Serious fighters and other competitive athletes understand the benefits of making smart food choices. However, sometimes a bowl of oats and a grilled chicken salad can get a little boring. No worries. Here are 7 “fresh” ideas to give your diet a little boost in 2011.
Low in calories and fat but high in nutritional benefits, this lesser-known berry scores big on the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) scale, which measures a food’s antioxidant value. Found in red, black, and blue varieties, these berries have shown to offer protection against inflammation, neurological diseases, bacterial infections, and the effects of aging. Chokeberries, given the name because of their high astringency in raw form, are best consumed in teas and juices.
These antioxidant-rich, nutty flavored seeds were an important diet component of the Aztecs and Mayans, and they are a better source of omega-3 fatty acids than flax seeds. “Chia” is the Mayan word for strength, and the Aztecs considered it “running food,” as it could fuel and sustain their warriors for an entire day. Be ready for battle by adding these seeds to cereal, smoothies, brown rice, stir fries, and salads for a hearty dose of fiber, protein, and minerals.
Although commonly referred to as a grain, quinoa (pronounced keenwah) is technically a seed. Once considered a sacred crop of the Incans, quinoa was referred to as the “mother of all grains.” A complete protein with all eight essential amino acids, these seeds are also a good source of fiber, manganese, magnesium, copper, iron, phosphorus, and vitamins E and B, making it supportive to cardiovascular and digestive health. Cooked in water or low-sodium, free-range chicken broth, it’s a great substitute for rice.
Turmeric is the ground powder from the root of a plant in the ginger family, and it’s found commonly in curry powders and mustards. Long known for its potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, digestive, and detoxifying benefits, as well as possible anti-cancer potential, turmeric should have a prime spot in your spice rack. Add it to chicken, rice, quinoa, lentils and steamed vegetables. For the most health benefits, purchase actual turmeric instead of curry powders.
Coconut water has been called “nature’s sports drink,” but beyond its most common use as a nutrient-rich hydration drink, it’s also shown potential to provide gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, antimicrobial, and immune system benefits. Not to be confused with calorie- and fat-laden canned coconut milk, coconut water is the fat-free, low-calorie, clear liquid extracted from young, green coconuts. Coconut water boasts more potassium than a banana and contains all five essential electrolytes.
Bison is lower in fat, calories, and cholesterol than beef, and it still packs in all the good protein and taste. Enjoy bison in burgers, steaks, meatloaf, and short ribs. Grass-fed animals also provide up to twice as much antioxidant-rich beta carotene, three to four times more heart healthy omega 3 and vitamin E, and five times more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) compared to grain-fed animals. CLA has been touted as immune enhancing and metabolic boosting, as well as thought to reduce heart disease and cancer risks.
Packed with vitamins, minerals, flavonoids, carotenoids, and fiber, spinach has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits, as well as helping maintain cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and bone health. Enjoy this nutrient powerhouse in salads, sautéed with a little olive oil and garlic, or added to dishes such as omelets, wraps, and soups. There’s a reason Popeye was yoked enough to land a hot chick like Olive Oyl, and it all started with a can of spinach.