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Superfoods you can grow yourself

Patsy Westcott / 23 July 2018 ( 14 June 2019 )

Many of the best fruit and veg to keep us healthy, wealthy and wise are right here on our doorstep.

Runner beans
Runner beans are a great source of potassium, calcium and dietary fibre

Superfoods: one day it’s avocados, the next it’s chia, quinoa or acai, or some other exotic food from around the world. What makes them ‘super’ – apart from the fact that they’re hard to pronounce and have racked up thousands of air miles – is their whopping nutrient content.

But the truth is you don’t need to turn to foods from exotic parts to ensure you get all the nutrients you need. There’s a wealth of fruit and veg grown here in the UK that not only match or even beat them for nutrient value, but are also kinder to your purse and better for the planet.

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A member of the brassica family (cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts), cabbage is an abundant source of isothiocyanates, naturally produced compounds derived from plant chemicals called glucosinolates. A report in the Journal of Enzyme Inhibition and Medicinal Chemistry highlights their potential as natural cholinesterase inhibitors – a plant version of drugs such as Aricept used for early Alzheimer’s. They also contain vitamins and minerals including carotenes and potassium.

How to grow cabbages

Cabbage recipe: Colcannon with bacon pancakes

We’ll eat again

Why those who lived with rationing in the Second World War ate a simple, super British diet.

1. More veg and fruit Those allotment pickings served us well in the war years. Today, only a third of UK adults meet the recommended five-a-day.

2. More dietary fibre Home-grown vegetables and fruit also meant a good supply of fibre. In 2018, according to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, dietary fibre intake stands at just 19g a day – well below the recommended 30g.

3. Calcium Thanks to their three pints of milk and 2oz of cheese a week rations, people didn’t go short of calcium during the war. Today 11% of adult women in the UK have inadequate calcium intakes. The reason? The recent fad for shunning dairy. Maybe it’s time to ‘drinka pinta milka day’ again?


For anyone born in the 1940s or 1950s, these mean vitamin C. And at 200mg per 100g, they do have a significant amount of this vital antioxidant nutrient. But there’s more to them – now the money is on their polyphenol plant chemicals including the anthocyanins, which give them that rich colour. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, the Journal of Food Science and Nutrition outlines their potential to protect against heart disease, cancers, dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

10 of the healthiest berries to eat

How to make blackcurrant cordial

Runner beans

These home-grown staples are a great source of potassium – for kidney and heart function, muscle contraction and nerve transmission. They’re also full of calcium for strong bones and muscles, and magnesium to regulate muscle and nerve function, and keep blood glucose and blood pressure steady. Then you can add in vitamins for good skin and mucus membranes, healthy eyes and vision, plus dietary fibre for a healthy gut and to help protect against heart disease, stroke and Type-2 diabetes.

How to grow runner beans


The traditional British onion with its papery brown skin abounds in vitamins and minerals. According to research, eating plenty of onions and garlic may protect against several cancers including mouth, oesophageal, bowel, breast, ovarian, prostate and kidney cancers. This is widely attributed to their high levels of plant chemicals called sulphur compounds. A review in the journal Nutrients concludes that they are linked to a lower risk of heart conditions and stroke. All good reasons to know your onions.

How to grow onions

How to make onion marmalade


Another winner on the vitamin and mineral front, again it’s the plant chemical content of plums that’s exciting scientists. An overview published in Phytotherapy Research points to a host of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties thanks to those anthocyanins. It concludes that plums are linked with better memory as well as better bone and heart health, plus fewer allergies, although most human studies have focused on dried plums – aka prunes.

How to grow plums

Roast plum crumble with vanilla yogurt


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.