Bored with plain salt and pepper? Or maybe rice, white or brown, doesn't do it for you anymore. Add some color to your diet with these healthy foods for athletes, all of which will be trending in 2014.
1. Pea Protein
A great alternative to egg and dairy protein, it's been shown to increase satiety better than egg, whey or casein. It's a good source of protein for a pre-load workout, and it may help spare glycogen for aerobic activities. You can find it in energy bars, green pea flour for soups and dips, and dried split peas for soups and main dishes.
Illegal to grow in the United States except in Colorado, hemp typically comes from Canada. It's high in protein omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fiber, and is gluten free. It's heart-healthy, and it improves blood flow and circulation when you are in the heat of high-cardio activity. You can add shelled, raw hemp seeds to dips, yogurt, oatmeal and smoothies.
Sardines and mackerel are high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. They're a great anti-inflammatory food post-exercise when your muscles need to recover. Try them on pizza or straight from the can.
4. Nuts Instead of Dairy
Try cashew, almond or peanut milk as an alternative to dairy. When fortified, nut milks provide vitamins A and D, calcium and protein for pre- and post-exercise. Use them in cereal, baking or smoothies.
This spice blend from India is a great way to take your food flavor up a notch but leave the fat and salt behind. Curcumin, an extract of the curry spice tumeric (which is what gives curry its yellow color) has been shown to improve cognitive status and reduce inflammation and cancerous growths. Use it in soups, sauces, rice dishes and stews.
6. Rosemary Hummus
Rosemary is high in iron, calcium and vitamin B6. Mix this powerful herb with garbanzo beans to make hummus. Its high iron content will improve the flow of oxygen to the cells during exercise. The more oxygen you get to your cells, the higher your aerobic capacity.
7. Non-Wheat Pasta
Rice and buckwheat pasta are gaining popularity among people who are gluten-intolerant. They provide complex carbohydrates, B vitamins and a steady stream of glucose to the brain and muscles to get you through long cardio workouts. Use them in any pasta main dish, cold or warm, and in side dishes seasoned with fresh basil and oregano.
8. Black Rice
This darker version of the more common brown rice is high in antioxidant bran, which is removed from white rice. It's also high in antioxidants known as anthocyanins—also found in blueberries and acai berries—which help you recover more quickly after a workout. According to a new study presented at the American Chemical Society in Boston, ten spoonfuls of cooked black rice have the same amount of anthocyanins as a spoonful of fresh blueberries. Black rice is a better choice because it's lower in sugar. Use it in any rice dish or as a breakfast cereal.
This French herb is also known as gourmet parsley. Used like thyme or basil in dishes, it has a licorice taste. Chervil is high in magnesium, selenium, potassium, manganese and calcium. It can lower blood pressure and improve digestion—both wonderful benefits for athletes who put additional stress on their hearts and intestinal systems with intense exercise. Add chervil to salads, omelets and other egg dishes.
10. Lemon Balm
Hailing from the mint family, this herb gets its lemony flavor from citral and citronellal. It has been shown to reduce anxiety and muscular cramps, and promote healthy sleep with its calming effect. Use it as a flavoring for waters and teas.
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