In the world of nutrition, certain kinds of food are considered superior.
These super foods, which come in all shapes, sizes and colours, are particularly good for those aged 50 and above.
Nutritionist Teo Kiok Seng, who is currently working with the Health Promotion Board (HPB) on weight management programmes for adults, says: "Super foods are nutrient-rich foods that are full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
"Eating them may help to reduce the risk of diseases and improve general health and well-being."
Everyone - including the elderly - benefits from a healthy balanced diet based on the Healthy Plate Model, says Ms Teo.
According to the Healthy Plate Model by HPB, a balanced diet should comprise 50 per cent vegetables and fruits, 25 per cent grains including whole grains like brown rice or wholemeal bread, and 25 per cent meat and other protein-rich food.
Top contenders Not all foods are created equal. Food superstars such as oats, almonds, pumpkin, spinach and blueberries are power-packed choices that can be easily incorporated into the daily diet.
They are easily available, easy to cook and delicious.
Take oats, for example. While it is commonly seen as breakfast fare, it is also used in baking cakes, bread and cookies.
It can even be made into a savoury meal by adding soup, vegetables and meat.
Oats contains water-soluble fibre, which is good for lowering cholesterol and stablising blood sugar level, notes Ms Teo.
"Because the fibre swells in the stomach, oats promotes satiety and aids in weight loss effort.
Oat bran, the outer casing of oats, is also a prebiotic which helps to promote the growth of good bacteria in the colon," she says.
Nuts like almonds are also an excellent food choice, being rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat as well as phytosterols, which help lower bad cholesterol level and strengthen bones.
Almonds also make a convenient, healthy and satisfying snack. It can also be spread like butter, drunk like milk, or baked in muffins.
The ordinary looking pumpkin is yet another food with supersized benefits.
It is packed with Vitamin A, C and E, and is rich in beta-carotene, which lowers the risk of heart diseases, and has cancer preventive benefits.
A low calorie and high-fibre vegetable, it is often recommended for weight management. Pumpkins can be made into soups, curries, stews, and pies.
The spinach, too, is a super food contender. Containing lots of vitamins and minerals, it is a favourite among seniors and children because of its soft texture.
In the fruit department, go for a punnet of blueberries.
These can be eaten fresh as a fruit or eaten dried as a snack. You can use them in baking muffins or cakes.
Power-packed recipes According to Ms Teo, it is easy to incorporate super foods into everyday cooking.
One of her favourite recipes is the "Eight Treasure Soup", a traditional Chinese dessert. Some of the eight treasures in this recipe have been replaced by more common altenatives.
One of these "treasures" is the humble bean. "Beans are good sources of plantprotein and they are low in fat, cholesterol- free and high in watersoluble fibre," says Ms Teo, who adds that red bean has been ranked top among 100 foods in a United States Department of Agriculture antioxidant study.
Apart from beans, snow fungus and gingko nuts are also reputed to be good foods, particularly in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
"Some studies have shown that gingko nuts may improve cognition among patients with Alzheimer's disease and vascular or mixed dementia," she says.
Ms Teo also recommends including chickpeas in cooking.
"Chickpea is an excellent source of plant protein. It is high in fibre, low in fat and cholesterol free as well being a good source of vitamins and minerals like folate, vitamin K, iron, zinc, potassium and calcium," she says.
Cherry tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, the antioxidant linked to lowered risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer including prostate cancer.
Even the turmeric spice in the curry powder is healthy, as it may help to relieve osteoarthritic pain as well as having cancer and heart disease preventive properties.
Eight Treasure Soup (Serves 10)
- Sago 30g
- Red beans 40g
- Green beans 40g
- Gingko nuts 3 heaped tablespoons
- Dried longan meat 2 tablespoons
- Barley 30g
- White fungus 2 (soak in water for 5 minutes and cut away the black part)
- Sweet potato 150g, cubed
- Raw rock sugar 100g
- Water 1,250ml
- Soak red beans and green beans in water for about three hours and drain.
- Bring water to a boil over high heat. Add the red beans, green beans, barley and sago to the boiling water and boil on low flame for 20 minutes.
- Then add sweet potatoes, gingko nuts, dried longan and rock sugar into the pot and boil for another 15 minutes.
- Finally add in soaked white fungus and boil for another 5 minutes.
- Serve hot immediately, or chilled.
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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