Unsung heroes Most of us don’t stick rigidly to a diet of super foods and energy bars, but not everything has to be heralded as the next big thing in nutrition to be good for you. Here are MR’s 8 stealth health foods
We’re always hearing about the benefits of fruit, veg, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy products. But the good news is there are foods other than those labelled with some blindingly impressive health benefits that have some hidden benefits as well. Tuck in.
Per 10g: 42 cals, 3g fat
A tablespoon of grated Parmesan contains one eighth of the recommended daily allowance of bone-strengthening calcium, a mineral that’s also linked with more efficient fat loss and a trimmer midriff. A tablespoon is less fattening than you’d think, with just 42 calories and less than ten per cent of your daily limit of saturated fat. Better still, it’s so strong flavoured that a little goes a long way. Gram for gram, Parmesan also has as much zinc (important for healthy skin and immunity) as beef or lamb.
Per 150g baked: 204 calories, 3.5g fat, no added salt
Choose oven chips made with potato and sunflower oil (no additives or coatings) and they’re practically guilt free. A 150g baked portion weighs in at just over 200 calories (less than a medium-sized baked potato), is a great source of carbohydrate to fuel your muscles, and has as much fibre as a slice of wholemeal bread. A portion also has around a quarter of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C.
Per 85g serving: 111 calories, 9.6g fat
It may have a waist-widening reputation, but guacamole’s fat content is largely a mixture of essential polyunsaturates (important for healthy skin) and cholesterol-lowering monounsaturates. An 85g serving also supplies more than a fifth of the RDA of the antioxidant vitamin E – important for mopping up the extra free radicals that strenuous exercise can produce.
Per eight-inch pizza: 440 cals, 7.8g fat
(Pizza Express Lighter Gustosa)
Pizza can be high in calories, but actually provides a healthy balance of protein and carbs, for good energy levels and the repair and renewal of muscle tissue. Pizza is also a good source of tomato lycopene, linked with a lower risk of heart disease and some cancers. For the healthiest choice, opt for one with tuna, chicken, lean ham or vegetables (not loaded with cheese or pepperoni, sadly), on a thin base. And compare salt contents, choosing the one with the least. Stick to these rules and don’t eat more than a whole eight-inch or half a ten- to 12-inch pizza and you’ll be fine.
Per 350g serving: 355 calories, 16g fat
This isn’t as fattening as creamy curries and you can easily spoon off the excess oil that floats on top. It’s packed with lycopene-rich tomatoes and during cooking, traces of metal from the surface of the balti dish get into the curry. This keeps your iron levels up – especially important for runners, as a deficiency can prove very debilitating to energy levels.
Per 80g: 20 cals, 26g fat
Not a waist whittler, granted but the upside is you’ll get a third of your daily intake of anaemia-protective iron and a week’s worth of vitamin A (for eyesight, skin and a healthy immune system). You’ll also get more folic acid from a serving of pâté than one of broccoli. Stick to one serving a week and you’ll reap only benefits.
Per 120g portion: 329 cals, 10g fat
Pop your pinny on and make your own, with lots of apples, not too much sugar and a wholemeal topping, and this pudding is full of fibre and counts as one of your five a day. Pour over some low-fat custard and it’s a great source of calcium, too. Wholemeal crumble also has a lower GI than most puddings, keeping energy levels steadier. If you fancy a small bowl before or after your run, go ahead – it will restock your muscles with glycogen just as well as a cereal bar.
Per 80g portion: 130 cals, 9g fat
Onions, especially red onions, are high in a chemical called quercetin, which has anti-inflammatory benefits (useful when the hayfever season arrives and outdoor running becomes hampered by itchy eyes and a runny nose). Frying doesn’t negate their goodness, but use a healthy oil, such as rapeseed, not a saturated fat like butter.