In Dr Johanna Ward's book Superfoods To Superhealth, she explains how poor food choices are at the heart of most modern, western disease – such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and auto-immune disease. Here, she lists the top 14 foods that can boost your health, and lead to a longer life.
They are anti-inflammatory and help reduce blood pressure and oxidative stress, which can lead to cell and tissue damage. They also help to reduce your cholesterol levels. Just eight strawberries contain 120% of your daily vitamin C needs.
Garlic is top of the list of anti-cancer foods listed in 2009’s Food Chemistry journal. It’s useful for reducing blood pressure and for boosting our immunity.
Mushrooms are a functional food, which means they play a role in human health beyond nutrition. Low in calories and dense in micronutrients, they are thought to be one of the most researched anti-cancer agents. The shiitake mushroom has been singled out as the most beneficial to human health, and is believed to help protect against 200-plus conditions.
Nuts are nutritional powerhouses. Regular consumption of a handful of nuts can add up to two years to your life. They’re a healthy source of fat, and are packed with protein. Of all nuts, walnuts seem to have the best health profile and cancer-preventing benefits.
Sweet potatoes are nutrient-packed superfoods. Loaded with fibre, antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals – great for combating renegade free radicals that could damage your DNA.
Avocados contain more potassium than bananas, and their monounsaturated fatty acids are great for the heart.
Legumes such as chickpeas, lentils and beans are full of natural goodness, including zinc, iron, folate, potassium and fibre, and are a low-calorie source of healthy fats, protein and fibre. Lentils are particularly good for you, as they are high in fibrous prebiotics.
Goji berries’ potent antioxidant properties have meant they have a long history in traditional medicinal therapies, and are linked to longevity, strength and sexual vigour. Studies have shown they are beneficial for diabetics, protect the heart, can improve sexual function and are of benefit to the brain. They are also good for vision.
Chia seeds are a superb source of vegetarian omega-3 and are loaded with nutrients. They contain abundant antioxidants and have a good balance of amino acids, the building blocks of tissue. Add them to smoothies or porridge.
Flaxseeds are the richest vegetarian source of omega-3. But they also have other health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, reducing atherosclerosis (furring of the arteries) and protecting against some cancers. To get the full benefits, eat them as ground flaxseed or as flaxmeal.
Kefir is a yoghurt-like fermented milk drink and a wonderful source of probiotics. Modern diets have virtually lost their probiotic content, leaving our guts perilously low in healthy bacteria. Kefir can also be found in dairy-free form, like coconut kefir, for those who are vegan or intolerant of dairy products.
Herbs and spices
Herbs and spices often have powerful health benefits. Oregano, turmeric, ginger, sage, parsley, chilli, cayenne pepper, cumin, rosemary, mint and cinnamon all have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits and have been included in the human diet for centuries to help protect against disease.
Spirulina may well be the most nutritious superfood on the planet, gram for gram. It is a highly nutritious biomass of cyanobacteria, a type of blue-green algae, and is packed with vitamins, minerals, high-quality protein and omega-3. Add spirulina powder to smoothies.
Cacao is a true superfood. It contains more antioxidants than blueberries. Dark chocolate containing more than 75% cacao delivers great antioxidant benefits. The flavanols in cacao can stimulate the cells that line the insides of blood and lymphatic vessels to produce nitric oxide, which is beneficial for vascular health.