Have a healthy appetite

Sarah Stelling with healthy foods. Picture Ian Rutherford
Sarah Stelling with healthy foods. Picture Ian Rutherford
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As research claims that two helpings of oily fish a week can stave off strokes, we discover the latest flavours of the month.

THEY are hailed as the elixirs of beauty and health, but with a new “superfood” apparently being proclaimed on a regular basis, it can be hard to keep track of the current flavour of the month.

Whether it’s red wine and coffee, or raspberries and walnuts, they have all had their moment in the spotlight having been lauded as the best thing since rye bread.

This week – and not for the first time – it was the turn of oily fish, after new research suggested two helpings a week could ward off strokes.

But nutritionist Sarah Stelling, of the Edinburgh Centre of Nutrition and Therapy in Tollcross, explains that variety is the spice of life – as well as the key to a healthy diet.

“There are hundreds of healthy foods out there,” she says. “The most important thing is to build a natural, whole food diet, rich in fruit and 

“I’ve been practising in Edinburgh for 12 years and people are now far more aware of their diet, but there’s still a long way to go.

“We work with people’s individual body chemistry. A superfood for one person may not be one for someone else.”

Here, Sarah and colleague Roisin Cooke offer examples of ten of their key foods.

1. Oats

Great Scottish grain which releases energy slowly and is an excellent source of fibre, including a special fibre, beta glucan, which may help lower cholesterol. Oats are also rich in tryptophan which can help aid sleep. Putting oats into a bath can help relieve skin conditions. Oats can be eaten as porridge or muesli, oatcakes, and added to muffins or crumble toppings.

2. Brussels Sprouts

A proper superfood! High in vitamins A, C, E, K and folate as well as sulphur compounds which can help with liver detoxification. Especially useful for removing old hormones, a build-up of which can lead to health problems. Also rich in zeaxanthin, an antioxidant which can help with skin and eye health. They should be chewed properly or chopped to release their health giving properties. They can be steamed, stir-fried, or added to soups.

3. Quinoa

A rich vegetarian source of both complex carbohydrate and complete protein which will help maintain good energy levels. Particularly high in magnesium and iron and the amino acid Lysine, which is important for growth and repair and can help prevent cold sores. It’s very easy to cook, just add to soups and stews, or boil and use instead of rice or cous cous. Great as part of a vegan diet and it’s gluten free so ideal for anyone with coeliac disease.

4. Beetroot

A small glass of beetroot juice a day can help lower blood pressure or before sport may help performance. It is excellent for detoxification as it is rich in protective antioxidants and other compounds which may help prevent cancer. A good source of iron and potassium. Grate raw beetroot into salads or with carrots for a delicious coleslaw. It can also be oven roasted. Choose raw over the pickled variety.

5. Turmeric/Ginger

Closely related, turmeric and ginger have powerful anti-inflammatory and healing properties. Turmeric, or the active compound curcumin, has been extensively studies for a potential anti-cancer effect. They may relieve joint pain, support a healthy heart, promote digestive health as well as aiding detoxification. Grate fresh root into soups, stews and stir-fries, or to make a warming tea.

6. Linseeds

Also known as flaxseeds, a great source of vegetarian Omega 3 oils which have anti-inflammatory properties. They also contain compounds which help balance female hormones. A rich source of fibre, two teaspoons soaked in water daily may help with constipation. Do not heat flax oil, instead use as a salad dressing. The seeds can be added to salads or cereals. For maximum benefit crush or grind before eating.

7. Pomegranate

Very rich in antioxidants which protect cells and have anti-ageing effects. They also support liver detoxification and prostate health. Eat the fruit as a snack, sprinkle on salads or cereal, or drink the juice. A good tip to get the seeds out easily – cut in half and hit hard on the skin with a wooden spoon.

8. Berries

A rich source of phytonutrients such as bioflavonoids and also vitamin C. Berries may help promote healthy circulation and skin. Recent studies show blueberries may help protect the brain and support memory. Raspberry leaf tea may relieve heavy periods. Cranberries are used to help prevent urinary tract infections. Eat fresh or frozen for breakfast or in smoothies.

9. Game or grass-fed meat

Concern over too much red meat is due to the high levels of saturated fat. Game or grass-fed meat, such as venison, is very low in saturated fat but a good source of protein. Rich in “haem” iron which is more readily absorbed, and also B vitamins which are important for energy. Enjoy sautéed, roasted or in a stew with root vegetables.

10. Watercress

Watercress is particularly good for supporting healthy blood due to the B vitamins and iron it contains. It also contains iodine which can help a sluggish thyroid. It may help with detoxification and is cancer protective. It has more calcium than spinach. Watercress makes a wonderful soup and is delicious in salads, or replace it for basil to make a great pesto.