By Belinda Reynolds + Lee Sutherland, Nutritionist and Dietitian
The term ‘superfood’ implies a sense of superiority over other foods, and that can be a good representation of what superfoods are. A food will generally be referred to as a superfood if it is considered more nutritionally dense than other foods, thus their incorporation into the diet may offer health benefits. With their increasing popularity it is no surprise that a growing number of health-conscious individuals are introducing such ‘superfoods’ into their meals.
There are many fads and conflicting pieces of information out there in regards to diet, and this can be confusing for those wishing to make the best decisions for their health. It is important to maintain a diet that provides a broad variety of non-processed plant foods, healthy protein sources, good fats and lots of fibre, and superfoods can form part of this.
If you wish to boost your diet, the following five foods fit comfortably into the superfoods category as they offer good nutritional benefits. These are commonly included in sports supplement ranges for their ability to assist in boosting energy levels, supporting recovery between workouts, maintaining healthy circulation and contributing to improved sports performance.
Beetroot is known for its nitrate content which, when converted to nitric acid within the body, is involved in blood vessel dilation. When the blood vessels are relaxed, this allows for increased blood flow, and subsequent oxygen and energy flow, throughout the body. This enhanced circulation aids optimal heart and skeletal muscle function, plus may also support recovery.
2. Coconut Water
Not to be confused with coconut cream or coconut milk, coconut water is a clear liquid found in the centre of young, green coconuts. Coconut water provides carbohydrates and electrolytes that are easily absorbed to assist with hydration (and rehydration) of the body. Coconut water is a naturally rich source of the electrolytes potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, plus vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, iron and phosphorus, all of which are important nutrients for a multitude of health benefits, including immune function.
Pomegranate provides powerful antioxidants that protect the body by controlling the activity of free radicals known to compromise overall health by contributing to inflammation, poor immune function and cell damage. Pomegranate is also a natural source of potassium, which helps to maintain cellular function and fluid balance, and vitamin C, which is important for healthy immune function.
4. Green Coffee
Green coffee refers to coffee beans that have not yet been roasted. The roasting process of coffee beans deplete levels of the beneficial chlorogenic acid, which has proven health benefits, including support of heart health. Green coffee may be added to supplements for its recognised benefits in assisting blood glucose management and its antioxidant properties.
5. Tart Cherry
Tart cherry provides a range of benefits, including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support thanks to its high concentration of anthocyanins, and flavanoids. These natural substances work to suppress inflammatory chemicals in the body, hence reducing inflammation and pain post-exercise. This seems to support optimal recovery and performance in the days after a hard training session.
If you are partaking in regular intense exercise, or training that lasts more than an hour or so at a time, it is important to ensure you are allowing adequate recovery time between workouts. This ensures your muscles have the opportunity to repair and rebuild. Hydration, protein and glycogen repletion are equally essential, and this can be provided by a healthy diet, and at times supplements will be useful. Incorporating foods commonly referred to as “superfoods” into your daily meal plan can also help to maximise the intake of healthful nutrients and antioxidants.
FITC: Of course eating food in their natural state is always best, but of course at times that isn’t an option, thankfully there are now (clean) supplement and protein powders on the market now which include them in their formula – like IsoWhey Sports www.isowheysports.com.au , which is designed for athletes and active people who exercise frequently and intensely and where a regular diet does not meet their requirements.
What is your fave supperfood smoothie? This is on high rotation at the moment and soooo good:
Almond milk + banana + 100% lean WPI protein (choc) + glutamine + chia seeds + fish oil + ice = delish recovery shake!!