We are probably all feeling the colder weather and darker evenings of autumn draw in these days, but there is an upside: the opportunity to adjust your recipes to include some delicious seasonal food.
Foods in-season are at their very best, in terms of taste, freshness and nutritional value. You can also support local farmers by buying local foods in season rather than imported foods at the supermarket (with the welcome side-effects of supporting local jobs and reducing your carbon footprint). And if that’s not enough to tempt you, consider this: in-season foods are often cheaper than out-of-season foods.
While there are many different types of foods in season at this time of year in Ireland, this article will focus on one that is of particular interest to our readers: super foods.
So what are super foods? Definitions vary, but basically a food that is ‘super’ has high levels of: phytonutrients: Also known as phytochemicals, phytonutrients are natural bioactive compounds that work together with vitamins, minerals, and fiber to promote good health. Phytonutrients contain anti-inflammatory agents that stimulate the immune system, positively affect hormones, and act as antibacterial, anti-viral agents; “essential” nutrients: As their name suggests, essential nutrients are nutrients that the body can’t produce on its own, but needs in order to function. These essential nutrients include vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and essential amino acids. Suffice it to say, super foods are packed with this stuff.
Take a peek at these five super foods that are in season in Ireland this fall:
Although technically not a “seasonal” food, butter is worth a mention. After decades of bad press-it is back into favour, toted as the ‘forgotten superfood’ all thanks to the bullet-proof coffee and paleo fans. It was demonised in the late 80’s when we were told all saturated fats were unhealthy. But now studies are showing that butter is actually good for you!
Butter is shown to have a good source of CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid, which helps reduce belly fat, protects against cancer and encourages muscle growth. They are also a good source for Vitamin A, Vitamin K2, D, E and other key health supporting nutrients and minerals such as lecithin, selenium, magnesium, zinc, copper, and iodine. Benefits include thyroid, cardiovascular health, possible reverse arterial calcification.
The best butter to buy is grass-fed butter. Lucky for us, we have that readily available to us. But a word of warning, like all foods, this superfood should be eaten in moderation, like a square of dark chocolate.
Pumpkins – a staple in autumn months – are loaded with the antioxidant beta-carotene, which is thought to help promote vitamin A production. They are also loaded with potassium which can help restore the body’s balance of electrolytes after a heavy workout and keeps muscles functioning at their best. And by the way, they taste great (especially in pie).
Crawling with live bacteria, and often stinky- fermented food has become a darling this fall. These food have gone through a natural process of lactofermentation in which natural bacteria feeds on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics.
The sour, complex flavours of foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, and kefir aid in brain and gut health. Regular consumption of foods such as sauerkraut can aid in healing health issues such as leaky gut, IBS, better absorption of nutrients, and can help with weight loss, healthier skin, and boosted immunity.
Not always a favourite (especially for kids), but this little vegetable is a powerhouse of antioxidants that are believed to offer protection from prostate, colon, and endometrial cancer. It is also a great source of folate, vitamins C, A, K, and potassium. They are also considered low-GI vegetables that can aid in weight loss.
The key to great Brussels sprouts is to not overcook them. Try halving or quartering them and steaming for 5 minutes (until not-quite-tender), then roast in the oven, or stir-fry with red onions and mustard seeds and a pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
If you’re focused on longevity, look no further than the pomegranate. While the seeds are a pain-in-the-you-know-what to extract, the nutritional benefits make it worth the struggle.
Pomegranate seeds are shown to be a good source of soluble and insoluble dietary fibers, which aid in good digestion and bowel movements. They are also a good source of vitamin C, vital B-complex vitamins such as pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5), foliates, pyridoxine, vitamin K, and minerals like calcium, copper, potassium, and manganese.
Some positive benefits of pomengrates are believed to include immune support, inhibition of abnormal platelet aggregation (which can lead to heart attacks, strokes and embolic disease), lower cholesterol and blood pressure. These little wonder-seeds are also thought to relieve and protect against depression and osteoporosis.
These are just a few examples of the great seasonal super foods currently available in Ireland – there are many more out there to explore and enjoy. Go on, your tummy, environment and pocket will thank you.
***This post is solely for informational purposes. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for medical advice. Before undertaking any course of treatment or dietary changes, you should seek the advice of your physician or other health care provider.