Here are some of the best Scottish-sourced superfoods to help boost your health, energy levels and well-being

We are sure by now that you’ll have heard of the term ‘superfood’ but what does it actually mean? A superfood is defined as ‘a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being’.

Thankfully, many of the wonderful foods provided by Scotland’s natural larder fall into this category and when added to a balanced diet can provide great benefits for your health and appearance.

Here are some of the best:

Milk

Everyone in Scotland is familiar with the benefits associated with this wonderful drink, we are all taught from a young age to drink our milk as ‘it’ll make out bones grow strong’, but as adults how many of us truly drink it? Well, except from adding it to our tea or occasionally enjoying the odd bowl of cereal?

The truth of the matter is that unless you are lactose intolerant, milk is really good for you. There is the same amount of calcium in one glass of milk as there is in 12 portions of spinach, eight portions of red kidney beans or more than four servings of broccoli. Some supermarkets and health stores offer milk with added omega-3 fatty acids derived from oily fish – which can also be great for your heart, joints and muscles. There has also been link between omega-3 and the reduction of depression in countries where fatty fish is mainstay of the national diet.

The National Institute of Health recommends drinking three 250ml glasses of milk a day.

Tips: Try adding strawberry juice, chocolate syrup, banana or vanilla extract, if you don’t enjoy the flavour of plain milk. Add milk to a fruit smoothie to get a double boost of vitamins.

Milk

Oats 

Oats are a super grain and are perfect for slow release energy, as such they are perfect for starting off your day right as part of a healthy breakfast.

Unlike other types of wholegrain (wheat and barley), they contain both soluble fibre (beta glucan), which is recognised to actively lower cholesterol, and insoluble fibre, which helps to maintain a healthy digestive system by speeding up transit time through the gut.

Oats can also help to prevent blood sugar spikes so are excellent for type 2 diabetics as well keeping hunger at bay, ideal for those looking to lose weight.

Tips: Start thinking about using oats more in your breakfast; choose an oat-based cereal, create different styles of porridge using fruit or try adding oats to your smoothies. Traditional Scottish dishes like Skirlie and oatcakes are great accompaniments to many meals.

Porridge can be an enjoyable way to get your daily dose of oats. Picture: Pixabay

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Salmon 

Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which helps decrease the risk of heart disease. In addition to the heart-healthy benefits, the omega-3 fats in this fish have also been shown to promote joint health, contribute to the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system, and may possibly help prevent certain types of cancer.  One study found that eating just 3 oz of salmon twice per week can increase levels of HDL (the good cholesterol), compounds important in maintaining a healthy circulatory system.

This fish is also a prime source of protein and contains vitamin A and B vitamins.

Tips: Salmon is a wonderfully versatile food that can be used in a wide range of dishes from breakfast through to dinner. Try using salmon instead of other meats in your lunch time sandwich.

SFFH Ondine salmon

Seaweed 

Unlike their land-bound counterparts, sea-grown vegetables are packed with omega-3 fatty acids. Seaweed is also full of important minerals, such as bone-friendly calcium and magnesium, as well as iron, potassium, iodine, and zinc.

Seaweed is beneficial for the skin and can help with the menopause as it helps to balance hormones to prevent hot flushes as well as fighting fatigue and irritability.

It can also help to prevent anxiety and chronic fatigue.

Tips: The reputation of seaweed as a super food has been steadily growing and as such is becoming more and more widely available. Scottish companies such as Mara seaweed are excellent sources for seaweed products, advice and recipes. Eating sushi is a great way to enjoy seaweed, however it is quite a versatile food stuff and can be used in a variety of recipes.

Berries

Soft summer fruits, which are in season from April until December, are a great source of antioxidants and high in vitamin C. Scotland is especially famous for its raspberries and strawberries; the zinc found in both fruits is thought to be good for the libido. Brambles, which are a good source of folate and vitamin E, are thought to reduce the risk of heart disease and inhibit colon cancer, while plums are full of vitamin E. For more information, visit www.britishsummerfruits.co.uk.

Berries are mainly grown in Perthshire and Angus, particularly in the fertile Strathmore valley but are widely available across Scotland. Berries thrive in the cooler Scottish summers where long daylight hours help them to ripen with plenty of flavour.

