Superfoods have become a popular trend, and for good reason. They deliver a rich source of antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber that can help improve your overall antioxidant status, protecting the body from oxidation. Oxidation, which can be brought on by the environment, stress or even a tough workout, is an abundance of free radicals that can attack your body’s cells, leading to structural damage that make it harder to recover and could possibly lead to the onset of disease later on.
Eating a diet rich in superfoods can help reduce damage brought on by free radicals, help you recover faster and get you back in the gym sooner. Here’s our list of four superfoods to include in your diet.
SUPERFOOD #1: Beets
Beets are perhaps one of the best superfoods when it comes to muscle building due to their naturally high content of nitrates. Nitrates can improve blood flow, circulation and vascularity by increasing the amount of natural nitrate that feeds into the nitrate-nitrite-nitric oxide pathway, the pathway that increases the production of nitric oxide. This pathway doesn’t require oxygen, which means there is more available in the body to carry out other processes including nutrient delivery. Beets are also a great source of betaine and folic acid. Betaine can help reduce inflammation and improve endurance and power, while folic acid is an important anti-inflammatory vitamin that can help protect the heart. If you have never eaten beets before, consider eating fresh raw beets by shredding them on top of a salad, or try steaming them.
SUPERFOOD #2: Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale. They are full of important phytonutrients including sulforaphane, which is a strong antioxidant. Sulforphane has been shown to increase the production of enzymes that reduce the presence of free radicals. Cruciferous vegetables are also high in the anti-estrogen phytonutrient di-indole methane (DIM). This compound binds to excess estrogen in the body and neutralizes its effects, packing it to be processed and removed from the body. Lastly, cruciferous vegetables are also high in soluble fiber, helping cleanse the gut! Use shredded cabbage and chopped kale in salads; eat broccoli steamed or sautéed in a fresh stir fry or try mashing your cauliflower and using it as a substitute for mashed potatoes!
SUPERFOOD #3: Berries
Of all the fruits available, berries of any kind rank the highest when it comes to antioxidant content and capacity. In fact, just one 1 cup of berries can provide you about 10 times the USDA’s recommendation of specific antioxidants – phytonutrients and vitamins. Blueberries rank the highest, while goji, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries are also good options. A few of the key antioxidants found in berries include vitamin C, A, quercetin, anthocyanidin, catechin and epicatechin. These nutrients can help reduce inflammation brought on by a tough workout. Just 1 cup of berries delivers less than 100 calories and provides a source of natural soluble fiber. Eat them for breakfast with your oatmeal, add fresh or frozen to your favorite protein smoothie or toss them into your Greek yogurt.
SUPERFOOD #4: Avocados
Avocados are much more than just a source of healthy fats and are considered a superfood for many reasons. A one-half serving of avocado delivers almost 5 grams of dietary fiber and a rich source of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. But that’s not all. This green powerhouse food also delivers sources of magnesium, vitamins A, C, E, K and B along with antioxidants lutein, zeaxanthin, phytosterols and glutathione – perhaps the most important antioxidant. Gluthathione has been shown to help provide protection against certain cancers. This creamy and delicious fruit can also provide protection against high cholesterol and reduce inflammation, while also helping protect against abdominal fat weight gain. Serve avocado in salads or mix up some guacamole to have along your favorite meat dishes.
Dreher ML, et al. Hass avocado composition and potential health effects. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2013. 53(7): 738-50.