Posts Tagged ‘superfoods’

You Can’t Beat Beets as a Sports Nutrition Superfood

August 24, 2009

It’s probably no news to you that beets are nutritious, but did you know that they may be able to increase your exercise endurance?  Interesting new research on beets as a superfood has shown that they are potentially capable of boosting physical performance. Apparently, beets and other nitrate-rich vegetables increase blood flow and lower blood pressure. In this particular study, beetroot juice significantly increased the exercise endurance performance of cyclists as measure by oxygen uptake. The group of cyclists given the beetroot juice consumed less oxygen when exercising and therefore conserved energy.

While scientists have previously studied  beets for their ability to lower blood pressure, this new research found that the juice increases endurance and stamina in cyclists by converting the nitrates in the juice to beneficial nitric oxide that fuel the body. In addition to presenting lower blood pressure after drinking the juice, the cyclists also performed significantly better than another group of cyclists given a black currant juice “cocktail”.

Says study author Professor Andy Jones of the University of Exeter’s School of Sport and Health Sciences, “Our study is the first to show that nitrate-rich food can increase exercise endurance. I am sure professional and amateur athletes will be interested in the results of this research”. But he adds, “Beet juice could (also) potentially help less physically fit individuals.”

Don’t confuse the natural nitrate compounds in beets  with the chemical nitrites (i.e., sodium nitrite and potassium nitrite) used as food preservatives in such as bacon and hot dogs. While they are believed to be safe in small doses,there is some question of whether or not they can lead to cancer if consumed in large quantities.

Beets aren’t the only source of naturally-occurring nitrates. Other nitrate-rich vegetables include:  celery, radishes, green beans, carrots, lettuce, squash and spinach. And, by the way, beets contain other heart-healthy nutrients. Beets contain betaine, which helps detoxify homocysteine (an amino acid that’s implicated in heart disease).  If the body doesn’t have enough vitamin B-9 (folate) or B-12 to get rid of excess homocysteine, then betaine comes to the rescue as a backup mechanism. Beets are also a great source of Vitamins  A and  C, as well as manganese, potassium and fiber.

Fresh or canned, juiced, cooked or raw, beat it to your beets and you may not only keep your heart beating efficiently, you may also beat your competition!

Be Well,



10 Surprising Superfoods

July 25, 2009

Bon Appetite magazine has come up with a somewhat surprising list of healthful superfoods, Most of them I agree with, but some I find  a bit of a stretch (bacon as a “health food” – I don’t think so)! Still it’s a list worth perusing as it contains some foods that may not be on your radar. As you know, variety is the spice of life and a part of a good insurance policy that you’re meeting all of your nutritional needs through your diet, rather than relying on supplements. I encourage you to check it out and try a superfood new to you. You may also be interested in reading my own list(s) of favorite superfoods.

Be Well, 


How to Love Your Vegetables: Part II

July 11, 2009

Recently I wrote about the importance of eating vegetables – how they have the highest nutrient density of all foods, but they are the category most people fall short nutritionally. Vegetables can be delicious – it’s just a matter of knowing what to do them. Here are more ideas for getting more into your daily diet:

If you’re not a vegetable fan or your kids aren’t, try adding vegetables to other dishes. Vegetable purees are a  great way to go. Try mashed cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes – it has a nice, sweet flavor to it. Add pureed carrots or zucchini to meatloaf, casseroles, pancake batter, muffins and quick breads, and chopped broccoli, mushrooms, or green beans to spaghetti sauce. Vegetable purees can even be snuck into desserts  thereby enhancing their nutrition as well as their flavor. There’s a great book called “Deceptively Delicious” by Jessica Seinfeld with great recipes for kid-tested desserts and snacks using butternut squash, cauliflower, spinach, carrot and banana purees. I also recommend keeping a can of pumpkin on your shelf year-round, not just during the holidays. It’s loaded with betacarotene and potassium – great for blending into smoothies, home-made soups, pancakes or puddings.

Dip into vegetables. For snacking, instead of chips and salsa, dip raw or lightly steamed veggies in salsa, hummus, mashed avocado or home-made guacamole, marinara sauce or a lowfat yogurt cucumber dip. This is another way of getting kids to eat more vegetables – just find a topping they like (ketchup and mustard work, too!).

Add vegetables to egg dishes. If you’re scrambling eggs or making an omelet, toss in some mushrooms, chopped onions, bell pepper and cooked asparagus.

Serve chicken or fish warm over a bed of wilted greens instead of rice or pasta.

