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Nutrition

My top five foods for 2024

Radishes

Broccoli

I never get bored of eating broccoli. Not only is it high in many vitamins and minerals including folate, vitamins C and K, potassium, iron and manganese it is also packed with antioxidants. It is a great source of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin which are important for eye health.

Broccoli contains sulforaphane, which works to fight disease and oxidative stress in the body, kaempferol, which prevents inflammation, and quercetin, which helps to lower blood pressure. It also contains the phytochemical indole-3-carbinol, which may help balance hormones by regulating oestrogen levels.

I would eat it at every meal if I could, here’s my favourite way to eat it:

Garlic and chilli broccoli with peanut sauce

Serves 2

1 medium head of broccoli cut into florets

1 tbsp butter or coconut oil

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 tsp chilli flakes

2 tsp sesame seeds

1 tsp crispy seaweed flakes

1 tbsp peanut butter

1 tsp dark soy sauce

1 tbsp water

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F.

Cut the broccoli into florets (you can use the stem too, chopped into cubes) and add to a pan of boiling water. Simmer or steam for 5 minutes, then drain.

Arrange on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and smash down with a potato masher or a flat bottom mug.

Melt the butter in a small bowl, then mix in the garlic. Then brush all over the broccoli florets. Sprinkle on the chilli flakes and season with some freshly ground black pepper.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and then sprinkle with sesame seeds and seaweed flakes.

Mix the peanut butter, soy sauce and water together in a small bowl to make a dipping sauce and serve.

Watercress

I love the peppery taste of watercress and I often batch cook this simple but delicious soup so I have a quick and easy lunch to hand on a cold winter’s day.

Watercress is rich in vitamins A, C and K and also provides small amounts of vitamin E, thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and copper. Like broccoli, watercress is extremely high in antioxidants, which may help prevent chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

Watercress contains glucosinolates, which are activated to compounds called isothiocyanates when they’re cut with a knife or chewed. Isothiocyanates include chemicals such as sulforaphane and phenethyl isothiocyanate. These compounds protect against cancer by protecting healthy cells from damage, inactivating carcinogenic chemicals and blocking the growth and spread of tumours.

Watercress soup

Serves 2

1 tbsp olive oil

1 pinch of chilli flakes

1 clove of garlic, crushed

1 onion, peeled and chopped

1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped

500ml vegetable stock

240g watercress

2 tbsp pumpkin seeds

Heat the oil with the chilli flakes and garlic, cook for 1 minute and then add the onion and cook for a further 5 minutes until softened. Add the chopped potato, stir well to coat and then add the stock and watercress. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and use a stick blender to blend together. Return to the pan to heat through and scatter on the pumpkin seeds.

Macadamia nuts

I love all nuts but I’m particularly fond of the subtle butter flavour and creamy texture of Macadamia nuts. And just like other nuts, Macadamias have lots of health benefits. They are rich in vitamins and minerals, in particular, vitamin E and manganese, both of which have important antioxidant roles in the body. Macadamia nuts are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Eating small amounts each day may help reduce heart disease risk factors, such as high cholesterol and inflammation. Regularly eating nuts, including macadamia nuts, may reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome and contribute to lower, more stable blood sugar levels.

As is the case with most nuts, the soluble fibre in macadamia nuts can act as a prebiotic, meaning that it helps feed the beneficial gut bacteria. In turn, these friendly bacteria produce short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), such as acetate, butyrate, and propionate, which can reduce inflammation and protect against conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. Some evidence suggests that SCFAs may even reduce your risk of diabetes and obesity. 

Macadamia hummus

Serves 4

180g macadamia nuts, soaked in water for 24 hours, drained and rinsed

2–3 cloves garlic

3 tbsp lemon juice

4 tbsp rapeseed oil

2 tbsp tahini

Pinch cayenne pepper

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Place all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until you have a smooth paste. Add a little water to loosen if necessary. Taste and adjust the seasoning and then transfer to a bowl. Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

Artichoke

There is some strong evidence on the health benefits of artichoke leaf extract in relation to improving liver function and the symptoms of IBS. While I’m supportive of supplements, I’m also a strong advocate of eating real food! Including artichokes in your diet more often may protect your liver and the fibre will most definitely improve your gut function, and the other substances in artichokes will bring additional benefits including helping to lower blood pressure, balance blood sugar and lower cholesterol levels in the blood.

Fresh artichokes can be tricky to prepare, but you can get all benefits from a tin of artichokes, easy and convenient and just as tasty.

Mediterranean artichoke and roasted tomatoes

Serves 4

500g cherry tomatoes

2 tbsp olive oil

400g tins artichokes in water, drained

4 garlic cloves, crushed

Finely grated zest and juice 1 lemon

1 red onion, chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

200g ricotta

2  400g tins chickpeas, drained

Handful parsley, finely chopped

1 tsp chilli flakes

Heat the oven to 140°C fan/gas 3. Put the tomatoes, onion and two of the garlic cloves on a baking tray in a single layer and drizzle over 1 tbsp olive oil. Season with the cumin, a pinch of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper and roast for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, dry the drained artichokes on kitchen paper. Heat the remaining olive oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the artichokes and cook for 8 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden and slightly crisp.

Mix one of the garlic cloves and the lemon zest into the ricotta and season, then set aside.

In a large bowl, combine one of the garlic cloves with the lemon juice and tip the fried artichokes and oil from the pan into the bowl, toss to coat, then set aside.

When the tomatoes have had 15 minutes, add the chickpeas and cook for a final 10 minutes.

Spread the ricotta on the base of a serving platter and create a well in the centre. Spoon the chickpea and tomato mixture into the well, then pile the artichokes on top. Sprinkle on the parsley and chilli flakes.

Radish

As a member of the cruciferous family, radishes have all the health benefits of broccoli and watercress above. They are also a natural antifungal. They contain the antifungal protein RsAFP2. One study found RsAFP2 caused cell death in Candida albicans, a common fungus normally found in humans. When Candida albicans overgrows, it may cause oral yeast infections (thrush) and invasive candidiasis.

Most people think of a radish as a salad vegetable, but I love it in this zesty Mexican inspired salsa with griddled peppers.

Griddled peppers with radish and sweetcorn

Serves 4

4 tbsp chipotle paste

2 sweetcorn on the cob

8 Romano peppers, halved lengthways, seeds removed

2 tbsp olive oil

8 spring onions, trimmed

8 radishes, trimmed and sliced

3 tomatoes, roughly chopped

2 limes, finely grated zest and juice

175g natural yogurt

2 tbsp tahini

2 tbsp pomegranate seeds

Preheat a griddle pan to hot. Put the peppers in a bowl, add the chipotle paste and swish around until well covered.

Meanwhile, bring a large pan of water to the boil, add the corn on the cob and simmer for 8 minutes. Remove from the water and leave to cool.

Lay the peppers on a plate, drizzle with olive oil and season all over with salt and pepper.

Griddle the peppers, sweetcorn and spring onions, turning regularly to ensure they are charred all over. Remove and set aside.

Stand the charred corn on its end and run a knife down to cut the corn from the cob. Place the corn in a bowl. Cut each spring onion into three chunks and add to the bowl with the radishes, tomatoes, some salt and pepper, the juice of a lime and a drizzle of olive oil. Toss everything together to make a salsa.

Mix the yoghurt and tahini together with the juice of a lime, a pinch of salt and 50ml water until you have a thick pouring consistency.

Lay the peppers skin-side down on a serving platter. Add the salsa, then drizzle over the tahini sauce and finish with the pomegranate seeds.

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