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The Healthy Food Guide team believe that making small diet and lifestyle changes brings the best long-term gains. We look at the science behind the headlines and promote a balanced way of eating.

As winter frosts threaten tender growth, turn to exotic passionfruits for colour and sturdy chicory and shallots for crunch

 

Chicory

Grown in the dark, its vibrant white tips and slightly bitter flavour pep up less well- endowed leaves, tossed in a winter salad.

Nutritional reasons to buy
One portion of your five-a-day: 80g

This leafy veg, also known as endive, is delicious eaten raw in salads, sliced and added to stir-fries or halved and griddled. Available in red and yellow, it’s the red variety that’s particularly rich in anthocyanins. These naturally occurring antioxidants give the leaves their deep hue and have been linked to better heart health, as well as protecting against certain cancers and cognitive decline. More research is needed to confirm the health benefits of anthocyanins but, regardless, all chicory counts towards your five-a-day.

Nutritional information per 80g: 9kcal, 0.6g sugars, 1g fibre

In the kitchen
SERVES 4 as a side
Spray a non-stick frying pan with oil and set over a high heat. Halve 4 chicory lengthways, then fry cut-side down for 3–4 min until browned. Transfer to a plate. Toast 30g chopped pecans in the pan for 2 min. Meanwhile, make a dressing by whisking the zest and juice of ½ orange with 1tbsp olive oil, 2tsp sherry vinegar, 2tsp dijon mustard and black pepper. Drizzle over the chicory, then top with the pecans.
chicory

Passionfruits

Sweet and tart, these tropical fruits are packed with antioxidants, vitamins and fibre – a welcome reminder of warmer times.

Nutritional reasons to buy
One portion of your five-a-day: 5–6 passionfruits

Cut open these wrinkly little fruits and you’ll find vibrant yellow pulp and heaps of crunchy seeds – perfect for adding to smoothies and fruit salads, and mixing into porridge or natural yogurt. They provide two important antioxidants: vitamins A and C, both of which are needed for healthy skin and to keep your immune system strong. However, as each passionfruit only contains around 15g flesh and seeds, you need to eat several of them to get a significant intake of these nutrients.

Nutritional information per passionfruit: 5kcal, 0.9g sugars, 0.7g fibre

In the kitchen
LAYER fat-free Greek yogurt, crushed meringues and passionfruit pulp in small glasses for a twist on Eton mess.
MIX passionfruit pulp with a little lime zest and juice, a few fresh mint leaves and crushed ice. Top with cloudy apple juice for a virgin cocktail.
PUSH passionfruit pulp through a fine sieve (discard the seeds), then mix with diced pepper, cucumber and chopped fresh coriander. Spoon over cooked prawns for a zingy starter.
passionfruit

Shallots

The smaller, sweeter siblings of onions, shallots have a milder flavour, so they aren’t as eye-watering to prepare!

Nutritional reasons to buy
One portion of your five-a-day: 3–4 shallots

Shallots tend to have a milder flavour than onions, but many of the same nutritional attributes. They contain vitamin C and flavonoids – in particular quercetin, which acts as an anti-inflammatory – and their sulphur compounds may help to protect against certain cancers.

Nutritional information per shallot: 5kcal, 0.8g sugars, 0.5g fibre

In the kitchen
FRY sliced shallots gently with fresh sage leaves until caramelised. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar, then serve with pork.
SLICE shallots thinly, then gently fry until they’re softened and golden. Stir through mashed potatoes along with some chopped fresh parsley and wholegrain mustard to taste.
DRIZZLE halved shallots with oil and roast until sticky. Allow them to cool before adding to a leafy green salad and tossing with a dressing made with olive oil and lemon juice.
shallots