What are superfoods?
Superfoods are ingredients that are densely packed with nutrients and are overall beneficial to your health. There is no specific food group for superfoods, it is more of a marketing term for food that has positive health benefits.
They contain a huge range of vitamins, antioxidants and nutrients that will not only help you eat healthier, but can even keep diseases and ailments at bay. Plus, by incorporating superfoods into your diet you’ll see an increase in your energy levels and fitness performance.
It’s quick, easy and means you can enjoy some delicious meals in the process! With that in mind, we’ve created an in-depth guide to the world of energy-boosting, vitamin-rich superfoods that you might not have realised you were missing out on.
Sweet potatoes are a nutritional powerhouse! Packed with slow-releasing carbohydrates, vitamins, fibre and minerals that fuel our bodies for longer. Running increases oxidative stress, which over time can lead to damaged cells and tissues in the body. Sweet potatoes contain Vitamin C which naturally fights against oxidative stress/free radicals. They also contain manganese which supports an excellent source of iron, calcium, selenium and is rich in Vitamin A, B and C. The mix of soluble and insoluble fibre makes them great for gut health and they’re even one of your 5-a-day. All in all, a win-win.
Peas, chickpeas and lentils are all part of the legume family. Not only are they full of vitamins and minerals, but they are also rich in plant protein, making them a great alternative to meat. Legumes are also an excellent source of gluten-free, unrefined carbs for those who are intolerant.
Lemon, orange and grapefruit are all an excellent source of vitamin C. It’s essential that we get enough vitamin C for the maintenance of our immune systems and the well-being of bones and joints. It also aids the absorption of iron and helps to counteract the symptoms associated with anaemia.
Fruits such as cherries, blackberries and blueberries are among the most anti-antioxidant packed foods you can get, due to compounds called anthocyanins (the reason behind the rich, dark colour of the fruits.) Anthocyanins aid recovery by fighting off nasty molecules, ‘free radicals’, that attack healthy cells. Berries are also bursting with vitamin C and have been linked with a lowered risk of heart disease. Try blending some berries into a post-run smoothie or adding some to your morning porridge.
Leafy green vegetables such as spinach and Swiss chard contain high levels of vitamin K, B12 and iron. Vitamin K promotes bone health by helping to transport calcium around the body, as well as vitamin B12 and iron.
It may be an acquired taste, but studies have shown that drinking beetroot juice can improve your stamina. Beetroot is high in nitrate, which increases blood flow to the muscles, therefore reducing the amount of oxygen needed.
Olive oil is full of monounsaturated fats which can help to reduce cholesterol levels and promote a healthy heart. High levels of vitamin K and E also make it great for skin health.
When we say whole grains, we’re talking about complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, oats and quinoa. Unlike refined cereals which are stripped of their nutrients, wholegrains maintain the properties contained in the grain coating, including minerals, vitamins and polyphenols. They are also rich in vegetable proteins and help to keep your blood glucose under control.
Walnuts and almonds are rich in amino acids which are the smaller units that make up proteins and are essential for muscle repair. Nuts and seeds are an excellent source of healthy fats, calcium, magnesium and zinc. Eating a portion of nuts each day can even help to maintain stable blood glucose levels, which in turn contributes towards your overall heart health.
Cultured foods such as yoghurt and tofu contain millions of probiotic bacteria that actively contribute to our gut health. Our intestinal bacteria aid in the digestion of nutrients and communicate with our brain, helping to influence our mood as well as our weight.
Dark chocolate packs a massive nutritional punch, containing manganese, magnesium and copper, all essential for healthy hormone production. Chocolate made from cacao instead of cocoa is even more beneficial - containing epicatechin which increases the body’s nitric oxide production, dilating red blood cells and allowing us to use oxygen more efficiently. Dark chocolate also contains caffeine, so a small amount can be useful for a pre-training energy boost.
The great thing about superfoods is that you don’t need to massively change your diet in order to reap the benefits. Simply replace some less-healthy ingredients (sweet potato fries instead of chips is a really easy way), or throw some additional superfoods into your meals.
To learn more about nutrition and fitness, head over to Inside Track for some fantastic tips and additional information.