Nutrient dense ingredients and superfood culture has become mainstream thanks to the massive exposure on social media. All those images of avocado toasts, quinoa salads, Acai and salad bowls look very inviting, but the ingredients used aren’t cheap or widely available in Asian countries.We have readily available, locally and regionally grown ingredients that are nutrient dense, accessible and best of all, affordable. Add these foods to your grocery list the next time you go shopping:
These delicious and healthier cousins of normal potatoes are packed with vitamin A from the antioxidant levels that increase with colour (white – yellow – orange- purple) – the darker they are, the more vitamin A. They are also rich in beta-carotene for maintaining and protecting skin health, and vitamin C for boosting the immune system.
This is an ideal nutritious food as it high in fibre and has a lower Glycaemic Index (GI – measurement of the release of glucose from food) than normal potatoes.
Soy and soy products (edamame, tempeh, tofu, natto, soya milk)
Vegans rejoice! Where most plants lack one or two essential amino acids, this is the only plant source, which is a complete protein as it contains all 9 essential amino acids. It’s low in saturated fat and helps lower cholesterol level by increasing HDL levels. Consume fermented soy products like tempeh and natto to boost micro gut flora.
The only debate when it comes to soy is the potential effect from the phytoestrogen, which mimics the structure and function of the female hormone, oestrogen that it contains. Feminisation and the effect on female fertility make us wary of consuming too much soy. However, studies have proven that the effect is subtle and only occurs when high amounts are eaten.
Legumes (red beans, chickpeas, lentils)
A favourite plant protein among bodybuilders, legumes are one of the best and most cost-effective ingredients to cook with. They are a slow releasing carbohydrate, high in protein and is practically fat-free – no saturated fat / cholesterol. Packed with B vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium serving our biological functions from the brain to the bones. They also contain phytonutrients that could protect against cancer.
Barley is a very affordable heart-friendly ancient grain and has almost the identical components of oats. This means that it is not only high in fibre, but also rich in folate, B6 and potassium. Minerals like phosphate, calcium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, iron and zinc benefits bone structure and strength. Get creative with this grain and consume it as a drink, in soups and stews and as a salad ingredient.
Don’t underestimate the power of these small fish. A source of protein packed with Omega-3 -100gm of sardines contains around 1.8mg of Omega-3, which is essential for you heart and skin health. Consuming food that is rich in Omega-3 lowers the risk of inflammation that leads to heart diseases and contributes to cognitive performance. Studies have shown that there is a relation to the consumption of Omega-3 with healthy brain ageing and protects against disorders like dementia.
Sardines also have vitamin B12 and selenium that improves brain and nerve cell functionality. Canned sardines are easily available and the healthier way to eat them is without the sauce or oil they usually come in.
These local fruit contains one of the highest amounts of vitamin C with a whopping 228mg per 100g. You would need to eat 3 medium oranges to get the same amount! It’s also an antioxidant powerhouse and benefits your skin and protects against damaging free radicals.
This is a cheaper option for a nutrient dense gluten-free diet, and as we all love rice, it’s best to opt for brown rice as it’s a local crop and has more vitamins and minerals than the white variety. With iron to help with blood circulation, B vitamins for better brain and cell function and selenium to boost the immune system, brown rice should be a staple in your cooking. It’s also a very versatile high fibre grain that can be made into many types of dishes.