Pile vegetables into your sandwiches.  And don’t stop at lettuce and tomato –add cucumbers, shredded carrots, onions or peppers to name a few. Or, make a lettuce wrap instead of a regular sandwich (substitute romaine lettuce leaves for the bread).  

Top your pizza! This another great way to sneak more veggies into your kid’s diets. Whether you make your own pizza, buy it frozen, or get it as takeout, load it up with extra veggies, including broccoli, tomatoes, green and red bell peppers, red onions, and mushrooms.  If you’re making your own, go easy on the cheese to reduce saturated fat, but load on the tomato sauce for extra lycopene.

Make vegetables the main dish. Plan your meal around an entree salad, vegetable soup, or stir fry. Add small servings of other foods — lean meat or poultry or low-fat dairy products — as side dishes. Entrée salads are great for summer – toss some fish, chicken or lean beef on the grill and then add it to a big salad

Legumes are a class of vegetables that include lentils, beans (including soybeans) and peas. Low in fat with zero cholesterol, legumes are high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium and are an important vegetarian source of protein.  Legumes are also very versatile and inexpensive. Keep cans of beans and lentils on your shelf  and you can add accent to a salad, create a healthful soup, stew or casserole, puree them for dips and spreads or soups or combine them with rice for a main vegetarian entrée.

If you already eat plenty of veggies, good for you, but branch out and try some new ones, such as artichokes, eggplant, asparagus, Swiss chard, bok choy, beets, parsnips turnip or mustard greens and jicama. The greater the variety the better insurance that you are getting all of the phytonutrients vegetables contain. So mix it up!

Be Well,


Milk: The Original Sports Drink

June 22, 2009

No, I don’t wear a milk moustache, but yes I am a big believer in drinking low-fat milk for health and performance. It really does do a body (especially an active body) good.

Cow’s milk has been out of vogue recently as people are increasingly turned to soy milk instead,  believing it to be a healthier alternative. Others avoid cow’s milk because they are lactose-intolerant. That’s a shame because milk is the ultimate superfood, loaded with calcium for healthy teeth and bones, vitamin D for optimal calcium absorption, vitamin A for healthy skin and eyes, potassium for proper electrolyte balance and muscle contraction, riboflavin for help in extracting energy from cells and protein for building and repairing body tissues.  

Recent research has also shown that drinking milk after a workout is a great way to both re-fuel and re-hydrate as it contains an ideal ratio of protein and carbohydrates to restore glycogen levels. Though it contains extra calories, chocolate milk may be an even better post-workout sports drink because of its slightly higher carbohydrate content than regular milk.

Other research suggests that drinking low-fat milk may help you burn fat. Some researchers believe it’s the amino acid leucine in milk that promotes fat burning.  Other studies suggest that it’s actually the calcium in milk that facilitates fat burning. Calcium supplements, by the way, have not be found to be as effective in facilitating fat burning as eating lowfat dairy products.

Soy milk, on the other hand, if consumed in large amounts can impair thyroid function, potentially lowering basil metabolic rate. It also contains phytates which can impair vitamin and mineral absorption. This is one of the reasons why most soy milks are fortified with vitamins and minerals.

And, if you’re avoiding cow’s milk because you’re lactose-intolerant, Lactaid milk is available just about everywhere these days – I’ve even seen it for sale at Longs and Target. Safeway even sells their own lactose-free milk under their own label and it’s slightly cheaper than the Lactaid brand.

Lactaid milk is slightly sweeter than regular milk because the enzyme lactase added to the milk breaks down the complex sugar lactose into glucose and galactose, two simpler sugars that the body can more easily digest. The result is a slightly sweeter taste for no additional calories. As someone who avoided milk for years because of lactose-intolerance, I am so happy to find Lactaid milk so available these days! Oral supplements of lactase are also available to take with a meal containing dairy products. Please note that if you are allergic to any of the proteins in milk (i.e., whey and casein) Lactaid milk is not the solution for you because it isn’t the lactose you’re allergic to.

Be Well,


Talking Nutrition on the Radio Again: Here’s the latest podcast

May 7, 2009


I made my latest appearance as the guest nutritionist on the Ask Dr. Smiles radio program April 25th on KDOW 1220 AM. The discussion centered on nutrition for whole body wellness and included topics such as “superfoods”; ways to get more vegetables into your diet; alcohol and its effect on metabolism; and whole foods verses organic foods. Check out the podcast for more information and my tips for “practical nutrition”.

Be Well,