Green or purple cabbage?
What’s the difference? Purple (or red) cabbage contains more vitamin A, iron and flavonoids than green.
‘Cabbage of all types is a good source of phytochemicals [plant nutrients], believed to help protect against cancer,’ says nutritionist Fiona Hunter, of healthspan.co.uk. ‘It’s also a good source of B vitamins, which are important for energy production.’
However, purple cabbage has some impressive nutritional extras.
It contains ten times more vitamin A, which is vital for eye health, twice the amount of iron and, because of its bright colour, it contains 36 antioxidants that have been shown to ward off cancer and even improve memory.
Tip: Cooking cabbage will deplete some of its nutrients, so try to eat it raw — shredded in salads and slaws, or lightly stir-fried.
Winner: Purple cabbage
Fresh sweetcorn or canned?
What’s the difference? Canned sweetcorn contains 44 per cent more beta carotene than fresh.
‘Sweetcorn is a useful source of the B vitamin folate, which expectant mothers need for healthy development in the early stages of pregnancy,’ says Fiona. ‘It also contains vitamin C, vitamin B1 and the antioxidant beta carotene, which is important for a strong immune system.
‘Three heaped tablespoons of canned sweetcorn or one fresh cob will count as one of your five-a-day.
‘But canned sweetcorn is a better source of beta carotene than fresh because the canning processes breaks down tough cell walls in corn, making it easier for the body to access this important nutrient.’
Tip: Drain a tin of sweetcorn and stir into stews to instantly add fibre and vitamins — and reduce the amount of meat you’re eating in each portion.
Winner: Tinned sweetcorn
Regular onions or shallots?
What’s the difference? Shallots have three times more of the antioxidant vitamin C than regular onions.
With their sweet, mild flavour, shallots are considered to have a significantly better nutritional profile, offering more calcium — which is vital for maintaining healthy bones — along with more magnesium, potassium and zinc than plain old onions.
‘Onions and shallots are both rich in plant chemicals called flavonoids, which are believed to reduce the risk of heart disease,’ says Fiona Hunter.
‘Both also contain prebiotic fibre, which helps to encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut.’
Tip: Eat shallots raw and finely chopped in a salad rather than cooking them — this way they will retain 50 per cent more of their vitamin C content.
Avocado or avocado light?
What’s the difference? There’s 30 per cent less fat in an Avocado Light and around 90 fewer calories than in the original fruit.
Avocados are packed with nutrients and most of its 24g of fat is the relatively heart-healthy monounsaturated kind, but they can contain up to 240 calories. NHS guidelines recommend consuming less than 70g of fat a day, so it’s great that Isla Bonita is launching a light variety that also lasts longer.
Nutritionist Fiona Hunter says: ‘Avocados are a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E and vitamin B6, which is important for a healthy nervous system. They also contain a chemical called lutein that helps protect eyes.’
Tip: The dark flesh nearest the skin has far higher levels of antioxidants.
Winner: Avocado light
Regular dates or red dates?
What’s the diffe- rence? Red dates contain about 60 per cent fewer calories, half the sugar content and 10 per cent more fibre than regular dates.
Although red dates have been a popular snack in oriental countries for centuries, they are only just starting to become popular here.
Smaller than the big, juicy palm dates with which we are familiar, when they are examined gram for gram they contain significantly fewer calories and sugar, as well as 10 per cent more fibre.
Tip: Fibre-rich date paste (made by blending an equal quantity of pitted dates and water together until smooth) can replace half the sugar in most cake and dessert recipes.
Winner: Red dates
Green or black grapes?
What’s the difference? Black grapes contain more phytochemicals than green grapes.
‘Grapes are not a particularly useful source of vitamins or minerals compared to other fruits. But their big plus point is the phytochemicals — plant nutrients — in them,’ says Fiona Hunter.
‘Studies have shown a link between eating grapes, better brain ageing and a reduced risk of heart disease, too.’
The darker a grape’s skin the better, she explains. Red and black grapes contain resveratrol, catechins and proanthocyanidins, which have been linked to the prevention of various cancers including breast, colon and lung.
TIP: Refrigerating grapes significantly cuts phytochemical levels, so leave them in a bowl.
Winner: Black grapes
Mini or regular bananas?
What’s the difference? Mini bananas are almost a teaspoon of sugar (3g) sweeter per 100g.
With 15g of sugar per 100g, compared with 12g in regular bananas, mini bananas may be handy — but they are significantly sweeter.
‘Bananas are a good source of the mineral potassium, which helps to counteract the negative effects of too much salt on our blood pressure,’ says nutritionist Fiona Hunter. ‘They also contain a type of fibre called FOS [fructo-oligosaccharides], which helps to stimulate the growth of good bacteria in the gut.’
Tip: Peel, slice and freeze ripe bananas, then pop them in a blender to create an instant, healthy dessert with no added sugar or fat.
Winner: Regular bananas
Gala apples or Granny Smith?
What’s the difference? A Granny Smith apple has around 6g less sugar than a Gala.
A medium-sized Gala apple can contain up to 23g of sugar, while a green Granny Smith has just 17g — more than a teaspoon less.
Fiona Hunter says: ‘Apples are a good source of soluble fibre, which helps slow down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream and reduce cholesterol.
‘Research from Denmark also found people who ate apples regularly had higher levels of good bacteria in their gut, while a study from Finland found that those who ate one apple a day for four weeks reduced their LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol by up to 40 per cent.’
Tip: Always eat apples with the skin on. Not only is it a good source of fibre, the levels of healthy antioxidants in the skin are five times higher than in the flesh.
Winner: Granny Smith
Navel orange or blood orange?
What’s the difference? There’s 40 per cent more vitamin C in blood oranges than in regular, navel varieties.
You probably grab navel oranges from the supermarket shelf without a second thought — they’re the kind we eat most in the UK.
But you should consider picking up equally yummy blood oranges instead, as their dark red flesh is richer in nutrients — they also have higher levels of the flavonoid anthocyanin, a disease-fighting antioxidant.
‘Oranges are a good source of flavonoids — nutrients associated with reduced risk of heart disease,’ says nutritionist Fiona Hunter.
‘Emerging research also suggests that the phytochemical hesperidin, found in oranges, may help keep the brain healthy as we get older and protect against memory loss.’
Tip: Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron, which is often found in breakfast cereal. If you have a glass of orange juice with your breakfast, your body will be able to absorb more iron from your cereal or toast.
Winner: Navel orange
Broccoli or tenderstem?
What’s the difference? The Tenderstem variety has four times the vitamin A found in regular broccoli florets — this nutrient is important for maintaining healthy vision and immune function.
Created by crossing broccoli with Chinese kale, Tenderstem is a sweeter tasting, softer alternative that’s a popular ingredient in Asian cooking. ‘Broccoli of all types is a good source of glucosinolates, which are believed to help protect against cancer,’ says Fiona.
‘It is also an excellent source of vitamins C and K, the B vitamin folate and the minerals potassium and manganese.’
Tip: Always steam or stir-fry broccoli to stop water-soluble vitamins leaching away.
White or red garlic?
What’s the difference? Red garlic contains more allicin, which has been shown to have antibacterial, cholesterol-lowering and circulation-improving effects.
‘All garlic contains phytochemicals believed to help protect against certain types of cancer, reduce LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol and protect against heart disease,’ says Fiona. However, the purple-streaked Romanian Red and Rocambole varieties offer up to three times more allicin, a biologically active compound that is formed when garlic is chopped.
Tip: It takes around ten minutes for allicin to form once garlic has been crushed — so always let it sit for a while before you add it to your cooking.
Winner: Red garlic