Diet blog: the superfoods on your doorstep

Judith Wills / 02 October 2015

Diet expert Judith Wills swaps kale for cabbage and blueberries for blackcurrants for superfoods that taste just as good.

Following hot on the report I mentioned a few weeks ago which showed that our life expectancy in the western world has increased dramatically in the past couple of decades, I find a new report from the World Health Organisation puts somewhat of a dampener on that good news.

It finds that here in the UK, females born today are likely to live to be 82.7 years old, which sounds good until you find out that the UK comes in at fourteenth on the WHO Western Europe life expectancy list, ahead of only Denmark. We are also more likely to die of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and digestive diseases than women in other parts of Europe.

Oh dear, oh dear, you may think - if you're not of a pragmatic nature like me, who considers that if my baby granddaughter gets to 80-plus she'll be having a pretty good lifespan, and that health in old age is more important than the exact number of years.

But then you might consider moving to Dorset, where, apparently, both sexes are likely to live much longer than anyone else. Well I've always quite liked Bournemouth to be sure, but I think it's a bit late for me to add a decade or two to my life by uprooting just now so I think I'll make do with the Welsh borders, thank you.

And I might start eating more cabbage, despite the fact that the rabbits, slugs, and caterpillars took most of my homegrown crops this year. I much prefer cabbage to kale and though kale gets all the good publicity and thinks of itself as a health superstar, in fact cabbage is more or less as good and, whisper it, tastes better I think.

I've given up eating blueberries, which have a similar reputation to kale in the health charts but I refuse to pay £2 for a tiny box of them when I can defrost blackcurrants which were free and again, are just as good for you both in their vitamin C and antioxidant content.

Basically, whatever health food you can think of that costs the earth or doesn't taste so good, or has been flown into town from thousands of miles away, or has been grown out of season in a hothouse, there will be a lower-cost, better-tasting, in- season alternative with a similar nutritional profile. Even in winter.

And if you've had the foresight – and the freezer space – to freeze glut produce then you're laughing, nutritionally. Or go really trendy for a few pence and try making your own jars of pickles and call them kimchi – the highly fashionable and very good for you fermented cabbage, an age-old Korean recipe.

But I'm not going to give you that! No – I'm going to pretend it's still summer, as I am enjoying the last of the early autumn sunshine, and have just prepared another of my small-plate feasts using quite a few items from the veggie patch and the last of the greenhouse herbs and cucumber. The main ingredient is smoked mackerel, which, by the way, is even higher in omega-3 fats, for your heart and your joints, than is salmon, and is usually cheaper, so there's another swap you can make.

Judith's superfood salad

Mackerel Salad

Serves 2

  • 4 smallish waxy potatoes, skins on
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin rapeseed oil
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, well crushed, optional
  • Fresh coarsely ground black pepper
  • 225g smoked mackerel fillets
  • 8 medium radishes, topped, tailed and quartered
  • 2 handfuls lamb's lettuce
  • 5 cm cucumber, roughly chopped
  • 1 handful rocket
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped dill

1. Boil and halve or quarter the potatoes and leave to cool somewhat. Meanwhile make a dressing by beating together the rapeseed oil, lemon juice, garlic, black pepper and a little salt if liked.

2. Remove the skin from the mackerel fillets and break them into several large pieces. Arrange the mackerel, potatoes and radishes on two smallish serving plates and then scatter around the lamb's lettuce, cucumber and rocket.

3. Spoon over the dressing and then finish with the dill and a little extra black pepper.

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