If you believe the press and the marketing machine, these are everywhere. Except here. Goji berries from China. Acai from South America. Wheatgrass from the USA. Noni fruit from Tahiti. Blue-green algae from, erm, the sea. Of course, being so exotic, these superfoods don’t come cheap. But hey – you can’t put a price on your health, right?
The truth, though, is somewhat different – and far cheaper! Any food with a high phytonutrient content can be classed as a superfood. Judged by this criterion, there are all sorts of everyday, easily obtainable, and cheap fruits and vegetables that can proudly carry the title of superfood. Did you know that:
- Broccoli, cabage and cauliflower contain phytochemicals that help to prevent breast, colon and rectal cancer.
- Garlic is packed with chemical compounds that support the immune system.
- Brazil nuts are packed with selenium that can help to combat Alzheimer’s disease.
- Cranberries contain chemicals that can help lower levels of bad cholesterol.
- Flaxseeds are a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids which can help to reduce heart disease and strokes.
- Pumpkins and carrots (and indeed all yellow vegetables and fruit) are packed with beta-carotene which is thought to lower the risk of cancers including skin cancer.
Which brings us to the humble blueberry. These little guys contain some of the highest concentrations of antioxidants of any vegetable, and they share with cranberries the ability to prevent urinary tract infections. What gives them their colour is the pigment anthocyanin – and studies also show that anthocynanin inhibits cancer at all stages of its development. The best news of all is that scientists doubt whether synthetically produced anthocyanin will have the same effects – so you will just have to eat the berries themselves to get the full health benefits
And why, you may ask, am I a walking encyclopaedia on the topic of superfoods? Well, because I’ve been doing some reading this week on foods that can combat cancer. Yup, it’s that time of year again when the wonderful Chris of Mele Cotte hosts the annual cancer-awareness cooking event Cooking to Beat Cancer. I don’t think any one of us has not been touched by cancer’s cold, bony finger in some way – I have lost 2 friends in the last 5 years – so there reslly is no excuse not to take part. The idea is to make something containing a food which is known as a cancer-fighter, so you could consider tomatoes, most berries, all cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale), pumpkins & squashes, red grapes, cantaloupe melons… the list is pretty long. All of them are superfoods when it comes to fighting cancer – and all are available in regular supermarkets or farmer’s markets.
I did not grow up with blueberries and have never been a huge fan of the fresh berries. For me, the skin to flesh ratio is just wrong, and the taste not as appealing as other berries. But I really want to eat more of them as they are super-good for you. So, with renewed determination, I picked up a punnet of blueberries on the way home from work on Friday and over the weekend I turned them into blueberry muffins, using a recipe from my trusty Muffins Galore recipe book. If you’ve tried store-bought blueberry muffins and found them too sweet and too crumbly, you should really try these. The finished texture of the muffins was a little more scone-like and held together well, even when you started hitting the deliciously oozy berries – and they tasted more of the tart berries than of sugar and sweeteners!
So move over, goji berries! My superfood of choice from now on will be blueberries – baked into a muffin, of course
Looking for other berry muffins from food blogs? Try:
- Sarah’s strawberry muffins with rose icing
- Margot’s smurfberry muffins
- Helen’s white chocolate and cherry muffins
BLUEBERRY MUFFINS (makes 6 jumbo or 12 standard muffins)
300g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
80g caster sugar
200g fresh blueberries
2 eggs,lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pre-heat oven to 200C. Grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin or line the cups with paper muffin cases. Or, if you bought 6 funky jumbo silicone muffin cases on a recent trip to Chicago, use those
Mix the flour and baking powder in a large bowl. Rub the butter into the flour mix until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and the blueberries into the mixture.
In a separate bowl or jug, mix together the milk, eggs and vanilla extract. Pour the egg mixture all at once into the dry ingredients and mix briefly until just combined.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes or until golden (test with a skewer – when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean, the muffins are done).
Allow to cool for 10 minutes, the turn out onto a wire rack. These are delicious both warm and cold.
Don’t forget to get your entries in for this month’s Waiter, There’s Something in My… challenge. The theme is retro classics, so think prawn cocktail, melba toast and steak Diane! The deadline is Sunday 3 May.