Kale, a curly green-leafed relative of the cabbage, is being heralded as the latest superfood addition to the British diet, after a 122 per cent rise in sales over the past two years.

As well as being a good natural source of folic acid for pregnant women, kale is a good source of lutein - a carotenoid with powerful antioxidant properties important for maintaining healthy vision.

Dieticians say it is a source of soluble fibre, the antioxidant vitamins A and C, and the energy-releasing B vitamins. It also contains large amounts of certain phytonutrients thought to help fight some cancers.

The Food Standards Agency recommends that people with iron deficiencies stock up by eating green leafy vegetables, such as kale and watercress, spring greens and broccoli.

British shoppers seem to be loading their trolleys with fresh fruit and vegetables, from blueberries to beetroot, which studies suggest have the powers to energise and prevent disease.

Blueberries have enjoyed a surge in sales after being celebrated as brain food, with studies suggesting their consumption may slow the ageing process by helping to prevent and reverse memory loss.

Pomegranate juice is claimed to have anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, and to reduce the thickness of arteries.

Beetroot - whose sales have doubled in the past year - wins backing because it is virtually fat-free and rich in iron and magnesium.

An array of strange foods such as seaweed, algae and sprouting seeds have been championed by the television nutritionist Gillian McKeith.

The Food Standards Agency recommends that people with iron deficiencies stock up by eating green leafy vegetables, such as kale and watercress, spring greens and broccoli.

Although surveys suggest that British people eat on average only 2.8 portions of fruit and vegetable a day, surveys in the past year have detected more people trying to eat healthily.

Moira Howie, a Waitrose manager, said: "With health and nutrition so high on the national agenda, we are really seeing this translated in to nutritious choices in our shops.

"The rise in popularity of super-foods such as curly kale are coming about as people are on the look-out for high-quality fresh foods that fulfil their healthy eating requirements, while at the same time being quick and simple to prepare. Health really is high on people's shopping lists."

Other foods once viewed as bland or boring, such as porridge, which has a low glycaemic index, have found themselves the source of sudden popularity with shoppers. Brazil nuts and walnuts are being touted for their ability, respectively, to add selenium and - according to a Spanish study last week - to reduce hardening of the arteries.

The Food Standards Agency is keen to encourage more people to hit the recommended five portions of fruit and veg a day. It says: "Fruit and veg are good sources of many vitamins and minerals, yet most of us don't eat enough of them.

"People who eat lots of fruit and veg are less likely to develop chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease and some cancers."

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