This article first appeared in Country Living in January 2015. To read the PDF copy of the feature as it appeared in the magazine, please click here, or you can read the article in full below.
Healthy eating is a vast subject and a lot of what we read about it is contradictory. First, one study tells us there are definite benefits to eating seven or even ten vegetable or fruit portions (80g each) every day; the next says “no – we’re still safe with five.” As an ex-doctor, I want to ignore the fads and focus on truly exceptional good foods that we should include in our diet as much as possible – and suggest the most nutritious way to eat them.
I have gathered information from medical journals, research centres and nutritionists, and, based on what I’ve found, distilled my list to a month-by-month collection of 12 fruits and vegetables, from kale and blood oranges to tomatoes and beetroot, which, in my opinion, reign supreme. Research suggests they may help to protect us against a wide array of cancers, inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, different forms of cardiovascular disease and strokes, as well as Alzheimer’s or Parkinsons.
My aim is to give each of these fruits and vegetables a new lease of life in your kitchen, so you’ll be rushing out to grow, pick or buy them, and relish their goodness.
I was completely put off kale at school, where we were given it twice a week for lunch all the way through winter and spring. It was dolloped out, overcooked and soggy, yet with the stem still fibrous – it was like eating a shard of bamboo.
Kale is often badly cooked (unless it’s young, you have to remove the stem), yet the school was right in attempting to get as much into us as it could. There is now a huge amount of evidence that this brassica, along with broccoli (more on that later in the series), is one of the healthiest ingredients on the planet, topping the nutritional charts. Eating it at the right time of year is important for good flavour. In the summer, warm weather and lack of water give kale a very strong, sometimes bitter flavour, whereas the cold, damp and dim light of winter result in a milder taste and creamier texture, whether you choose the elegant crimson ‘Redbor’ or pewter-grey ‘Nero di Toscana’.
Kale is an important source of calcium, which helps to prevent osteoporosis, while the leaves contain vitamin K and A and are rich in fibre. Another measure of its healthiness is its ability to remove certain free-floating molecules (free radicals) from our system. Free radicals have been implicated in a wide range of diseases, so the more of them that we can get rid of the better. Antioxidants are compounds in food that can combat them and kale is packed with these. Free radicals are also bad for our skin and decrease elasticity, which causes fine lines and wrinkles, especially at this time of year. So now is the perfect time to grow to love kale ...
This article also includes five kale recipes:
- Seaweed and vinegar kale crisps
- Kale, mushroom and lentil pilaf
- Kale, mushroom and sweet potato frittata
- Kale and chickpea curry
- Massaged kale, avocado and pomegranate salad