Are you one of the many people who are seizing the opportunity provided by the new year to focus on wellness? We all know diet and exercise are the keys to good health. And you can dig up a lot of very healthy eating habits when you explore your Irish culinary roots. It’s true that a lot of stereotypical Irish foods – and drinks -are very unhealthy. But it’s also true that people in Ireland don’t live on deep-fried fish and chips washed down with pints of stout and shots of whiskey! The Irish diet, particularly the way our grandparents ate, includes some very healthy foods that we could use more of today.
We haven’t always enjoyed a great diet on this island. But the horrors of the famine and the indulgence of modern fast foods are only blimps on a much larger buffet of Irish cuisine. Irish foods include many options that can help anyone achieve better health in the new year. Here are the health benefits of some of Ireland’s most popular foods.
Most people associate the potato with Ireland, and the period in the late 1840s when Irish people were dying of starvation is even sometimes called the potato famine. Our ancestors depended on the potato crop because of the oppressive system of tenant farming in place before Ireland’s independence. But given the circumstances, they weren’t fools for picking the humble spud as their mainstay. Not only is it relatively easy to grow, but it is also full of nutrition. Potatoes pack a lot of fiber, as well as vitamins B6 and C and potassium. When cooked in a healthy way – boiled, not deep-fried! – potatoes are a very healthy carbohydrate.
Our Other Favorite Root Veggies: Carrots, Turnips, Parsnips
Root vegetables are part of your Irish roots, and they add up to a healthy, varied diet. The carrots that are a part of so many Irish dinners are rich in beta the anti-oxidant beta-carotene, vitamins A and C, and fiber. Turnips aren’t popular in the USA, but they are a staple in Ireland. This member of the brassica family is full of minerals and fiber. Parsnips, a pale cousin of the carrot, are an excellent source of vitamin C, folate, and manganese.
The Salmon of Wisdom is a famous Irish legend, but did you know salmon really is good for your brain? This fish is swimming in omega 3 oil, which is important for healthy brain and heart function. It’s also a good source of protein, potassium, selenium, and vitamin B12. Salmon is one of the very few foods that provide vitamin D, which may be part of why we depend on it so much on this cloudy island!
Go on, go on, if you’ve visited the home of an Irish person, it is unlikely you got out with being served a cup of tea. And like everything else in this list, it’s all down to how it is prepared. Laden with sugar, a cuppa is not so healthy. But black tea does contain polyphenols, a type of antioxidant. We won’t make any wild health claims for the humble cuppa, but when visiting some Irish mothers and grannies, it is far healthier to just accept the cup of tea than to upset her by declining!