea. Cinnamon may also have beneficial effects on blood glucose and cholesterol. Cinnamon also delays the spoiling of food and has antifungal properties.

Best served Baked in a cake, stewed with fruit, or sprinkled over warm sliced apples, or on toast.

Dark chocolate

Benefits Low in fat and sugar and, when it has a 60% or higher level of cocoa, it's packed with antioxidants, which may help lower blood pressure.

Best served Straight from the wrapping. One square eaten at night may even help you to sleep.

Goji berries

Benefits May help to treat diabetes, hypertension, malaria, fever and cancer. They are also packed with vitamin C and beta-carotene.

Best served Similar in taste to raisins, they can be eaten raw or cooked and added to soups and cereals.

Green tea

Benefits Polyphenol, found in green tea, increases the metabolism and helps regulate glucose levels, slowing the rise of blood sugar after eating. Green tea may help protect against blood clots and kill cancer cells, and may reduce cholesterol. It has also been suggested that it delays the deterioration of the brain caused by Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Green tea contains antioxidant catechin, which destroys bacteria and viruses that cause throat infections and dental conditions. Regular consumption is thought to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and help fight the signs of ageing. Theanine in green tea is thought to have relaxing qualities.

Best served With hot water.



Benefits High in water, natural fruit sugars, fibre, potassium and vitamin B1, it may help to fight cancers and lower cholesterol.

Best served Whole – it loses some of its nutrients when it is in juice form.


Benefits One of nature's best sources of omega 3, containing twice as much as in fish oil, which can help to improve the condition of hair, nails and skin, and regulate body weight. Omega 3 fatty acids can also help lower cholesterol and high blood pressure, decrease the risk of blood clots and relieve stress. May help to kill cancer cells, relieve premenstrual stress, help in the treatment of arthritis, relieve asthma and help decrease allergies and skin conditions. It also helps the kidneys remove sodium and water and may increase vitality.

Best served As seeds, grounded in a pestle and mortar; add to soups or casseroles, or to homemade bread.

Food-July20-04-grapefruit-382Oily fish

Benefits High in protein and polyunsaturated fats such as omega 6 and omega 3. Plays a vital role in brain function and may help prevent cardiovascular disease.

Best served By itself, with a salad, or on toast.


Benefits High in antioxidants, which may help to lower cholesterol and high blood pressure. Regular consumption can potentially prevent heart disease, reduce the risks of prostate and breast cancers, and slow down Alzheimer's disease.

Best served Raw, as a juice, or add the seeds to a feta salad.


Benefits Considered to be better for the body than bananas, broccoli, beetroot, nuts and avocados (five and a half times as much fibre as bananas and more vitamin C than avocados). They contain the mineral selenium and are higher in vitamin B9 than broccoli. Eating potatoes twice a day could help to lower blood pressure.

Best served As new potatoes, boiled and served with butter or olive oil and a little chopped mint or parsley.

Pumpkin seeds

Benefits May help to reverse the effects of osteoporosis, alleviate migraines, insomnia and depression, prevent cardiovascular diseases and regulate high blood pressure.

Best served Whole, in their shells, as they provide extra fibre. Roasted pumpkin seeds can be added to homemade breads.


Benefits A good source of protein, vitamins, minerals and omega 3 fats, which can help reduce blood clotting and inflammation. Omega 3 may also help to prevent depression and the onset of dementia.

Best served Steamed in foil with a little olive oil, lemon juice and dill.


Benefits Contains complete proteins, usually only found in meats, and is high in fibre. Thought to have antiageing qualities and could alleviate the symptoms of the menopause.

Best served Often sold as a milk, or in a yogurt form; can be a healthy addition to a risotto.


Benefits Packed with vitamins A, C and E, flavonoids (natural anti-inflammatory compounds) and potassium. High in the antioxidant lycopene, which helps to rid the body of free radicals, as well as help fight certain cancers and muscular degeneration. Also thought to help the body's defence against UV rays and reduce cholesterol.

Best served Cooked, to get the full benefit (eg, roasted with a little oil, then mashed on toast), or raw as a snack, or as a salad, sliced and drizzled with olive oil.


Benefits Contains the active ingredient curcumin, thought to help fight the growth of cancers, naturally detoxify the liver and slow the progression of Alzheimer's. It is an anti-inflammatory and a natural painkiller. The Chinese have used it for years as an antidepressant.

Best served As one of the ingredients in a vegetable curry; try Nigel Slater's recipe on                


Benefits Packed with vitamins A and C and the amino acid citrulline, which helps lower the risk of high blood pressure, and aids cell division, to enable the body to heal by creating new tissue. Contains lycopene, which helps protect the body from UV rays.

Best served In large slices, freshly cut, or as part of a salad.


Benefits Natural yogurt is high in B vitamins and calcium, which help build healthy bones and teeth.

Best served With lots of fresh fruit.

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