Tamra Christiansen, Director of Fitness and Wellness
We read so many articles on what not to eat. We talk so much about what foods to avoid for your best nutritional health, but I am going to zone in on what foods to eat for longevity, vitality and your best health. Many think the way to being lean is to do more exercise and chase the calories. I tell you this: you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. There is a gentleman on Instagram who demonstrates — literally demonstrates — how many miles he must run to burn off certain foods. It is great for perspective building, but not everyone can simply run off foods they have consumed. The same goes for holiday sweets:
• 3 Musketeers Fun Size Bar = 15 minutes of jumping jacks
• M&M’s Fun Size Bag = 9-minute step class
• Slice of Pumpkin Pie = 35 minutes of jogging
• Buttered Roll (who eats just one??) = 20 minutes of flag football
You get the picture, right? That is a lot to feel guilty about and so many calories to chase after. I am here to talk about nutrition in a positive light: Superfoods! What makes them super? Their ability to give many nutrient-based benefits to the body all in one food.
One of the best ways to bring our body to its optimal health is to incorporate superfoods into our daily delish. This term has been thrown around as a sales slogan for many years, so know that you will benefit from eating WHOLE FOODS verses the supplement slogans. While there are many wonderful and healthy supplements out there, beware of them adding a dash of a superfood and claiming it can help you.
First: why superfoods? We get much of what our body needs with the macronutrients (aka: macros) we eat. Those are protein, fat and carbohydrates. Superfoods give us the health boost we need for our gut health (this is a whole other article), which is the main pathway to physical and emotional health. Superfoods have micronutrients we need to carry out the many amazing functions our body performs every day. They also decrease inflammation, which is known to cause weight gain, increase the risk of cancer, create hormone imbalances and cause pain. It is also good to note that superfoods add beautifully to many recipes.
• Fermented Foods: Kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt and pickles are examples of this superfood. Others are kefir, aged cheeses, non-heated fermented vegetables, kombucha and tempeh. These foods help boost good gut bacteria, which can combat depression, reduce blood pressure, assist in blood sugar control for diabetes and decrease inflammation. Fermented foods have been around for thousands of years, so they have proven their worth. Don’t be fooled by imposters such as beer, wine and soy sauces. Look for the foods listed above, plus the note that they contain live and active cultures. You can add these foods to dishes, such as sauerkraut on a salad or burger.
• Cruciferous Vegetables: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, arugula and more. These are rich in antioxidants as well as phytonutrients. These crunchy, fibrous vegetables contain folate and vitamins A, C and K. Benefits of these are seen with eating them twice a week or more.
• Ginger & Turmeric: Though these are fabulous alone, I pair them in my morning regimen. These also go great in smoothies and on salads. Turmeric and ginger are known to work best together for their anti-inflammatory properties. This is why you find them in herbal teas and supplements. They add flavor to your dishes and bring health properties to your body. The Arthritis Foundation supports these as a supplement to relieving your joints. Ginger also has stomach-relieving properties, which is why you find ginger chews for relief of intestinal discomfort. Pregnant women use ginger and ginger tea to relieve morning sickness. One more: ginger has polyphenols that improve digestion by stimulating saliva production. After all, digestion begins in the mouth, not just the stomach.
• Berries: Not only good for the skin, they are packed with polyphenols, anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties. The anthocyanins may reduce the risk of heart attack in women, and protect against cancer and diabetes. Raspberries are the healthiest due to their high fiber count and only have 5g of sugar per serving. I put a cacao dark chocolate chip in each raspberry for a beautiful and healthy dessert. Berries are easy to mix into a smoothie, top on Greek yogurt or Cordillera’s Chef Isaac has the Very Berry Smoothie that is fantastic and packed with good protein!
• Legumes: Fiber is now considered one of the longevity factors of life in that it is associated with better digestion and gut bacteria, and improved metabolism. Soluble fiber in beans lowers LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). It is like a broom that sweeps excess cholesterol out of the bloodstream. Being that we need about 35-40 grams of fiber a day, beans pack a whopping 8-10 grams in a serving at only 120 calories per serving. This is the perfect season for chili and lentil soup, or add them to salads.
• Hemp Seeds: This is a plant-based protein that has the rare characteristic of containing all nine essential amino acids. They have fiber, vitamin E and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese and copper. Hemp seeds can also easily be added to recipes and smoothies, or energy bites and oatmeal.
• Quinoa: This ancient grain is so powerful, much like hemp seeds. Quinoa has almost 9g of complete protein per serving and almost 6g of fiber. I spoke of fiber before and this is an ingredient you can add to any recipe or simply eat it alone. It is showcased on Cordillera’s Ranch Fit menu, so try it out!
• Coffee: This superfood has gotten a bad rap in some arenas, but the benefits are so brilliant if consumed in the right amounts. 300mg per day is the max, but just 5-10 ounces per day has antioxidants, polyphenols and energy. Chlorogenic acid helps prevent vision loss, blindness and glaucoma. It is great alone or with a natural creamer and can also be added to smoothies. Be sure to drink it before 1:00pm, for it stays in your system for seven hours. Drinking coffee seven hours or less before your bedtime can cause sleep issues.
Whether we eat some of these wonderful foods alone or in a recipe, make sure that you buy them organic. All bets are off in a superfood if it has been sprayed with pesticides.
Here is a recipe that you can try your superfoods in:
Berry Quinoa Muffins
Heat oven to 325° F. Lightly coat a 12-cup muffin pan with organic cooking spray and dust with organic flour.
3/4 c all-purpose flour (or gluten free flour)
1 c almond flour
1/4 c white quinoa (raw)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 lg eggs, beaten
1 c organic plain whole-milk yogurt
1/4 c whole milk (or milk substitute)
1/3 c honey
2 6 oz. containers small raspberries
In large bowl, whisk together flours, quinoa, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda and salt.
In medium bowl, whisk together eggs, yogurt, milk and honey. Fold egg mixture into flour mixture until just combined, then stir in raspberries.
Pour batter into muffin-pan cups and bake until toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, 15-20 minutes. Cool in pan for five minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
Nutrition per muffin:
6 grams protein
4 grams fiber
10.5 grams sugar
7 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat
34 grams cholesterol
203 grams sodium
*Recipe from Prevention.com
Tamra Christiansen is the Fitness and Wellness Director at The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 830.336.9184.