Superfoods to the rescue!

Salmon with roast tomatoes and squash, blueberry and walnut flapjacks, spinach and bean salad... Mediterranean vegetables...even a nice cup of tea...

Sound good? Believe it or not, these are just some of the foods that can help you lose weight while protecting yourself against a whole host of diseases.

Being overweight can increase your risk of diseases such as diabetes, some cancers and heart disease. But the good news is that even a small reduction in weight if you are overweight will be beneficial to your health all round. What’s even better to know is that eating certain super-healthy foods could not only help you lose weight but will lower your risk for diseases and help you look a million dollars at the same time!

According to Dr Steven Pratt, there are 14 foods that no healthy diet should be without. These foods are power houses of nutrition, helping you lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, so lowering your risk of heart disease, helping fight cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration and, of course, obesity.

So what are these magic ingredients? Dr Pratt’s 14 superfoods are: beans, blueberries, broccoli, oats, oranges, pumpkin, salmon, soy, tea, tomatoes, turkey, walnuts and yoghurt.

So do your health and your waist a favour! Whether you favour low fat or low carb, read on to see if you’re getting these smart foods…

Salmon and oily fish
These oily fish have fewer calories than red meat and are a good source of protein without the LDL-raising saturated fat. These fish contain omega-3 fatty acids which help lower triglycerides and reduce the stickiness of blood, making clot formation less likely and thereby reducing the risk of cardiovascular troubles. Not a fish fan? Smaller amounts of omega-3 can be found in soybean and rapeseed oils, flaxseeds and walnuts. These last two are also brimming with fibre.

Oats and beans by the bowlful
Fibrous foods help keep your appetite and weight in check because they are low in calories and very filling. Insoluble fibre (found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables) is touted for its ability to maintain normal bowel functioning. The fibre in oats - as well as peas, beans, apples, pears and citrus fruit - is known as soluble fibre. It improves heart health by lowering cholesterol and keeping blood sugars more stable. And that's something especially important for diabetics. Beans such as lentils, black-eyed beans and chick peas are full of high quality protein, fibre and folate, packing a protective punch for your heart since folate can lower homocysteine levels, an amino acid which is thought to increase risk of heart disease and stroke. These are great staples in low fat diets and a great source of nutrient-dense carbs in the later phases of the Low-Carb plan.

Nuts by the handful
All nuts are nutrition powerhouses. The fats found in them - monounsaturated (almonds, cashews, pecans, hazelnuts, pistachios and peanuts) and polyunsaturated (walnuts) - are the good fats, the only exception being coconuts which are higher in saturated fat. So choosing nuts over snack foods high in saturated fats (like cheese and crisps) will improve your cholesterol profile. They are also solid fibre providers and contain vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that helps prevent cholesterol from damaging the lining of your arteries. The snag is that they're loaded with fat, high in calories and can be very salty (something to beware of if you are watching your blood pressure). So, choose the unsalted variety and buy them in individual-serving bags to help you keep an eye on that portion size.

Colourful fruit and vegetables
We all know that filling up on fruit and vegetables can help you shed pounds and maintain a healthy weight. But they also contain fibre and a combination of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, including antioxidants which help protect your heart. These beneficial factors give fruit and vegetables their colour, turning spinach green, carrots orange, blueberries blue and peppers all colours of the rainbow! Try to include these seven colours of health: red in tomatoes; red-purple in grapes; orange in sweet potatoes; orange-yellow in oranges; yellow-green in avocadoes; green in broccoli and white in onions and garlic. Low fat dieters and Low-Carb Plan followers alike should aim for at least five servings of vegetables each day.

Soy foods
Apart from being low in calories and a good quality protein source without saturated fat, soy foods like soy milk and tofu play a key role in preventing heart disease by decreasing LDL and total cholesterol without decreasing HDL cholesterol. They also have protective antioxidant properties and are a source of omega-3 essential fatty acid. If you’re a vegetarian, you probably already include plenty of soy products in your meals. If not, ease them in with bread made with soy flour, soy muffins, soy burgers or miso soup from the local Japanese restaurant, then move on to soy milk shakes and add tofu, soy beans or textured vegetable protein (TVP) where you’d normally use ground beef.

Turkey
This meat is extremely low in fat and calories and is, of course, carb-free! As a great source of protein, don’t save turkey just for the annual Christmas feast – used minced turkey instead of beef or turkey steak where you’d usually use chicken or pork.

Yoghurt
A great source of calcium, there are more types of yoghurt available almost every day! Whole milk, low fat, live or probiotic – the choice is yours and all types have their merits. If you want good nutrition with next to no calories, go for the diet variety. If you prefer a creamier taste or lower carb content, go Greek! The live bacteria cultures in pro-biotic yoghurts help boost immunity and strengthen the digestive system.

Fancy a cuppa?
Both green and black tea are full of anti-oxidants called polyphenols. These powerful nutrients can help protect us against cancers and heart disease – so put the kettle on!

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Thanks to tescodiets.com who have provided this article.