Monday, March 2, 2009

Nutrition: Supermarket superfoods

By Christine Bailey

Add these superfoods to your shopping list and your daily diet will boost both your health and your performance.

Prune power
Need to supercharge your ride? Take a pack of dried fruits and you can top up your energy stores quickly. Dried apricots, figs, prunes and raisins are all excellent sources of quick releasing carbohydrates to prevent the dreaded ‘bonk’ and keep your muscles fuelled. They’re rich too in antioxidants to aid recovery and support immune health, plus potassium to maintain electrolyte balance and lower blood pressure.

Go nuts
Nuts are another great portable snack that is rich in monounsaturated fats, vitamin E and magnesium – important for maintaining a healthy heart, joints and bones. Vitamin E, along with other antioxidants present, can help protect against free radical damage which can be linked to muscle soreness and slower recovery. A good source of protein, nuts can also help stabilise blood sugar levels and so prevent energy dips.

Wholegrain holy grail
Pasta and rice are well known staples for cyclists, providing plenty of easily digestible carbohydrate to help refuel your glycogen stores after a long ride. Choose wholegrain for additional B vitamins, needed for energy production, and fibre. Combine it with some protein to fuel your muscles and aid repair.

Egg sample
Eggs are one of the best complete protein sources around. One egg contains 5.5g protein, over 10 percent – of your daily needs – with only 68 calories. So if you’re trying to build up your strength and endurance, add a couple of eggs to your morning breakfast. Packed with choline, an important B vitamin for brain health and reducing inflammation, they also contain the antioxidant lutein for healthy eyes and B vitamins to facilitate energy production.

Fish fat
Fish is an excellent high-quality protein food. A 100g (4oz) serving of salmon will deliver about 30g of protein – more than a third of your daily requirements. It’s also one of the best sources of omega 3 fats – essential for keeping inflammation in check, improving blood flow to muscles and boosting the immune system, helping you to train for longer. If you’re short of time, add a can of salmon to your pasta or salads, or mix with mayo for a great topping for potatoes.

Take your leaf
Broccoli and leafy greens like kale and cabbage are rich in phytonutrients known to protect against cancers and boost immune function. A good source of vitamins C and K, calcium and magnesium, these are essential foods for healthy bones and joints – useful if you suffer from stiffness. They also provide plenty of beta-carotene, the vegetable source of vitamin A needed for a healthy respiratory system – important when cycling in the cold.

Banana appeal
The fantastic, energy-boosting banana is the perfect choice for long rides. Choose ripe fruit with a higher glycaemic rating for an easily digestible source of carbohydrate to keep glycogen levels up. Bananas are a great source of potassium needed to balance fluid levels, keep muscles functioning effectively and assist in carbohydrate metabolism. They also provide plenty of B vitamins and magnesium needed for energy production to keep you in the saddle for longer.

Sweet spuds
A fantastic source of easily digestible carbohydrate, baked sweet potatoes make a quick, easy snack to refuel tired muscles. Packed with beta-carotene and vitamin C, these important antioxidants can help the body fight off ills and can help reduce any inflammation. Sweet potatoes also supply iron, manganese and copper – essential nutrients for energy production and muscle function.

Berry booster
Their brightly coloured skins are the reason why blueberries, blackberries, cherries, raspberries and strawberries are such a good choice. Rich in powerful antioxidants known as anthocyanins, they can boost immune health and prevent the buildup of free radicals that can cause damage to the body. Include these in your post ride meal or snack to aid recovery, prevent muscle soreness and to speed up repair.

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