25 Underused Superfoods You Should Be Stocking up On


superfoods worthy of the name

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These underrated eats may not come with celebrity endorsements or inflated price tags, but according to our experts – nutritionist and founder of Awesco Nutrition, Anne Anyia, PT and nutrition coach, Wilson Pinho and, lecturer at the University of East London, Adnan Chowdhury – at a time when fortifying your health and fitness feels more important than ever, they’ll give you the nutrients you need to perform at your peak.

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Currently enjoying a resurgence with the rising popularity of Middle Eastern food, this versatile sesame seed spread is packed with vitamin E, an antioxidant linked to anti-ageing – both of the aesthetic and holistic varieties. “Sesame seeds are also higher in protein than most other nuts or seeds,” says Anyia.



To coeliacs, its name is apt: seitan is made from gluten, the protein found in wheat. But for others, it’s a satisfying meat substitute that packs as much protein as lean meat and is a good source of the amino acids needed for vegan muscle-building. Popular in fried “chick’n” restaurants for its meaty texture, it’s cheap to make at home, now that you’ve conquered sourdough.


Wood Pigeon

Not only is pigeon more ethical than chicken, it’s also leaner and more muscular (largely because the birds actually have a chance to fly). Chef Andy Waugh of Mac & Wild describes it as “the gateway meat for people who think they don’t like game”. It’s rich in minerals such as copper, which supports weight loss.


Dill Pickles

By which we mean preserved cucumbers, usually flavoured with dill and spices. But not all are created equal. Look for lacto-fermented varieties, not “dead” vinegar pickles, which are the sterilised kind. Or make your own. “They’re easier to digest and contain lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants,” says Anyia. “Fermented foods boost immunity, too.” Try in tuna salads or Cuban sandwiches.


Dry Cider

The antioxidant count in cider is comparable to what you’d find in the more widely celebrated red wine, according to the Institute of Food Research – and the nutrients are more rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream than those in fruit. Opt for natural ciders with a higher percentage of fruit, fewer added sugars, a longer fermentation time and a more interesting flavour. We’ll spare you the “apple a day” jokes.



Much like dogs, sprouts are not just for Christmas – they’re for (longer) life. Cruciferous vegetables such as sprouts, cauliflower and kale contain glucosinolates, compounds with a healthy, anti-cancer effect. Italian researchers recently found that sprouts stimulate the development of stem cells in your muscles, helping them to repair and grow. Sauté or roast rather than boiling to preserve more nutrients. Lardons and chestnuts optional.


Kale Pesto

Kale reached cultural saturation point in 2015 (remember the “Kale Yeah!” T-shirts?), but its popularity isn’t all hype – it’s rich in vitamins A, C and K. But let’s face it: it tastes awful in salads. Buy it in pesto form, however, and not only will the added fats boost your absorption of vitamin K, but you might enjoy eating it, too.



The green stuff in your miso soup is swimming in nutrients such as hesperetin and fucoxanthin (don’t worry, we won’t quiz you later). Rodent studies at the Korea Food Research Institute found it improved running distance by 15%, as well as boosting muscle function.



Originally from West Africa, Jamaica’s national fruit is very unfruit-like, with barely any carbs, a pinch of protein and plenty of healthy fats – a similar nutritional profile to the avocado (it’s keto friendly, too). A study by the West Indian Medical Journal found it rich in oleic acid, linked to healthy weight loss. “It’s a powerhouse food,” says Chowdhury.



As well as potassium, spuds are a good source of antioxidants, says Anyia. “Reheat it the day after baking. This increases its levels of resistant starch, which gets broken down into short-chain fatty acids and provides fuel for good bacteria.” Prefer chips to jackets? Cut into wedges, boil for 5-10 minutes, then throw them in an air fryer with a spritz of olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and a sprinkling of fellow superfood rosemary.


Bloody Marys

The preferred drink for short-haul flights and long-haul brunches, a Bloody Mary is good for more than just easing hangovers. Researchers at China Medical University in Taiwan linked tomato juice to a reduction in body fat, while a study published in Food Science & Nutrition linked it to lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol. Vodka isn’t exactly conducive to these health benefits. But you were going to have some, anyway…


Nutritional Yeast

Where do vegans get their vitamin B12? Nutritional yeast has a nutty, umami taste, which has made it popular among those craving a cheese-like flavour without the dairy. As well as B12, it’s also full of other vitamins generally found in animal products. Do: sprinkle it liberally on your meals when you’re in need of an energy boost. Don’t: refer to it as “nooch”. Please.



A rich source of low-calorie protein, mussels have been shown to reduce joint inflammation, says Chowdhury. They’re also dripping with manganese and selenium for immunity, brain function and a healthy metabolism. Mussels are also relatively eco-neutral to farm – reassuring, given that seafood farming is one of the world’s fastest-growing food production industries and increasingly unsustainable. Steam, bake in foil, or flour, fry and turn into “popcorn”.


