Now that black pudding has transcended its status as fry-up staple and joined the ranks of the superfoods with its new friends the acai berries and quinoa, with the recent news that it is rich in magnesium, zinc, calcium, protein and iron and low in fat and carbohydrates, which other foods have been hiding their nutritional light under a bushel? Here are five more that are surprisingly good for you.
We may think of it as just part of the package of cinema-trip indulgences, alongside the bucket of Coke and the pick 'n' mix, but popcorn is actually a whole grain. Rich in protein and fibre (an adequate supply of which lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes and reduces cholesterol), making it a filling snack, it is also high in anti-oxidants – particularly polyphenols, containing more than most fruits, which help prevent osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases and diabetes. Ounce for ounce, popcorn has more iron than spinach. It's also gluten-free, sugar-free and fat-free (make it yourself using olive oil or rapeseed oil and flavour with salt, if anything, to avoid adding extra calories) and, to boot, incredibly cheap.
After decades as the nation's breakfast staple and a subsequent stint in the nutritional wilderness, having been derided as too high in cholesterol, more recent research (finding that dietary cholesterol is only responsible for a quarter of overall blood cholesterol levels) has welcomed eggs back into the health-food fold. Eggs are protein-dense and rich in iron, 13 essential vitamins including A and B12, selenium and beneficial unsaturated fats – all for just 75 calories a throw.
Spuds have had a bad rap over the last few years; usurped by more smoothie-friendly produce and much maligned by the carb-free crowd, they may have fallen out of favour but they are actually a potent source of anti-oxidants, fibre and potassium, which helps control blood pressure, containing twice as much as bananas. They're low-cal to boot – one medium-sized potato (with its skin) contains just 160 calories and no cholesterol, plus 50 per cent of your daily requirements of vitamin C, 30 per cent of vitamin B-6, 22 per cent of manganese (essential to bone health), 12 per cent of magnesium and 9 per cent of iron.
Much more than just lunchbox fodder, peanut butter is rich in both protein and potassium, the former filling you up and the latter lowering blood pressure and with it the risk of heart disease and strokes. It also contains plenty of fibre, healthy fats, magnesium (vital for muscle and bone health), vitamin E and anti-oxidants such as resveratrol – the same one that makes red wine a nutritional winner. Just make sure you buy a natural, healthy variety rather than those packed with added salt and sugar.
Another dietary staple that fell out of favour among controversial reports that red meat was an unhealthy choice, eating the right cut of beef in fact has multiple benefits – tenderloin has the same fat and calorie-content as skinless chicken, contributing less than 10 per cent to a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. It's also rich in iron and protein, B vitamins and minerals including niacin, selenium, zinc (you're welcome, immune system), iron and phosphorus, essential to strong teeth and bones. Go for grass rather than grain-fed to maximise the nutritional punch.