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The sun is out, days are longer and many of us are searching for ways to feel and look our best ahead of the festive season. So, if you know that your diet could do with a spring clean, here are some of the seasonal fresh foods to include in your diet.
Packed full of natural energy, fibre, potassium and magnesium, a banana is not only convenient but is the perfect source of fuel for busy people on the go. Not only are bananas easy to find at this time of year, they are versatile – adding natural sweetness to smoothies, baked goods and cereal. They are a great self-packaged snack and can even be frozen and used as a low calorie dessert option. Another trick is to keep soft bananas frozen to grab when you are baking or to add to smoothies and juices.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
While we hear much about the wonders of coconut oil, the truth is that when it comes to looking at the research that supports the health benefits of any particular oil, you cannot go past olive oil. Its great for the skin with exceptionally high levels of powerful antioxidants that help to protect our cells from damage and as an addition to any meal to help boost satiety fullness, olive oil has one of the highest proportions of monounsaturated fat and lowest proportion of saturated fat of all cooking oils.
Often considered a poor choice for cooking at high temperatures, the truth is that the high quality of olive oil means that it can be used in most dishes with the exception of deep frying, as well as used as a flavoursome dressing. The fresher the olive oil, the higher the antioxidant content, so replace your olive oil every two to three months and also keep in mind that ‘light’ varieties are not lighter in fat or calories and spray varieties lack the nutrient quality of fresh oil. Research suggests that including as much as two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil each day will help you to reap the many health benefits
Greek yoghurt not only contains much less sugar than the average serve of store bought yoghurt but is much higher in protein which helps to keep your blood glucose levels regulated throughout the day. Added benefits will come if you choose a variety of Greek yoghurt which also contains probiotics, the live bacteria that will help to feed the good bacteria in the gut and is thought to have a powerful role in optimal immune functioning long term.
Enjoy with some oats for breakfast, as a filling snack, as a light dessert option, and add to smoothies and protein shakes or even as a dressing option with vegetables for a daily calcium boost.
Another nutrient rich, low calorie vegetable choice is red capsicum which is a rich source of carotenoids, the group of antioxidants known to play a powerful role in helping to down regulate a number of inflammatory pathways in the body. Red capsicum is packed full of Vitamin C, folate and fibre and with just 45 calorie per cup, you can enjoy an entire red capsicum as a filling snack providing a major nutritional hit. A flavoursome base to sauces, added to salads or teamed with hommus or Greek yoghurt.
Ten years ago, rocket was rarely the standard salad leaf of choice but the peppery rocket has become a fond favourite for many. Rocket originated in the Mediterranean region, hence its link with olive oil and parmesan cheese! Like most salad ingredients, rocket is extremely low in kilojoules but unlike plain lettuce and as depicted by its rich dark green colour, is chock full of Vitamin C, fibre, iron and beta carotene.
Rocket is also an amazingly easy salad leave to grow and now is a good time to plant some before it gets too hot. Try planting some seeds in a pot on your veranda or balcony and you will find you have rocket for your favourite parmesan and tomato salad in no time, which is perfect with BBQ’s and with grilled fish.
Legumes or beans have made somewhat of a comeback in recent years with cannellini, kidney and borlotti beans featuring regularly in a range of cuisines including Mexican, Italian and Lebanese. All beans are extremely nutritious containing a mix of low glycaemic index carbohydrates, dietary fibre and protein; their relatively high protein content making them a popular meat substitute for vegetarians.
The soluble fibre found in beans has been shown to help lower blood cholesterol levels, and they also contain high levels of B-group vitamins, iron, calcium, phosphorous, zinc and magnesium as well as folate. While legumes are often used as the base of meals for vegetarians, beans can also be used in range of meals including mince, soups and salads for extra bulk and an extra nutritional hit. And best of all, legumes are extremely cheap, making them an economical addition to any meal.
Susie is currently a brand ambassador for Australian Bananas. To learn more about the partnership, click here.