Nutrition: Local superhero foods are the way to go...

Frozen or frosted berries bowl placed on sea blue wooden background.
Frozen or frosted berries bowl placed on sea blue wooden background.

IF YOU are just back from a fortnight in the sun (or rain if you stayed closer to home), you could be forgiven for thinking it is autumn, rather than high summer around these parts.

With the rest of Europe sweltering in heatwaves, we are getting the drab, wet days that we are so used to – and what seems to make this little corner of the world seem so exotic to tourists heading to the rain-soaked Emerald Isle. We have a lot to thank our climate for, not least the conditions to grow some of the most nutritious foods known.

When we consider the type of foods that get the accolade of being called a superfood – it is often exotic foods like acai berries or turmeric – foods that don’t grow on our doorstep. But when you consider what makes a food super, I think we have a lot of food heroes here too.

The term ‘superfood’ is a marketing term rather than having much nutritional merit, but in my opinion, there are certain things that make a food super.

A wholefood that has not been processed, refined or produced in a factory.

A food that is packed full of vitamins, minerals, fibre, healthy fats, antioxidants and other nutritional goodies.

A food that can become a regular part of our diet.

A food that is local and in season – fewer food miles and more nutrition on your plate.

Here are some of my favourite local super foods:

Flax seed is a healthy option to add to meals
Flax seed is a healthy option to add to meals


For many of us, flaxseed is a daily ingredient in our breakfast bowl. It is a fantastic source of both soluble and insoluble fibre, contains decent levels of omega 3 essential fats, provides hormone-balancing phytoestrogens (called lignans) and packs a punch in terms of its vitamin and mineral content. It is a lovely source of magnesium, which is often lacking in the western diet and is important for muscle function, stress balance and energy production. It is best to use flaxseed in its milled form. Local brand Linwoods do a great range of milled flaxseeds that are easy to incorporate into your daily diet.


The humble oat is a low GI wholegrain that thrives in our climate. Oats are a great source of soluble fibre. A 40g bowl will provide about a third of your daily fibre requirements. Most of this fibre comes from a polysaccharide called beta-glucan that has been associated with lowering cholesterol and supporting a healthy immune system.

Oats also provide us with B vitamins, selenium, magnesium.

Choose jumbo oats or pinhead oats are the best choice in my opinion, as they have the lowest glycaemic index. Keep an eye on the sugar content of oat-based cereals (aim for a maximum of 5g per 100g), otherwise the sugar will outdo the health benefits.

Brassicas are well known to be a superfood
Brassicas are well known to be a superfood


Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale and rocket are some of the veggies that belong to the brassica family. These superfoods have been associated with everything from reducing our cancer risk to balancing our hormones, and a whole lot in between.

It’s the sulphur-containing compounds that do the trick. Packed with sulphorphane, brassicas should be a daily part of our diet.

Eat them any way you like – in salads, soups, stir-frys, baked, steamed or roasted.


Onions, garlic, leeks and scallions have been a part of the Irish diet for generations and these humble vegetables have a lot of health benefits, from supporting cardiovascular health to immune benefits, these are staples in most kitchens, with a whole lot of health benefits.

Berries and currants

This is the best time of year for some of the most delicious superfoods around: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants are all full of polyphenols that have a promising effect on the abundance and diversity of good bacteria in our gut microbiome.

When it comes to super-powering your nutrition, variety is key, so eat an abundance of fresh, local produce. Keep an eye on what is in season and try something new every once in a while.

Some other seasonal superfoods to try and include in your diet are: beetroot, new potatoes, tomatoes, beans and peas.

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