We all know that certain foods are good for us. That’s why we need to eat our five-a-day, or why it’s recommended that we have a decent amount of fish in our diet. We also know that some types of food are known as ‘Super Foods’, such as pomegranates, blueberries and kale, which carry with them major health benefits. But what about unexpected health properties, little side bonuses we get from eating an orange that we may not realise come with the Vitamin C boost? From protection against radiation to combatting hearing loss, here are five extras you can get from healthy foods.
Many fish, including trout, salmon and sardines contain plenty of omega 3 fats that research indicates strengthen the blood vessels in the ear’s sensory system. Experts contend that this can help to stave off hearing loss and lessen the need for hearing aids. Another substance, incidentally, that has a similar effect in keeping your ears functioning well is zinc. And which foods commonly have zinc in good quantities? Why, oysters and dark chocolate, so now you have the perfect excuse to feast once in a while! Of course always make sure you buy sustainably sourced fish and seafood.
Basil is a mainstay of Italian cuisine, a herb that’s as easy to grow in a window box as it is on the allotment. It adds stacks of flavour and aroma to your cooking, but it also carries with it numerous health benefits, from anti-inflammatory properties to cardiovascular protection. But basil is also thought to have the capability of looking after your actual DNA. Here comes the science bit – basil contains a couple of phytonutrients, natural compounds found in plants, called orientin and vicenin, which can shield cell structures and chromosomes from radiation – that’s to say, they would be handy if you enjoy spending time on the sunbed – they won’t turn you into some kind of superhero.
Ancient legends would have it that wearing a necklace of garlic can ward off evil spirits at night, and of course ever since Bram Stoker’s Dracula the idea that it was a form of ‘vampire-repellent’ has been popularised. Were you aware, though, that garlic also has substantial antifungal properties? If you suffer from athlete’s foot, try soaking your afflicted appendage in warm water with some raw garlic, and it may help. The weird thing is, if garlic is antifungal, why do garlic mushrooms taste so good?
We know that bananas are high in fibre, vitamin C and potassium, and can give blood sugar levels a much-needed boost – that’s why they’re an excellent snack after running a race. However, some sufferers of chronic psoriasis have found that rubbing banana peel onto their skin has a positive effect. As yet it’s clinically unproven, but for anyone forced to endure what can be a very irritating and painful condition, the thought that there might be a natural way to ease it may seem attractive and worth a try.
No, wait – hear me out. Earlier this year scientists from China reported findings that a compound of hops may protect brain cells from damage, with the potential to slow the disastrous effects of diseases such as Parkinsons and Alzheimers. Meanwhile, over in Germany, home of the epic Oktoberfest and some of the world’s greatest beers, many people actually bathe in the stuff, with the assumption that certain types of black and sugary beer are good for your skin.
Sound like your idea of fun? There are numerous health spas in that part of the world that offer beer-related treatments, so next time you’re tucking into a salad, chopping up an apple for your kids, or enjoying a spot of fishing by the river, remember that nutrition sciences still have a lot to learn, and what we eat can often be better for us than we know.