Pea Protein

A common addition to post-gym powders, pea protein is thought to “increase muscle strength more efficiently than whey”, according to Chowdhury. “Plus, research has found that combining pea protein with vitamin C can help to reduce post-training inflammation.” Not a fan of dairy-free blends? Then try another source of pea protein – er, peas. A cupful contains 8.6g of protein, along with almost 40% of your vitamin C needs and around 9g of fibre.


Ginger Shots

A rare juicing trend worth swallowing, ginger shots have been taking root everywhere from Whole Foods to Tesco. But unlike wheatgrass et al, it seems to be the real deal. A study at Tehran University of Medical Sciences found that 2g of ginger per day reduced blood sugar by 12% in those with type 2 diabetes, a condition now affecting one in 10 people over 40. The bioactive component gingerol is known for its antiviral properties, too. Hot stuff.


Jerusalem Artichoke

This root vegetable is neither from Jerusalem (it’s derived from the Italian word for sunflower, “girasole”), nor is it an artichoke: but don’t let that be cause for mistrust. Roasted, sautéed or puréed into a creamy soup, it has a nutty, sweet taste. It’s also a top source of inulin, a type of fibre that the bacteria in your digestive system feed on, creating a healthier microbiome that is linked with reduced anxiety and swifter fat loss. Praise be.


Black Beans

“Studies have linked black beans with protection against heart disease, diabetes and weight gain,” says Anyia. They provide 9g of plant protein per serving, as well as anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and plenty of resistant starch, which offsets the digestive impact of a meat-heavy diet – so you can have your steak and eat it. Throw them in tacos and tostadas or blend with lime, coriander, garlic and chilli and serve with tortilla chips.



Seacuterie was tipped as the food trend for 2020 – before the coronavirus wave washed that idea away. As you may have guessed, the name is a play on “charcuterie”, and means turning fish into sausages, salami and other cured goodies. What you’re left with is a concentrated source of high-quality proteins and micronutrients, with more omega-3 than any of your usual bangers.


Tiger Nuts

When is a nut not a nut? When it’s a nut-like tuber with a flavour like almonds but a lower calorie count. Tiger nuts are popular in Spain, where they’re referred to as chufa and used to make horchata, a sweet plant-milk drink. You can also roast them and eat them like, well, nuts, and they’re rich in insoluble fibre, which benefits gut health and curbs blood sugar spikes.


Pork liver

We should all be eating more offal. Not only is going the whole hog good for minimising waste, but some of the most nutrient-dense parts of the animal are those we tend to overlook in Sainsbury’s. A typical serving of pork liver contains well over your RDA of vitamin A, riboflavin and iron, plus plenty of niacin, zinc, selenium and even vitamin C. It’s essentially a multivitamin. “A study in 2017 indicated that pork liver proteins have antioxidant properties,” says Pinho. Dust with flour, season and sear.


Wild Rabbit

The other, other white meat, rabbit is lean with a 4:1 protein-to-fat ratio. “It’s also richer in calcium and phosphorus than chicken, beef and pork, and is much lower in cholesterol,” says Chowdhury. Marinate overnight, then sub it in for your Sunday roast chicken. “Researchers found that consuming rabbit improved recovery in explosive athletes such as shot-putters and sprinters by increasing their circulatory functions.” That’s what’s up, doc.


Cottage Cheese

The 1980s diet food may not be as hip as it once was, but with the rise of trendy probiotic foods – kefir, skyr, quark – it’s worth revisiting the older, cheaper classic. Cottage cheese is low in fat (0-5%) and rich in protein, with up to 10g per 100g. In particular, it’s high in casein, says Chowdhury, which digests slowly to drip-feed your muscles and stave off hunger. Let’s leave the cabbage soup diet consigned to history, though.


Jellied Eels

The snack synonymous with London’s East End seafood stalls and pie shops enjoyed a small resurgence when Tesco started selling them outside the capital. There’s good reason to support the age-old trade: the jelly is rich in collagen, which supports joint health and helps skin to look younger and firmer, while eels are swimming in omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins. And you’ll be happy to hear that they’re no longer dredged from the Thames.


Golden Beetroot

That beetroot is good for endurance is well known. Tour de France athletes swear by it, due to its stamina-boosting nitrates. But it’s also rich in glutamine, the most abundant amino acid in muscle tissue, and it’s beneficial for heart health and blood pressure management, too. Spare yourself the stained lips and roast some golden beets in salt, pepper and rosemary.



Don’t confuse South Africa’s signature meat snack with American beef jerky. It’s cured and air-dried, rather than cooked or smoked, and tends to contain less sugar and more tasty fats. “A 25g bag contains about 13g of protein, making it an ideal snack after a workout for maintaining muscle mass,” says Chowdhury. Beef is traditional, but antelope and ostrich are also common.


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