One of the best beauty foods around, berries are famous for their high levels of vitamins and antioxidants, particularly anthocyanins which give the fruit their red and purple colour. Berries are proven to help weight management, calm inflammation, boost your brain and protect your skin from ageing. Top of the charts are blackcurrants with more than twice the anthocyanins and 37 times the vitamin C of blueberries, which come in second. Blackberries are in third place, followed by raspberries and strawberries, which, while lower in anthocyanins, are still high in total antioxidant activity and vitamin C.
Top tips: Those smaller ‘value’ brand blueberries you pass over in the supermarket? They’re actually higher in phytonutrients as well as half the price. Smaller blueberries are richer in anthocyanins as the purple pigments are found almost exclusively in the skin and smaller berries have more skin, gram for gram.
Simmer up blueberries into a tasty three-minute compote and you get 100 per cent more antioxidants than scoffing them raw.
Do you add berries to your cereal or yoghurt? It may be worth alternating dairy milk and yoghurt with non-dairy alternatives. New research suggests milk protein reduces the absorption of vitamin C. In one study, combining strawberries with yoghurt led to a 23 per cent decrease in total antioxidant activity. Try making smoothies or porridge with almond milk or soy.
Often passed over for more exotic superfoods, citrus fruits are still one of the most nutrient-dense options in the fruit bowl. More than just a great source of vitamin C, the juicy fruits offer a bounty of flavonol antioxidants shown to help protect you from cancer, heart disease and brain ageing, as well as boosting your skin. Here’s how to reap even more benefits…
Top tips:Picking the deepest colour citrus fruits can significantly boost your nutrition benefits. Blood oranges, pink grapefruits, mandarins and clementines are all richer in healthy antioxidant pigments than regular oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes. Blood oranges – which produce their distinctive red anthocyanins when exposed to low temperatures – contain up to 80 per cent more polyphenols and five times the antioxidant activity of a regular navel orange.
It’s not just root veg that make great crisps. Research shows oven-drying your citrus fruits can enhance their antioxidant powers. Try making orange crisps by placing thin slices onto a baking tray and cooking for three hours at 100oC, turning halfway through. Not only do they look great, they have between 60 and 70 per cent more polyphenols than fresh slices.
When it comes to salad leaves, more colourful varieties contain higher vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients than their paler relatives. And there are other surprising ways to boost your bowl, too.
Top tips: Make sure your salad packs a nutritional punch by opting for dark green leaves. Pick darker green Romaine over pallid Iceberg and you get up to 20 times the vitamin A and betacarotene. You’d have to eat five servings of Iceberg to get the same amount of folic acid and vitamin K as a single serving of Romaine. Other great choices include spinach, baby kale and rocket.
Do you always pick tightly closed heads of lettuce? You’re missing out – exposure to sunlight triggers leafy greens to produce their health-giving (often bitter) phytochemical pigments as a form of UV protection. Loose-leafed varieties whose leaves are exposed to the sun will contain far more phytonutrients than tightly closed ones. One study found external leaves can contain three times as many polyphenols as those in the centre.
Do you avoid bags of prepared salad, thinking they’ll have less nutrients? Not so. First up, research shows commercial storage has little effect on the nutrient levels of leaves. Second, slicing or tearing a leaf – effectively wounding it – can send its levels of phytochemicals soaring, as the leaf rushes to defend itself. Pop cut lettuce in a sealed container in the fridge overnight and the polyphenols can increase by 50 per cent.
Affordable and packed with health benefits – from controlling your appetite and cleansing your body to lowering cholesterol and reducing diabetes risk – an apple a day can do far more than keep the doctor away if you employ the following tricks.
Top tips: Always stick to Golden Delicious? It’s time to get more adventurous in your apple selection. Trials show that some varieties can contain up to five times the antioxidants as others. Braeburn apples come top in antioxidant league table, followed by Red Delicious and Pink Lady, according to research by The University of Leeds. Generally, the redder the better – the rosy colour, produced in response to sunlight, is the pigment that gives the fruit many of its health benefits.
Even once they’re harvested, apples continue to react to sunlight producing more of their health- giving pigment. So store them on the sill.
Find out more amazing tips in James Wong’s book, How to Eat Better.