Old-school British superfoods

Daniel Coughlin / 21 March 2016

Believe it or not, many traditional British dishes boast bona fide superfood status, so you don't have to exist on trendy acai smoothies and quinoa.



Nutritional powerhouses packed with health-boosting vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, these much-loved classics give the faddy superfoods of the moment a good run for their money.

“There is no need to spend a fortune on fancy foods like spirulina, matcha powder, kale powder, expensive berries and even coconut oil,” says registered dietician Annemarie Aburrow. “Much of the traditional British fare is highly nutritious, and so much cheaper too.”

With this in mind, we've selected 10 hearty British classics with superfood appeal that you might want to include in your diet.

Black pudding

Hailed as the number one superfood for 2016, this popular fixture of the 'Full Monty' breakfast is a potential health-enhancing wonder – in moderation of course. But while black pudding may not be for the squeamish – it is usually made from pig's blood after all – the delicacy is packed with protein, calcium and magnesium, not to mention iron and zinc, which help prevent conditions such as anaemia and zinc deficiency.

Related: Learn more about calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc with our A-Z of vitamins and minerals

Fish pie

Not just a British comfort food classic, fish pie is also a highly nutritious treat.

Salmon, the base of many a yummy fish pie, is rich in lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for brain and heart health; peas, another popular ingredient, are a very good source of vitamin K, manganese and folate, while potato, the typical topping, is now regarded as something of a superfood, thanks to its high fibre, vitamin C and potassium content.

Related: Fancy making a fish pie? Try our recipe

Liver & onions

Organ meats are all the rage right now, so it was only a matter of time before that bastion of wartime cookery, liver and onions was resurrected by paleo diet devotees.

In fact, this surprisingly healthy dish should never have gone out fashion. Rich in a wide spectrum of essential macro and micronutrients including protein, iron, and vitamin A, liver has been described as nature's most potent superfood, especially paired with disease-fighting onions, which are loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants such as vitamin C, sulphur and quercetin.

Related: Our diet expert on the home-grown superfoods on your doorstep

Bubble & squeak

Another wartime favourite, humble bubble and squeak isn't an obvious superfood dish, but this tasty concoction of leftover veg is healthier than you might imagine.

The main ingredients, potatoes and cabbage, are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, from vitamins K and C to potassium.

And if you throw in other veggies such as Brussels sprouts or swede, you've almost got your five a day in one dish.

Just try to go easy on the fat you use. While butter and lard aren't half as bad for us as once thought, they're still energy dense saturates that should be eaten sparingly.

Related: Try our bubble’n’squeak recipe

Porridge

Dubbed 'the king of breakfasts', porridge is one of the healthiest ways to start the day. Bursting with vitamins and minerals, oats are an excellent source of polyphenols, powerful disease-fighting antioxidants. Oats release their energy slowly, maintaining blood sugar levels, so they're a suitable food for diabetics and slimmers, plus they contain a form of soluble fibre called beta-glucan, which has been shown to promote digestive health, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and help prevent heart disease.

Related: How to make the perfect porridge

Welsh cawl

The national dish of Wales is a nourishing stew of lamb, root vegetables and leeks. It's as wholesome as you can get.

Grass-fed Welsh lamb is high in vitamins and minerals and as the meat slowly cooks, you get a nutritious collagen-rich broth, which is beneficial for the skin and digestive system.

The root veggies, usually swede, carrot and turnip, are slow release carbs full of fibre and vitamins, and the leeks contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, including cancer-fighting kaempferol.

Related: Find lamb stew recipes here

Cockles

Many of us have fond memories of snacking on cockles at the seaside, and though they're not that common these days, you can still find seafood stalls selling the tasty clam-like morsels in most of the popular British resorts.

We should probably eat them more often. Cockles are very high in protein, vitamin A and zinc, which is important for immune function, skin and hair health, and they're virtually fat and carb-free to boot.

Related: Find fish and seafood recipes

Piccalilli

The moreish Anglo-Indian pickle may only get the odd outing at Christmas for instance, but tangy piccalilli deserves pride of place among your regular condiments. The preserving process creates beneficial bacteria to aid digestion.

Cauliflower, the central ingredient is a first-class source of fibre, vitamins and minerals, and turmeric, the spice that turns the whole mixture yellow, may support brain health and protect against dementia.

Related: The health benefits of spices

Cock-a-leekie soup

Like Welsh cawl, cock-a-leekie soup is based on a bone broth, chicken in this case, which is rich in skin and gut-supporting collagen.

Nutrient-dense leeks are the veggie star of the show, and the traditional garnish is a julienne of prunes.

Particularly high in soluble fibre to keep you regular, prunes are jammed with vitamin B6, potassium and manganese to help regulate blood pressure, maintain a strong immune system and promote robust joint health.

Related: 10 tips to boost your immune system

Jellied eels

You might turn your nose up at this quintessential Cockney classic but a dish of jellied eels cooked to the traditional recipe is a wholesome treat. The eels are simply simmered in a spiced stock, which when cooled forms a savoury collagen-rich jelly.

The end result is high in protein and loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins E and A, and minerals such as zinc, all fundamental nutrients for optimal health.

Related: Where to get Omega-3 if you don’t like salmon

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.