It seems like everyone has taken to their home kitchen to become a gourmet chef. It's one of the few benefits of having everyone stay at home during this period of collective quarantine.
So for you newly minted home chefs, here's a list of ten super foods that soar to the top of nutrition charts. They each stand out as potent disease fighters, keeping you healthy and reducing the risk of injury and illness so you can maintain great performance during exercise.
Almonds are a nutrition packed nut. Like others nuts, they're high in fibre, monounsaturated fats and antioxidants like vitamin E. Almonds contain high amounts of magnesium, important for circulation of oxygen in the blood which is crucial to optimum cardiovascular performance. They are also high in potassium which is important for heart function to increase endurance, as well as for muscle contraction, to promote strength and assist in a speedy recovery.
This classic fruit is filled with vitamins A and C, potassium and copper. Vitamin A and C are anti-oxidants which reduce the incidence of free radical damage, heart disease and tumorous cancer growths. Apples also contain both soluble and insoluble fibre, which promote heart and digestive health. The skin of an apple also contains a special flavonoid called quercetin, which reduces the risk of cancer.
A crunchy favourite of my local Asian take-out place, bok choy contains numerous disease fighting phytochemicals. For people who do not eat dairy products, these leafy greens which are a good source of calcium and vitamin K, help build strong bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Additionally, Bok Choy is a source of iron necessary for muscle oxygenation and prevention of anemia. This vegetable is also known for a phytochemical that produces an antioxidant named glutathione which can help reduce the oxidative stress load of intense training.
Many assume that all white vegetables have little nutritional value. Cauliflower, however, is a disease fighting powerhouse. It's packed with vitamin C, folate, potassium and fibre which team up to prevent heart disease by lowering blood pressure, bad 'LDL' cholesterol and homocysteine levels. Cauliflower also provides pigments isothiocyanates and indoles that battle cancer by reducing tumour growth.
Oranges, limes, lemons, grapefruit, kumquat and clementine's are not only good sources of Vitamin C, but they contain many other nutrients such as fiber, potassium, folate, Vitamin B-6, magnesium, thiamine, niacin and other phytonutrients. These naturally occurring compounds have been found to protect against many diseases. Consuming Vitamin C as part of diet rich in fruits and vegetables is associated with lower rates of disease.
Fatty fish such as mackerel, herring and salmon are excellent sources of high-quality protein, iron and vitamin B12. All of which are important for maintaining muscle mass, cardiovascular health and ensuring you perform at your best. However, it is the types of fat called omega-3 fatty acids in this type of fish that sets them above other high-quality meat and alternative protein sources. Omega-3's have great anti-inflammatory properties, protecting the heart and protecting against inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and psoriasis. Specific to the heart, omega-3 has proven to keep other bad fats from building up and injuring the arterial wall, reducing the risk of heart disease. Additionally, this type of fish supplies a hearty dose of vitamin D which enables your body to absorb calcium, helping protect bone density and preventing osteoporosis.
Legumes or Lentils
Just one cup of these meat alternatives contain as much protein as a three ounces of meat. Beyond the protein content, this vegetarian alternative is high in both soluble and insoluble fibre (about 15g per cup), important for keeping your cholesterol levels in check and promoting great digestive health. An additional benefit is their high anti-oxidant power. Antioxidants have been known to enhance the immune system preventing infections and illness as well as to aid in muscle recovery.
Red cabbage offers protection against many diseases such as cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis. Its strong team of antioxidants including glutathione, flavonoids, indoles, phenolic acid, plant sterols, sulforaphane and anthocyanin are all proven to inhibit cancerous cell growth at every stage of development. The combination of vitamin C, folate and magnesium in cabbage also helps to cut the risk of heart disease through lowering blood cholesterol levels and maintain a healthy heart. The magnesium and vitamin C in this vegetable also aid in recovery through reducing cardiovascular stress and oxidative stress to muscles after a workout.
Swiss chard is one of the lesser-known dark leafy green vegetables. However, it is just as nutritious as spinach and should find its place in your fridge. It is chock full of the antioxidant’s anti phytochemicals, lutein and zeaxanthin which strike a blow against cancer and heart disease. The green chlorophyll pigments of this plant along with its beta-carotene and carotenoids also aid in combating cancerous growths. The high potassium and vitamin B levels also aid in reducing heart disease through regulating blood pressure levels and reducing the formation of plaque in the arteries. For active individuals, this potassium rich veg is a great addition to a post-exercise meal, replacing electrolytes lost in sweat during workouts. Magnesium offers recovery benefits by relaxing blood flow, reducing cardiovascular stress felt after a strenuous workout. Additionally, the magnesium, along with phosphorous, calcium and vitamin K help to promote strong bones, reducing the likelihood of activity-related injury.
As a recovery food, Greek Yogurt provides the most protein. With 15g of protein in a 150g serving, eating Greek yogurt after your workout will help repair muscle breakdown and promote tissue repair. It is recommended to get a minimum of 20g of protein after a strength workout with a combination of a couple of snacks or a meal. But the health benefits go way beyond that. The active cultures in yogurt help maintain the good gut bacteria in your intestinal tract. Enjoy yogurt as substitute for many high fat foods like mayonnaise, sour cream, oils in baking. Add it to smoothies, salad dressings, dips or as a dessert topping.
I hope some of these ingredients can make a strong showing in your next family dish. Their benefits are clear for anyone looking to eat their way to a healthy lifestyle.