Tis the era of SUPERFOODS! But are superfoods just a phase or is there actually some value of adding them to our diets? This article outlines the top superfoods and the reasoning why they can benefit your daily life and cycling, including performance and recovery. This way you can decide for yourself….
What are Superfoods exactly?
Superfoods are raw plant foods that are the most highly concentrated, extremely potent, and nutrient dense foods that we have growing on the planet. They have a high number of unique properties to benefit our health, other foods however, only have one or two properties. These glorious foods can assist detoxification and weight loss, increase neurotransmitter function and correct imbalances. Superfoods benefit us with maximum nutrition and protein but also taste great, increase energy and improve overall wellness, plus have minimum calories and no trans-fats. Below are the main superfoods known today and how they can benefit your cycling and general health.
These berries are commonly known for their high levels of antioxidants (10 times more than blueberries). Goji is also used to boost energy, endurance and stamina, which would make it a perfect snack pre-cycle.
Other benefits for Goji Berries include:
- Boost Immune Function: contain high levels of Vitamin C, beta-carotene, and germanium which has been demonstrated to have cancer-fighting properties
- Increase Hydration: due to the presence of hydrogen which is needed to elevate hydration levels, as well as being highly alkalising
- Assists lowering of cholesterol. Goji contains a antioxidant enzyme that prevents cholesterol from oxidizing
- Low GI (glycemic index) so no sugar spikes here, just adequate consistent energy levels
Coconuts Coconuts!! Oh how we are coco about coconuts lately! Well we have good right to be. The benefits of coconuts are plentiful and can be derived from fresh young coconut flesh, coconut cream, coconut oil and coconut water, this making it easy to include coconut into our daily diets. The list of the therapeutic uses of coconuts is endless but here are a few relevant uses:
- Contain antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial properties showing valuable purpose for our immune systems
- Powerful antioxidants in the form of raw fats and oils, which elevates the absorption and utilisation of omegas and other fatty acids. You should take coconut oil the same time as other foods rich in omegas (eg hempseeds) as they will be twice as effective
- High in electrolytes and restore hydration levels, therefore perfect for post-cycle rather than reaching for the Powerade full of refined sugars
- Increase metabolism and assist with weight loss due to medium-chain saturated fatty acids
- Contain no levels of cholesterol and actually support cardiovascular health
- Even topical treatment with coconut water or oil can sooth skin eruptions and prevent rashes
Traditionally the South American’s have used Maca to enhance fertility, and today is still used medicinally to assist in balancing hormones. Other benefits of Maca include:
- Powerful adaptogen: increases the body’s resistance to physical, environmental and emotional stressors
- Increases oxygenation of the blood assisting muscle repair and reducing inflammation
- Boost immunity and overall vitality
- Endocrine functioning: Maca works on regulating the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands, which modulate luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, testosterone, progesterone and DHEA. This making Maca not only perfect for fertility but also easing the aging process by supporting these hormones as they decline.
Spirulina is a blue-green spiral algae that holds over 65% complete protein and is incredibly high in vitamins and minerals. The taste of spirulina isn’t for everyone, myself included, but it is easy to hide in a smoothie or if all else fails you can buy it in tablet form, so we never miss out on the following benefits:
- High in chlorophyll: promotes metabolism and respiration and ability to stimulate tissue growth and wound healing
- Contains many minerals: potassium, calcium, zinc, magnesium, manganese, selenium, iron and phosphorus
- Aids detoxification of liver and kidneys as well as cleanses arteries and promotes intestinal flora
- Best source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an anti-inflammatory essential fatty acid
- Source of vitamins B, C, D, E & K
- Highest concentration of protein than any food known, between 65-71%. Assisting muscle building and strength, improve endurance, balance blood sugar, rapid healing, & support strong bones
Spirulina is an essential superfood for any athlete due to diverse variety of nutrients vital to assist the high demand from intensive exercise.
Cacao has high antioxidant value, mineral benefits and rejuvenates our neurotransmitters, hence why we love chocolate. This superfood is perfect for the cyclist as it assists in building strength and provides ample energy. Cacao’s other benefits include:
- Increase brain blood flow, thus enhancing cognitive function and prevention of dementia
- Excellent source of magnesium, iron, zinc copper, chromium and manganese (the minerals cyclist burn easily with each ride and need to be reacquired)
- Assist release of serotonin and dopamine thus reducing anxiety, depression, cravings and stress levels
Food idea: Grab some Cacao nibs from your health shop, they are delicious and go extremely well with goji berries for a perfect snack to keep you energized
Hemp is a tough plant that belongs to the mulberry family and is said to originate in Central Asia. A common question due to the look of Hemp: Is Hemp Marijuana? The answer is No. Although they are both classified as Cannabis sativa, marijuana is a different variety of the plant to which it contains THC in the leaf and flower content. Hemp is grown to maximise fibre, seed and oil and the insignificant amount of THC is not even measurable in the Hemp plants so are definitely free from any psychoactive substance. Regardless the seed is what we are sourcing for nutritional benefit. These benefits include:
- 33-37% easily digestible and absorbed protein
- Contain All essential amino acids and essential fatty acids
- 47% of each hempseed is comprised of good fats: omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9
- High in minerals: Phosphorous, Potassium, Magnesium, Sulfur, Calcium, Iron, Manganese, Zinc, Sodium, Silicon, Copper, Boron, Chromium
The superfood movement is growing quickly in communities as people discover the importance of consuming high nutrient dense foods rather than food with limited nutrient value for simple convenience. Superfoods are actually quite easy to incorporate into our dietary regime and due to the massive health benefits, why wouldn’t we?
In today’s lifestyle, ‘prevention’ is key to achieving quality of life, therefore ensuring you obtain needed nutrients from our diet, through superfoods, is the first and easiest step to keeping sickness away and enhancing our health status to cope with the physical and emotional challenges we throw at ourselves, plus also getting the most out of our cycling habits.