We’re back for another round of positive nutrition, recognising the unsung heroes of the food world. To avoid focusing so much on foods that should be avoided (although we’re for everything in moderation), we’re blowing the trumpet a second time for more nutritional winners.
If you believe “healthy food is bland” then you haven’t used herbs. With so many different varieties and flavours, adding just a small amount will transform your dish from zero to hero without adding extra calories or fat. Herbs also have many nutritional benefits so they’re the perfect addition to any meal.
Coriander has a variety of uses, predominantly in Asian or South American cuisine. The leaves contain Vitamin K, which helps to regulate your blood sugar, and Vitamin A to help soothe eyes against stress and protect against conjunctivitis.
Mint has been used for thousands of years as a natural remedy for digestive ailments like indigestion and gas. Steeping mint leaves in hot water is a quick and easy reliever of discomfort, and is especially refreshing after a meal.
Using fresh herbs over dried will maintain their nutritional profile. To keep herbs fresher for longer, keep them in a jar of water on your windowsill or a zip-lock bag in the fridge.
A common snack, almonds are high in protein, fibre and unsaturated fatty acids (the good kinds our bodies need for energy). Almonds also contain Vitamin E, promoting sharp eyesight and zinc, essential for immunity, wound healing and brain function. Almonds are additionally a great source of magnesium, which helps to improve blood and oxygen flow around the body. Choose almonds with their skins still on, as that’s where many of their nutritional properties are found. Almond butter is also a great topping for your porridge or on toast, but ensure it contains 100% nuts as many include unnecessary oils and sugar.
Without these little guys, there would be no hummus - and what’s life without hummus?! Chickpeas are a great source of folate, which mainly aids in the production of new cells. Folate is important in times of rapid cell growth such as pregnancy and it can help prevent certain birth defects. Chickpeas are also high in iron, essential for carrying oxygen in our blood. Red meat and offal have high levels of iron, but chickpeas are a good vegetarian source of this essential mineral.
Although chickpeas don’t contain all 8 essential amino acids and therefore aren’t a ‘complete’ protein, they’re still a good source for non meat-eaters. Pairing chickpeas with other proteins such as eggs, quinoa and dairy will increase protein levels, essential for muscle growth and repair and to keep those hunger pangs at bay.
Most popular in Middle Eastern cuisine, tahini is a paste made of ground sesame seeds and is extremely underrated compared to other nut and seed butters. Tahini is high in omega 3 and 6 that your body doesn’t produce itself. Rich in B Vitamins, tahini also helps to boost energy and aids in optimum brain function. As if that wasn’t enough, tahini is a great source of calcium for strong and healthy bones. Although tahini contains almost triple the amount of calcium than milk and is higher in protein than most nuts, you’d have to eat an excessive amount to reach these levels. Go for unhulled brands of tahini, as like with almonds, most of the nutrients are in the outer skin of the seed. Tahini is a versatile ingredient that can be added to hummus, salad dressings or in baking.
Try this Herby Chickpea Salad recipe, which incorporates all these powerhouse ingredients to create a great side dish for meat or fish, or even a light meal in itself.
Herby Chickpea Salad
Guideline per serving: 490 kcal, P: 21g, F: 19g, C: 57g
- 100g dry quinoa, cooked
- 400g tin chickpeas, drained
- Handful of coriander, parsley, mint, finely chopped
- Juice of a whole lemon
- 1 tbsp tahini
- 30g unsalted almonds
- Salt and pepper
1. The easiest recipe ever, literally throw everything into a bowl and mix well to combine it all together. Et Voila!