~ Superfoods: The Fabulous Five

Every Week We Hear of a New Superfood, But Which Is Really Best? Nutritionist Natalie Savona Gives Her Verdict Health Fitness

Evening Standard - London, 07-06-06

THE FIVE BEST

Blueberries. Full of antioxidant vitamins and minerals, particularly anthocyanidins that increase the potency of the vitamin C. Good for the vascular system and lower cholesterol, we should all eat these universally acclaimed berries every day.

Verdict: *****

Broccoli. A power-packed vegetable that boosts the immune system. It is rich in vitamin C, and high in fibre and glucosinolates, which help in detoxifying the liver.

Verdict: *****

Hemp seeds. Loaded with omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids needed for all brain and body functions including memory and good mood - along with zinc, calcium and magnesium. They're excellent, but grind them or they won't be properly digested.

Verdict: *****

Oats. They provide slow-release energy along with mood-balancing B- vitamins and help achieve lower blood cholesterol. The ideal breakfast.

Verdict: *****

Oily fish. High in omega-3 essential fatty acids which are vital for physical and mental health, including mood-balancing. An essential food.

Verdict: *****

AND THE REST ...

Avocado. Full of healthy monounsaturated fats, fibre and high in antioxidants including vitamin E, which help prevent the onset of degenerative diseases. Probably the most nutritious fruit in the world and it just misses my top five.

Verdict: ****

Banana. Offers slow release of energy plus vitamin B6 and potassium, while fructoligosaccharides help the "good" bacteria in the gut. Bananas are the ultimate healthy fast-food.

Verdict: ***

Brazil nuts. In addition to protein, they contain selenium to protect against cancer and improve thyroid function. Good, but high in calories.

Verdict: ***

Cranberries. High in vitamin C and effective in preventing urinary infections. Tart taste means they are usually accompanied by lots of sugar.

Verdict: **

Eggs. Rich in vitamins A, B, D, E and protein. They don't, as previously thought, affect blood-cholesterol levels.

Verdict: ***

Garlic. Very high in antioxidants as well as possessing antiviral and antibacterial qualities. Best eaten raw.

Verdict: ****

Honey (especially Manuka honey). Rich in nutrients and with healing qualities. Local honey is meant to help immunity to hay fever. It's good, but it's still sugar.

Verdict: **

Kiwis. So full of vitamin C that they can help reduce blood clotting. High in fibre, they contain an enzyme that helps digest protein.

Verdict: ***

Olive oil. Monounsaturated fats help to reduce cholesterol levels. Good but beware the calories.

Verdict: ***

Oranges. Packed with vitamin C to help boost the immune system and bioflavinoids, powerful antioxidants important for the health of blood vessels. Choose sun-ripened fruit for high vitamin C content.

Verdict: ***

Oysters. The best-known natural source of zinc which, it is claimed, can help lift depression. Interesting, but not proven.

Verdict: *

Pomegranates. High in vitamin C to fight heart disease; also said to help boost fertility and protect skin against the sun. Good but expensive and hard to find.

Verdict: ***

Probiotic drinks. They are said to boost the number of good "friendly" bacteria in the digestive tract. But they are usually full of sugar, which helps unfriendly bacteria to flourish, too.

Verdict: *

Spinach. Full of iron, calcium, magnesium and the antioxidant beta-carotene. Eat with a squeeze of lemon juice as the vitamin C helps the body absorb iron.

Verdict: ****

Tomatoes. A rich source of antioxidant vitamin C and lycopene, which has been shown to guard against cancer. Eat cooked to release the key nutrients.

Verdict: ****

Natalie Savona is author of Wonderfoods (Quadrille, Pounds 12.99).

Compiled by Alice Hart-Davis.
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