Gooseberries, blueberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants and blackberries are some of the more popular Scottish berries.

Tips: Why not add berries to your desserts or breakfasts for a fun and fruity addition to ice cream or porridge. Best of all you can pick your own and in Scotland there are an abundance of pick-your-own farms and orchards.

Garlic

Traditionally thought of as a vampire repellent, garlic has many other benefits for health and well-being. Garlic is a great source of vitamins C, B6, manganese, selenium and other antioxidants (notably allicin).

One study found that eating garlic may help to lower the risk of colon, prostate, oral, ovary or renal cell cancers. Garlic has also been hailed for its anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties.

Alison Hornby, a dietitian and BDA spokesperson, says: “Garlic is a delicious flavour used widely in Mediterranean and Asian cooking.
“Studies using high concentrations of garlic extracts have been associated with improved blood circulation, healthier cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure, all of which reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Tips: Wild garlic, which is widely found throughout Scotland, has the greatest effect on lowering blood pressure and can be foraged all throughout spring. Try adding raw garlic to home-made dishes such as pasta sauce, mashed potatoes  or salsa. Even better, add it to butter when spreading it on toast to get an extra kick of delicious flavour.

Tom Kitchin column for Spectrum 15-04-12 Garlic

Venison

Game is healthier than many red meats and is an excellent alternative to beef. Venison in particular is naturally lean (at 1.6% fat, it is leaner than skinless chicken and has less than half the cholesterol), and is a good source of Omega-3 acids, protein and B vitamins. Better still, it’s full of flavour and easy to cook.

Tips: There is an increasing number of ready-to-cook game products available, and Scotland has no shortage of producers – check out www.seriouslygoodvenison.co.uk. Use venison mince as a substitute for lamb or beef in a traditional shepherd’s pie, bolognaise sauce or burgers, as sausages or cubed in stews and casseroles.

Green vegetables

As the favourite saying of most mothers goes ‘eat your vegetables, they are good for you’, and as everyone knows, mothers are always right. Green vegetables are the original super food and thankfully in Scotland we are blessed a bountiful supply.

“All dark-green vegetables are a good source of fibre, antioxidants and folic acid,” says nutritionist Amanda Johnson. “Brussels sprouts and cabbage are a particularly good source of vitamin E.”

Broccoli is a very rich source of carotenoids, especially betacarotene, which the body converts into vitamin A, and which helps to improve and prevent a range of skin problems, particularly acne. It also contains iron, which helps treat anaemia and fatigue, and is a useful vegetable for diabetics because it helps to curb sugar cravings.
Kale provides more antioxidants than most other fruits and veggies and is a fantastic source of fiber, calcium, and iron.

Tips: Try adding more green vegetables to pasta sauces or when creating a stir fry.  Green vegetables can also add extra flavours to a delicious home-made soup.

Green

Honey

Used as an energy food, for sweetening and as a preservative, honey contains fructose, glucose and sucrose, and lesser amounts of maltose and dextrins, all of which are forms of sugar. Thanks to its fructose content, though, honey is much sweeter and contains fewer calories than cane or beet sugar, making it a healthier option. It also contains the natural antiseptic propolis. Historically, it has been used in a soothing drink for coughs, colds and the relief of stomach pain, indigestion and ulcers, and applied externally to heal cuts and wounds. It can also be used to treat hay fever.

Tips: Add honey to tea instead of sugar to sweeten. It can also be a delicious way of livening up your breakfast, adding sweet flavours to porridge or pancakes.

Runny_hunny

Tap water

“It’s all too easy to overlook the ultimate super-beverage: water,” says Michael Van Straten, author of the book Superfeast.

Scottish tap water is particularly good. Water helps to keep your energy levels up and cholesterol down. By helping to swell the fibre in foods such as oats, pulses, vegetables and fruits, it also helps you to digest food better and absorb nutrients. How much you drink will also affect how you look: well-hydrated skin is visibly plumper and glowing. Aim to drink 2.5 litres (or six to eight glasses) a day and increase your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables, which have a high water content.

Tips: Diluting juices can be a great way to add flavour to a glass of tap water.

About The Author

Sean Murphy

Driven by a passion for all things whisky-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over six years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink.

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