A healthier diet can only promote better performance and a healthier body. It’s a no-brainer and easy to implement. However, I want you to think beyond grilled chicken, vegetables and blueberries. Superfoods are quite simply just what they sound like: super healthy foods. Each superfood has a unique history dating back hundreds or thousands of years. Indigenous people have used superfoods for centuries; these foods are so full of nutrition, vitamins, and healthy minerals that they almost seem to possess super powers. If Superman himself was going to come up with a diet plan for America, these foods would be first on his list. All it takes is a bit of understanding about them and a short shopping list and a trip to the market. Then just add a portion to your meal or smoothie. You could also take them in supplement form.
Feel the benefits in more energy, healthy bones, flexible joints and faster recovery. Here are a few examples and brief summary of some very popular Superfoods and my Warrior Smoothie Recipe below. Enjoy!
Superfoods For Athletic Performance
A species of flowering plant in the mint family that was cultivated by the early Aztec and Mayan cultures and was quite valuable to them for several reasons. They used chia medicinally to stimulate saliva flow and to relieve joint pain and sore skin. It was also the basic survival ration of Aztec warriors; one tablespoon was believed to sustain an individual for 24 hours. Chia seeds have a mild, nut-like flavor. The seeds are easily digested and do not have to be ground to be used. Whole Chia seeds can be sprinkled on your cereal, salads, or yogurt. The seeds can also be ground and mixed into smoothies or added to baked goods. A high quality protein, Chia seeds contain strontium which helps to assimilate protein and produce high energy. They are also an excellent source of antioxidants containing even more antioxidants than fresh blueberries. Contains the highest known plant source of essential fatty acids plus fiber, iron, calcium, niacin, magnesium and zinc. Other benefits include-
- Stabilizes Blood Sugar-Chia seeds slow down the rate at which complex carbohydrates are digested and then assimilated into the body. The soluble fiber helps to stabilize blood glucose levels resulting in steady, sustained energy.
- Energizing-The word “Chia” comes from the Mayan language and means strength. Chia seeds are a balanced blend of protein, carbohydrates, fats and fiber. Athletes have reported that Chia seeds help them perform at optimal levels for much longer periods of time.
- Anti-Inflammatory- The high concentration of omega-3 helps to lubricate joints and keep them supple. Additionally, Omega-3s are converted into prostaglandins which are known to have both pain relieving and anti-inflammatory effects.
- Weight Loss- The essential fatty acids contained in Chia seeds helps to boost metabolism and promote lean muscle mass. The seeds are sometimes added to food to provide bulk and nutrients while adding very few calories.
- Detoxification and Elimination- Similar to psyllium, the swelling action of Chia in the body helps to cleanse and soothe the colon, and absorb toxins while lubricating and strengthening peristaltic action.
Maca is the ancient superfood of the Incas and is an ideal supplement for athletes and anybody else who needs a lift and improved overall energy. Also called “Peruvian ginseng”, Maca is a folk remedy used to increase stamina, energy, and sexual function. Grown in the high Andes mountains in Peru, is packed with vitamins, minerals, proteins, tannins, complex alkaloids and other phytochemicals. If you’ve never tried it before, pick up a bag right now and blend a teaspoon of maca powder into your morning smoothie. Maca tastes a little like roasted chicory root, which tastes a little bit like coffee. It’s considered an “adaptogenic” (meaning it helps to restore balance or homeostasis to the body) herb that supports healthy energy without blasting your nervous system with chemical stimulants. If you’re new to maca, try just 1 teaspoon at a time. Then notice the difference in your awareness or energy levels. It’s a subtle but very real effect. Other benefits:
- Protein- nutritional powerhouse and reliable protein source containing significant amounts of amino acids. It is also rich in complex carbohydrates and essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and iron. It contains vitamins B-1,B-2, B-12, C, and E.
- Natural & Safe Alternative to Anabolic Steroids- Weight lifters, athletes, runners and body builders are turning to it. Maca has been used traditionally to increase energy and to promote improvement in both stamina and endurance in athletes.
- Improves mental clarity, focus and eyesight sharpness
CACAO (pronounced ka-kow) not cocoa (coco)
Cacao, the raw material of chocolate, has been used for more than 3,000 years in Mesoamerica. Ancient Mayan texts describe cacao as a gift from the gods, and it was mixed with spices to make a hot beverage. Cacao (the natural state of chocolate) is a nutritious superfood that increases energy and endurance with exercise. Cacao vs Cocoa -not quite the same thing. Cacao beans are the seeds of an Amazonian fruiting tree and are the source of all chocolate and cocoa products. Most cocoa powder (think milk chocolate) is processed via the “Dutch method” meaning heat extracted (up to 150°C!), sometimes with solvents, thus destroying most of the nutrients and antioxidants and potentially contaminating the end product. Cacao powder products have a HIGH antioxidant ORAC score which is the antioxidant value of food expressed in Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity or ORAC) Fourteen times more antioxidant flavonoids than red wine, 21 times more than green tea, and 7 times more than even dark chocolate!
How does cacao boost energy for your fitness workouts? Cacao actually helps to produce more energy within the muscles. The flavanols in cacao has shown to increase the amount of mitochondria production within the muscle – mitochondria is responsible for cellular energy.
- High In Minerals contains over 300 compounds including calcium, protein, magnesium, copper, zinc and iron.
- Antioxidants super high concentration of antioxidants.
- Anti-depressant contains 4 different neurotransmitters that promotes a positive outlook and acts as an anti-depressant.
- EFA’s contains essential fatty acids which can also help to decrease appetite.
Matcha tea is a high-quality green tea from Japan that is covered before picking to accentuate the color, then stone-ground after being picked and before being sealed into small tins. The health benefits exceed simple green tea because when you drink Matcha you ingest the whole leaf, not just brewed water. Get with the program and try this metabolism-enhancing, stress-reducing, immune-boosting, cholesterol-lowering, super cancer fighter!
- Natural Energy -Provides gentle, sustained, natural energy
- Amino acids- Matcha green tea has L-Theanine, a unique Amino Acid which helps promote a calm and focused mind and lessens the caffeine spike so you get a more sustained energy boost. It enhances mood and aids in concentration.
- Antioxidant- One cup of Matcha tea has 10x the antioxidants of green or black tea, and gram for gram, matcha has 10-20x the antioxidant power of blueberries, acai, or pomegranates.
- Lowers LDL “Bad” Cholesterol and Blood Sugar and does not raise insulin levels
- Weight Loss Aid- Boosts metabolism to burn more calories
Warrior Tonic Smoothie ( Featured in Prevention Magazine)
Prepare for your next WOD with this warrior tonic! Superfoods like maca, chia, cacao, and lucuma were all used as a basic survival ration by the Incas and Aztecs to sustain them before battle and on long journeys! 3 2 1… GO
1 cup almond milk (unsweetened)
1-2 Tbsp maca powder- (less if you’re new to it)
1 scoop of your favorite vanilla protein powder
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1 organic ripe banana
1Organic red apple (empire or gala work well)
1 Tbsp organic coconut oil
1 Tbsp lucuma powder (natural sweetener) or (alcohol free) vanilla extract, maple syrup (grade B)
1-2 Tbsp cacao nibs
*options add cinnamon and or raw coconut flakes (unsweetened) to mixture or for garnish!
BLEND all ingredients.
Until Next Time,
Claudia Monteleone, CHHC, AADP, RYT