Make the most of summer by stocking up on the best the season has to offer – and swerve those annoying warm-weather health niggles at the same time. Here are my favourite summery superfoods to keep you sparkling in the sunshine...
All British berries work wellness magic – they’re rich sources of anthocyanins, pigments that may help reduce your risk of major diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as potentially protecting against age-related cognitive decline. Anthocyanins have been shown to improve arterial flexibility, which may be why they seem to play a role in reducing risk of high blood pressure and heart attacks, and they also have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties.1 I’m giving a special shout-out to the under-appreciated blackcurrant, an anthocyanin-packed and delicious native berry.
Try this! Whiz up a scrumptious blackcurrant smoothie. Blend a large handful of blackcurrants with a banana, a cup of milk of your choice, and Manuka honey to taste.
This aromatic herb is thought to have a number of health benefits. Traditionally, it’s been used to soothe indigestion and flatulence. One study suggested it may help ease hay fever symptoms, possibly because it contains an anti-inflammatory substance called rosmarinic acid,2 while another found it may act as a decongestant when you have a cold.3 Ideally, use mint fresh – it grows easily, so plant some in a pot if you don’t already have access to it.
Try this! Make your own fresh mint tea by pouring hot water over a handful of leaves and stems. Add Manuka honey to taste – sweetness really brings out the flavour of fresh mint, and the honey will be soothing for your throat if you have a cold.
Packed with nutrients, these summery treasures are a great addition to your diet at this time of year. They’re high in vitamin C, needed to support your immune system and skin, and tomatoes also contain a plant compound called lycopene, which has been shown to potentially help reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men.4
Try this! Make a simple salad by slicing tomatoes, then add a little diced red onion and chopped basil, plus a dash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
One to keep in the kitchen throughout the year, fans of Manuka consider it a wellbeing booster because it’s been shown to have anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties.5 One small preliminary study also suggested Manuka honey may have anti-viral effects, meaning it could potentially help tackle summer colds, although there haven’t been enough studies to confirm this.6 Some research has found honey may have a part to play in regulating the immune system response in allergies such as hay fever, although, again, more research is needed to understand the mechanism.7
Try this! Have a light breakfast of coconut yoghurt or plain yoghurt with chopped banana and strawberries, topped with seeds and drizzled with Manuka honey.
Bread that is made with wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria naturally present in flour, rather than the commercial yeast used in standard loaves, sourdough is considered to have some wellbeing benefits. As it’s a fermented food, it contains probiotics, the friendly bacteria important for healthy digestion.
Try this! For a teatime treat, slather a slice in butter or coconut oil and top with a spread of Manuka honey.
2 Anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic effect of rosmarinic acid (RA); inhibition of seasonal allergic rhinoconjunctivitis (SAR) and its mechanism, Biofactors, 2004;21(1-4):127-31, Accessed 22 April 2014
3 Effect of aromatics on lung mucociliary clearance in patients with chronic airways obstruction, A. Hasani et al., J Altern Complement Med, published April 2003
4 De Costa Pereira Soares N et al. Lycopene extracts from different tomato-based food products induce apoptosis in cultured human primary prostate cancer cells and regulate TP53, Bax and Bcl-2 transcript expression. Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, 18(2), 339-345
5 Carter DA, Blair S, Cocketin NN et al. Therapeutic manuka honey: no longer so alternative. Front Microbiol. 2016; 7: 569.
6 Watanabe K et al. Anti-influenza viral effects of honey in vitro: potent high activity of manuka honey. Arch Med Res. 2014 Jul;45(5):359-65
7 Asha’ari ZA et al. Ingestion of honey improves the symptoms of allergic rhinitis: evidence from a randomized placebo-controlled trial in the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Ann Saudi Med. 2013 Sep-Oct; 33(5): 469–475