Readily available all year round, okra is a pod-shaped green vegetable that’s high in vitamin C, folate and magnesium, and a good source of fibre. “It tastes a little bit like zucchini,” says naturopath, nutritionist and celebrity chef Janella Purcell. “It also thickens when you cook it, so it’s great to add to stews, soups and casseroles.”
How to eat okra:
- Make a gumbo-style vegetable casserole
- Stir-fry okra like you would broccoli or bok choy
- Cut it in half, stuff it with cooked grains and grill
2. Chia seeds
A natural source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, chia seeds are also rich in protein and soluble fibre. “The fibre content helps slow digestion and give a feeling of fullness, as well as helping to moderate blood sugar levels, which benefits people living with diabetes,” says Weight Watchers Nutrition Advisor Emma Stirling.
How to eat chia seeds:
- Mix chia seeds through your breakfast muesli or yoghurt
- Add to bread mixes or muffins
- Blend into a smoothie or fresh vegetable juice
Although it looks like a grain, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a highly nutritious seed that, when cooked, has a similar consistency to rice or couscous. Quinoa is a good source of protein and has a low glycaemic index (GI), making it suitable for weight loss and people with diabetes. And it’s gluten free, which is great for people with coeliac disease. Cook it as you would rice: one cup of quinoa to two cups of water. Rinse the seeds under cold water before cooking to remove their naturally bitter coating.
How to eat quinoa:
- Use it as a low-GI rice substitute when making homemade sushi
- Mix with fresh herbs and add to grilled vegetables or salads
- Cook in chicken stock as a side to barbecued lamb or fish
- Make quinoa porridge, adding fresh fruit and yoghurt
Eating these versatile sea vegetables offers numerous health benefits. “Seaweed is a great source of iodine, which can help promote healthy thyroid function and that’s important for a healthy metabolism,” says Stirling. Common types of seaweed include nori, wakame, dulse and arame, and they’re available from health food stores and Asian supermarkets. Seaweed can be eaten raw, roasted or rehydrated in water and then added to cooked dishes.
How to eat seaweed:
- Shred seaweed into soups or salads
- Soak in water and use the liquid as a stock for cooking
- Use it to make homemade sushi
Tahini is a nutty Middle Eastern paste made from the kernel of crushed sesame seeds. “Unhulled tahini is made with the sesame seed shell on it and, as a result is about four times higher in calcium than hulled sesame seeds,” says Purcell. Although high in oil, tahini is a healthy source of polyunsaturated fat, which can help to reduce cholesterol levels when it’s used in place of saturated fat.
How to eat tahini:
- Blend with chickpeas, lemon, garlic and olive oil to make hommus
- Use it as a healthy sandwich spread
- Make a cheesecake with tahini, white miso and silken tofu