Superfoods are some of nature's greatest gifts. These foods are unique in the range, and amount, of particular nutrients known to promote good health.
Apricots are a stone fruit that originally came from China, from there they spread to the Middle East and eventually the Mediterranean and Europe, where they are still a big part of local cuisine. Apricots are an excellent source of vitamin C, they also contain B vitamins, beta carotene and fibre.
Artichokes are vegetables that have two distinct varieties. Both are classified as artichokes as they have similar tastes, but the texture, appearance and preparation are totally different. Globe artichokes are a good source of fibre, folate and calcium, while Jerusalem artichokes are a good source of fibre and iron.
Asparagus is a member of the lily family. The spears are the shoots from the crown of the plant which are 20cm underground. It takes up to 3 years for crowns to develop enough to begin producing shoots, but once they do, they can produce for up to 20 years. Asparagus is an excellent source of vitamin K (important for blood clotting) and folate. It is also a good source of vitamin A, B2, B3, C and fibre.
Avocados are different from all other fruit as they are high in fat. The type of fat found in avocado is predominantly monounsaturated fat, which is also known as the ‘good’ fat. They contain no cholesterol and little saturated fat, making them a healthy food option. Avocados are also a good source of folate and fibre.
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The banana plant is not a tree, its actually a giant herb. Thought to have originated in Malaysia, bananas are now grown in most tropical and subtropical countries. They are one of the most popular fruit in the world and serve as a staple food in many countries. Bananas are an excellent source of vitamin B6 which is important for cognitive function and immune function. They are also a good source of fibre, vitamin C, potassium and manganese.
Basil is an essential summer herb in many recipes and is also a delightful addition to your garden due to its aromatic properties. Depending on the variety of basil the scent may be strong clove, citrus, liquorice or cinnamon. Basil contains a large range of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients essential for wellbeing.
Beetroot is a root vegetable that originated in southern Europe. It was originally grown for its leaves, although now both the leaves and root are eaten. Beetroot is a great source of antioxidants, contains vitamins C, and B vitamins including folate, and is a source of potassium and fibre.
Bok choy, like all asian greens, is highly nutritious. Bok choy is a great source of vitamin C, folate and fibre, and an excellent source of the vitamin A precursor beta-carotene, and numerous health promoting antioxidants.
Broccoli is one of the most widely researched members of the brassica family and is renowned for its health giving properties. Broccoli is known to have a protective effect against cancer. It also contains a wide range of phytochemicals which protect against many chronic diseases.
Chia seeds are the ripe seeds from the plant Salvia hispanica which is native to Mexico. Chia seeds are a great plant source of the omega-3, are also a good source of fibre and protein, and contain good levels of the bone minerals calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. They have a high antioxidant activity and are low GI.
Ironically, the coconut is not a nut but a drupe - a fruit with a hard stone. Coconut flesh is a source of fibre, iron and folate. It also contains high levels of saturated fat so should be eaten in small amounts.
Fennel is unique in that is can be classified as a vegetable, herb and spice. It has a taste similar to liquorice and aniseed and belongs to the Umbellifereae family and is therefore closely related to parsley, carrots, dill and coriander. Fennel bulbs are a source of fibre, vitamin C and folate. The seeds are sources of fibre, potassium, calcium and iron.
Originally named ‘forbidden fruit’ in the 1700s, grapefruit are an excellent source of vitamin C, which is essential for healthy teeth, gums and blood vessels and improves iron absorption and immune function.
Leeks are a bulb vegetable belonging to the Allium family which also includes garlic, onion and shallots. Leeks are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin E and some B vitamins including folate, and they also contain the minerals copper, iron and potassium.
Legumes include lentils, chickpeas, cannellini beans, butter beans, borlotti beans, navy beans, soy beans and many more. They are grouped together as they provide similar nutritional qualities, with soybeans having a very high protein quality score - similar to that of beef, egg and dairy.
Quinces are one of the earliest known fruit and are related to apples and pears. Quinces are a good source of vitamin C which is essential for healthy teeth, gums and blood vessels, and improves iron absorption and immune function.
© Australian Health & Nutrition Association Ltd.