Nutrition with Jane McClenaghan: Health food to include in your weekly shopping

Brassica vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, pa choi, radishes, kale, rocket, cauliflower have a powerful effect on our immune system
Jane McClenaghan

What’s in your basket? The foods you put into shopping basket will transform your health, so make them count. The more variety we can get into our diet, the better. By eating a wide range of natural foods, you will be bumping up your nutritional intake, maximising your fibre intake and getting a whole host of vitamins and minerals on your plate.  Here are some of my favourite natural health foods to include in your shopping trolley: 

1. Anything from the brassica family

Brassica vegetables, also known as cruciferous veg, are packed full of wonderful ingredients like isothiocyanate and indole-3-carbinol that have a powerful effect on our immune system and detoxification pathways. They support our liver to detoxify properly, have powerful antioxidant properties and are favoured by the friendly probiotic bacteria in our gut microbiome. Choose from broccoli, cabbage (red, white, Savoury – any you like), brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, turnip, pa choi, radishes, kale, rocket, cauliflower. 

How often? At least one portion every day 

Try something new: Try roasting your cauli with some olive oil, a little salt and pepper and some fresh thyme at 180C for about 35-45minutes until golden. Serve with a squeeze of lemon as a side. Or give brussel sprouts a whole new dimension by roasting until golden.

The higher the cocoa content of your chocolate, the lower its sugar content

2. Dark chocolate

If you love chocolate, then do yourself a favour and swap to the dark side. The higher the cocoa content of your chocolate, the lower its sugar content, and the higher its polyphenol content. Polyhphenols are key antioxidant nutrient that are important for immunity, cell health and the balance in our microbiome. 

How often? A little every day. Less is more with dark chocolate. You will probably find it a lot more satisfying than sugar-laden milk chocolate bars and before you know it, you’ll prefer the dark stuff. 

Try something new: Aim for a minimum of 70 per cent cocoa chocolate and enjoy a little every day. Go as dark as you dare – 85 per cent is your next step, or even 100 percent if you like it really bitter and not at all sweet. 

3. Fermented foods

In recent years there has been a transition in the supermarket aisles as we lean more about the importance of looking after our gut microbiome. Natural probiotic foods like live yoghurt, miso, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha are now widely available and are a much better bet than some of the alternative probiotic foods and yoghurt drinks, which are often very high in sugar. 

How often? Eat something fermented most days 

Try something new: Keep an eye out for these naturally fermented foods and try kefir on your breakfast, kimchi in your sandwich or use miso paste as the base for a stir-fry sauce.

4. Nuts and seeds

Packed with essential fats, a decent hit of protein, and a great source of zinc, selenium, calcium, vitamin E, nuts and seeds are always on my shopping list. Mix it up and buy a different one each week. My favourites are chia, flaxseed, brazil nuts and pumpkin seeds. 

How often? About a tablespoonful a day 

Try something new: Get into the habit of adding flax or chia to your breakfast to add a little pop of protein to your morning. You will probably feel fuller for longer and be less likely to reach for a sweet thing mid-morning. 

Green tea is well known for its health benefits

5. Green tea and good quality coffee

Make your drinks count too. Green tea is well known for its health benefits and contains an ingredient called l-theanine, which has calming effects on the body. Replace instant coffee with really good quality, organic coffee and make it a treat. One of my favourites is Exhale coffee – only available online, but packed with antioxidants and many health benefits. 

How often? Two to four cups of green tea a day and one decent coffee – keep it to mornings though, otherwise it can affect sleep if taken after lunchtime, 

Try something new: Enjoy the ritual of your tea or coffee making and drinking, Make coffee a treat, rather than a habit.