I get asked all the time about what I think about "superfoods"; 'Are they really super?', 'Is it all a marketing scam?' or 'Do I only need to eat those foods?'.
The truth is that there is not one selection of foods which provide you with everything you need to prosper. So no, it doesn't mean you should just buy these foods and do away with anything else in the cupboard, because the chances are that you will end up being deficient in something.
Instead, I believe that almost all natural foods are super in their own way. Yes, there are some that are better than others but the simple truth is that eating a rainbow of colours and getting a good balance of the food groups is all you need to do.
Saying this, there are definitely some foods that I think are great to keep stock of in your kitchen, all for different reasons, and not only because of their nutritional value. Read on to find out some of my favourite staple foods:
They contain high-quality, easily-digestible protein, which is important for many functions in the body including cell growth and repair. Plus, not only are they a great source of protein, but they are also packed full of most of the notable vitamins and minerals, including the-hard-to-find vitamin D which aids calcium absorption, as well as B vitamins, which are important for the body's metabolism and immune function. All of this means that eggs are a small, but rich, nutrient bundle.
Using eggs day to day:
Combine these nutritional benefits with the fact that eggs are inexpensive and very adaptable to use in cooking, eat hard-boiled for sandwich fillers, as a snack, or added to salads or, for breakfast, scrambled, poached, baked, fried or simply soft-boiled with a slice of toast. There is no reason why eggs should not be a regular in your shopping basket.
Although available fresh all year round it is worth knowing that it is during March to June that spinach is at its peak nutrition density! However, you can also buy it frozen, which may provide more nutrients outside of these months. Spinach is packed full of iron, which supports red blood cell function and thus the body's energy levels. It is also high in vitamins A and C and is one of the richest vegetable sources of Vitamin K, which is incredibly important for bone health.
Using spinach day to day:
I can't think of many savoury meals that wouldn't work with spinach. It is a great one to add to children's meals if they aren't a vegetable fan, as it is hardly noticeable once stirred into dishes, such as curries, stews, or soups.
Walnuts are a great non-fish based source of omega 3, so if you are not a fish fan, then you need to get some of these into your diet. They are also comparatively high in antioxidants compared to many other foods. These antioxidants protect against cell damage, which is thought to reduce the risk of some cancers and Alzheimer's disease. On top of all these things, walnuts are also high in fibre, low in carbohydrate and a good source of protein for people who don't eat meat.
Using them day to day:
Walnuts are one of those great ingredients that work, both in sweet and savoury dishes, meaning the possibilities are endless. You can crunch them up and throw them over salads, cereals or yoghurt or toast them and toss on top of a curry to add some crunch.
They are an underestimated nutritional power house. Lentils are high in protein, iron and fibre, which is great for digestion. They're high in iron content which, combined with the fact they are a complex carbohydrate, means that lentils are a good source of long-lasting energy. This is because iron supports red blood cells and thus oxygen transport, creating better cell fueling. The complex carbohydrates they contain cause a slow release of energy, which is especially beneficial for people with problems regulating their blood sugar levels.
Using them day to day:
All of these elements make lentils a brilliant meat substitute, but if you can't bring yourself to go completely meat-free, you can cut cost and fat by swapping some of the meat in your meals for this legume. They work perfectly in dishes like chilli con carne or lasagne.
The use of this pungent bulb has been used in medicine for centuries. This is because it contains a compound called allicin which is also the source of garlic's powerful taste and smell. Allicin is a natural antibacterial and has been found to reduce bad cholesterol (LDL), increase good cholesterol (HDL) while also improving general circulation around the body. This reduces the risk of heart-related conditions and cardiac events. It is also high in several vitamins and minerals including manganese which is beneficial to bone and skin health, as well as vitamins B6 and C.
Using them day to day:
All of this and it also adds amazing flavour to all kinds of foods, reducing the need to add less healthy flavouring, such as salt and/or fat.
Rose Constantine Smith is an AfN registered Nutritionist based in Suffolk, UK. Follow Rose on twitter: @Rose_Nutrition