Spring has sprung, and as well as cherry blossom, daffodils and the occasional sighting of a big yellow orb in the sky, there is now a brand new crop of seasonal and super-healthy foods for you to add to your shopping list. We asked award-winning food writer Diana Henry to fill us in.
Onions, garlic and leeks are all from the allium family which is thought to have many beneficial properties. You know there’s a fuss about the ‘Mediterranean diet’? Well it’s not because of the pasta they shovel down, but for the fact that vegetables, onion and garlic feature at every meal. Leeks, though, have additional appeal as they can be served as a vegetable in their own right, not just as the base of a dish. They contain phytochemicals as well as plenty of vitamin C which supports the immune system and is protective against many diseases, and vitamin B which gives you energy and supports brain function.
2. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Saturated fat (found in butter and dairy produce) is not thought to be as harmful as we once believed but extra virgin olive oil, which is mainly made up of monounsaturated fat, will actually do you good. Research suggests it will protect you against heart disease so drizzle all you want. It’s great in dressings. If you cook with it do so over a fairly gentle heat so that you do not change its structure.
3. Purple Sprouting Broccoli
PSB is around at what I think of as the ‘bright’ end of winter so it straddles winter and spring and, for me, is even better than asparagus. All broccoli is good (regular stuff and tender stem too) but purple sprouting broccoli looks the best (the heads really are a gorgeous purple) and it tastes really sweet. All brassicas, and PSB is part of this family, are good for you (you don’t need me to tell you about kale) but PSB is one of the most palatable ways to eat them. They contain useful minerals and phytochemicals as well as loads of vitamin C, vitamin K and fibre.
In terms of healthiness watercress is at the very top of the class. In fact it’s at the top of something called the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index, a list put together by an American doctor that scores fruit and vegetables from 1 – 1000 based on their nutrient content. Watercress scores 1000. It has more vitamin C than oranges, more calcium than milk, more vitamin E than broccoli and more folate than bananas. It’s also thought to have significant anti cancer properties. Try and have some dressed watercress after or with your meal. You’ll be doing yourself the world of good.
This is a no brainer. Sardines are oily fish and, although all fish are good for you, oily fish are the highest in valuable omega 3. Experts – doctors and nutritionists – aren’t always in agreement about what is healthy (or unhealthy) but there is no disagreement here. As long as they come from a sustainable source and there are lots of them, you can fill your boots with sardines. Salmon is less oily but also a good option for spring. Fresh sardines – brushed with olive oil and griddled – are delicious (they’ll remind you of holidays too) but even tinned sardines (mashed with chopped chilli and parsley and spread on toasted sourdough) are good.
A Change of Appetite by Diana Henry, published by Mitchell Beazley, £25 octopusbooks.co.uk
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