Foods to Enhance Your Athletic Performance, Increase Energy, and Boost Immunity!

by Jessica Mishra on April 13, 2012

You might be thinking, how can these foods do all the things that you mentioned in the title? Let me tell you, these are some pretty powerful foods. Many cultures have even been using them in a medicinal way for quite some time. The foods I am about to discuss may change your life. Powerful statement, right? Not only are these foods nutritionally dense, but they can support several of your body’s delicate systems to work more efficiently.

Fermented Foods

Almost any culture you can think of has some form of fermentation in their cuisine. Indians have delicious dosa, which is similar to a crepe and is made from a fermented batter. The Ethiopian diet has a bread called injera; the Greeks have their rich and creamy yogurt, and the list goes on!

In today’s society, we have become overly afraid of germs and bacteria. We have gone so far as to kill off even the bacteria that is very beneficial to our body. Anti-bactieral soaps are everywhere; all of our dairy products and even juices are pasturized (the heat kills off the good bacteria and enzymes needed for digestion); and products that were once naturally fermented (like pickles and sauerkraut) are now heated to destroy all their lovely health benefits. In addition to this, antibiotics are handed out like candy. Don’t get me wrong, antibiotics do serve their purpose at times, but they are definitely overused.  In addition to killing the bad bacteria, they also destroy our reserves of the good stuff.

Our digestive tracts contain trillions of healthy bacteria strains that are essential in absorbing nutrients as well as removing waste from the body. This good bacteria also comprises a large portion of our immune system and regulates our metabolism.  Without proper amounts of these little friends, we may start to develop many different health issues, some of them chronic. An unhealthy gut has been linked to diabetes, arthritis, depression, and acne to name a few. It is important that we now get back in touch with what most cultures have inherently known was right for ages, and put these health promoting foods back into our diet!

As mentioned above, fermented foods are an important part of maintaining the proper balance of bacteria in the gut.  Fermented foods also have the following amazing benefits:

  • Help with absorption of nutrients from your food
  • Rich in enzymes which assist with digestion and support the pancreas
  • Assist in the production of hydrochloric acid which is necessary for digestion
  • Enhance flavor
  • Will keep for long periods of time

Look for fermented foods that do not contain vinegar.  Properly fermented foods are found in the refrigerated section of most health food stores and usually only contain water and spices or herbs.  Experiment with fermented foods and introduce the following:

  • Sauerkraut (Bubbies and Farmhouse are great brands)
  • Cultured vegetables or kim chee
  • Coconut water keffir (fermented coconut water)
  • Pickles (Bubbies makes whole pickles or relish)
  • Kombucha
  • Yogurt

Superfoods

I am not sure who actually coined the term “superfoods”, but it is thrown around quite liberally in the nutrition community. Perhaps it all started with David Wolfe, raw foods expert and author of the book Superfoods. Regardless of where the term came from, it describes a group of highly nutritious foods that have powerful medicinal benefits. Many cultures have been using these foods in their diets for centuries, and you often hear these foods described to supplement the diet of the warriors to strengthen them on their way out to battle. Experiment with some of the foods below!

Cacao – a great source of magnesium, iron, chromium (which can help to balance blood sugar), and several other trace minerals. Also high in antioxidants which shield our DNA from free-radical damage.  Add raw cacao powder to smoothies or mix with carob, coconut oil, and other spices or extracts to make your own candies. Cacao nibs are also wonderful as a crunchy snack!

Maca – a powerful strength and energy enhancer (great for athletes) that can help to stabilize the body’s glandular-hormonal system and improve mood. Maca is generally used as a powder which you can add to smoothies, teas, nut milks (warmed with cinnamon and cloves), salad dressings, soups, and puddings. Maca is also touted as an aphrodesiac.  Have fun with this one!

Spirulina – a type of blue-green algae that is high in protein (65-71%), contains all 8 essential amino acids, is an excellent source of iron, and is a powerful supporter of the immune system.  Add spirulina to fresh vegetable juices or smoothies, raw chocolate, salad dressings, or sprinkle on top of veggies or salads. Usually used in powder form.

Goji Berries – high in antioxidants, they boost immune function, provide liver protection, are known for anti-aging compounds, and can even enhance libido! Eat these berries as a snack or add to smoothies.

Coconut Products- coconut oil, coconut cream or butter, young coconut flesh, and coconut water have many health benefits. Coconut products contain antiviral, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties.  They regulate healthy hormone production, increase metabolism, and help with weight loss due to their medium-chain saturated fatty acids.

I hope you check out some of these foods.  Your body (and taste buds) will definitely thank you!  I have included a Superfood Chocolate Fudge Truffle recipe below.  Enjoy!

Superfood Chocolate Fudge Truffles

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 2 tablespoons almond meal
  • 2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • 1 teaspoon maca root powder
  • 1/4 cup goji berries
  • 1/2 teaspoon spirulina powder
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup or other liquid sweetener of choice
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract (optional, can also use other extracts)

Combine all ingredients in a food processor.  Blend until the mixture turns into a sticky batter.  Roll the batter into truffles with your hands and dip in shredded coconut, chopped nuts, or cacao nibs.  These truffles pack a powerful nutrient punch!



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Anonymous April 14, 2012 at 9:52 pm

>Lots of great info & useful ideas for how to incorporate into meals! I keep hearing more about blue-green algae lately…do you know if spirulina is ok for someone on an anti-candida/bacteria diet? Thanks :)

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Beaming with Health April 16, 2012 at 12:53 pm

>Hi! Yes, Spirulina would be fantastic for someone on an anti-candida diet. Not only does it support the immune system, but it can help promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut which will keep candida under control. Here are a couple articles if you are interested in learning more. I am going to add Spirulina to my tahini dressing today for lunch! :)

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/07/01/spirulina-the-amazing-super-food-youve-never-heard-of.aspx

http://www.candidafood.com/spirulina-in-the-candida-diet/

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