How to turn supermarket basics into superfood

  • Why you should always buy cheap orange juice
  • Do this surprising thing to your pasta and see what happens
  • The food that helps you live ten years longer

A few weeks ago I gave the media a bit of a slap.

Most of the newspapers were trumpeting this latest “vitamin supplements don’t work” story, without criticism or nuance.

As I pointed out, the articles were very far from “proving” that all supplements were useless, and even admitted that large amounts of people with deficiencies needed a top up.

Never mind the fact that not all supplements are equal, as you’ll see here on this page about bio-available food supplements.

However, I’ll admit this…

Using vitamin supplements should only be a backup measure for when you cannot get what you need from food and drink.

So your priority should be to get some key nutrients into your diet.

That’s not always easy…

We cannot all just prepare fresh whole ingredients of the highest nutritional quality three times a day, every day. Sometimes work, kids, illness and life chaos get in the way.

Never mind the fact that our food is declining in nutritional quality because of mineral depletion in soils, cultivation methods that favour crops which don’t attracts pests, and the long distances food travels – shedding nutrients – before it ends up on your plate.

One popular shortcut to get a natural nutrition-boost is to seek out “superfoods”. These seem to change according to the latest fads and trends but have included things like avocados, blueberries, wild salmon and curly kale.

These fruits, veg and meats pack a bigger punch than others when it comes to vitamins and minerals.

But they can be expensive…

And they are not always necessary.

Because it could be that your regular supermarket shop delivers a hefty nutritional punch… if you follow a few clever tips.

For those tips, I’ll refer you to none other than TV food expert James Wong, who has published a book called How to Eat Better: How to Shop, Store & Cook to Make Any Food a Superfood.

As the title suggests, he shows how to get more out of the food you eat, without resorting to expensive superfoods.

For instance, here’s one that might surprise you.

Why you should always buy cheap orange juice…

Instinctively, you might think that the more expensive, fancy “not from concentrate” orange juices are the healthiest option.

But James Wong points out that you can get more phytonutrients from basic “value” orange juice. This is because the whole fruit is pulped to make the juice.

He says the cheap juice has “seven times the flavonoids” too. Diets rich in flavonoids foods are linked with reduced risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

He also has this surprising tip about pasta…

Do this to your pasta and see what happens

The problem with pasta is that it’s considered a refined carb bombshell, spiking your blood sugar when you eat it, leading to craving and issues with diabetes.

But by cooking, chilling and then reheating pasta, you can reduce any rise in blood sugar by 50%.

That’s remarkable, isn’t it?

Not a tip you hear very often.

Talking of surprising advice, here’s something you probably DO keep in the fridge but shouldn’t…

Why warm tomatoes are better

In his book, Wong points out that if you keep tomatoes out of the fridge, their flavour strengthens, as does their level of lycopene, a powerful anti-inflammatory.

This is one to bear in mind if you’re a smoker…

In 2016, scientists found that lycopene could help protect smokers against lung disease. When they mixed tomato juice into the drinking water of test-mice, they prevented them from suffering emphysema triggered by tobacco smoke.

Staying in the warm also benefits strawberries, which quadruple their healthy-heart compounds if you leave them out of the fridge.

Grapes too gain in their nutritional power if left in a cool room or larder rather than the fridge.

On the subject of fruit, Wong also suggests that you always buy the smaller, cheaper blueberries in supermarkets. These are richer in anthocyanin, which is found on the skin and helps prevent disease.

Because you get more surface area per berry with a small fruit than the larger version, the smaller ones are best.

Potatoes are similar…

About half the nutrients in a potato are in its skin, so choosing smaller potatoes gives you more of a health punch than the large version.

And here’s one that’s good news for me, as I’m always carelessly leaving garlic until it starts sprouting green shoots…

There are more antioxidants in older garlic bulbs that are at the point of sprouting shoots. This is because the bulbs are releasing them as a defence against stress.

But best of all is this…

The food that can help you live ten years longer

Wong points out that chili peppers could extend your life by ten years.

This refers to a study in the Public Library of Science journal, PLoS One at the beginning of 2017.

It concluded that people who regularly eat chilies are 13% less likely to die prematurely compared to those who avoid eating them altogether.

You can get more out of the chili by leaving some of that pale spongy tissue from the inside of it, rather than scraping it off with a knife (same for regular bell peppers).

Those bits have super-high concentrations of antioxidants and polyphenols.

For more tips and shortcuts like these, it might be worth checking out the book How to Eat Better: How to Shop, Store & Cook to Make Any Food a Superfood, (published by Mitchell Beazley) which you can find on Amazon or at your local bookshop.

I hope you have a great weekend.