Beets may not have occurred, or appealed to you as a body building option let alone something you should consume more often. Enough to put anyone off beets! However, fresh beets, if you can find them in farmer’s markets or health food stores are far better tasting either grated raw in a salad or as the colourful main ingredient in borscht soup. Minus the vinegar beets are naturally delicious and their nitrates increase vasodilation – the widening of blood vessels which increases blood flow to tissues that most need it enabling the body to work harder and also lowers blood pressure.
Surprisingly Psy forgot one truly important icon of Korean culture in his Gangnam Style spoof of Seoul lifestyles – kimchi! In Korea everyone eats it almost with every meal, including breakfast. This is beyond being simply a super food although foreigners may wonder what all the fuss is about. Kimchi has an acquired taste. Made from fermented cabbage, onions, garlic and spices it kicks a powerful punch as well as providing beneficial bacteria that aid digestion and nutrient absorption. A diet containing kimchi has been found to decrease waist size and body fat while improving blood sugar levels. Eat it as a side dish with any meal.
Raw almonds are known for their high levels of protein and fiber as well as natural vitamin E and alpha tocopherol which is an effective scavenger of free radicals. They also contain high levels of B vitamins which aid metabolism. Just avoid the salted or roasted versions.
Vinegar may not seem like a body builder’s friend, but when added to a high carbohydrate meal it assists in storing those carbs as muscle glycogen thus aiding recovery and helping nutrients get to your muscles. Very little is required – a two teaspoon dose is enough. The effect is more pronounced with dense carbs like potatoes. Add it to salads and any post-workout meal for maximum glycogen replenishment. Natural apple cider vinegar is best.
Avocados with their high fat content were previously avoided by most body builders. However, we now know their combination of essential nutrients – 20 in all – is an ideal lean muscle builder. Substituting saturated fat for none saturated fat helps keep your body lean even if gaining some fat. Avocados improve absorption of caratenoid antioxidants. Caratenoids are important for cell growth and a healthy immune system. Avocados are best when soft and can be eaten straight from the shell or of course as guacamole.
Raspberries contain more fiber than other berries and their red colour indicates their high content of anthocyinin antioxidants. These antioxidants boost the brain’s sensitivity to the hormone leptin which regulates metabolic rate and insulin sensitivity.
Kefir is a cultured dairy product formed by the fermentation of lactose, thus making it digestible by those with lactose intolerance. It contains a mixture of bioactive peptides which combined with its protein content – 14 grams per cup – aids muscle building. The peptides in fermented milk stimulate the immune system and production of immunoglobulin which helps counteract stress from extensive workouts.
One cup of cooked lentils – brown, green or red – contains 230 calories, 18 grams of protein and 16 grams of fiber making it an ideal quick and easy muscle meal. Best if soaked overnight, green or brown lentils cook in 30-45 minutes, whereas red lentils only take approximately 15 minutes. They make great soups and combine well with brown rice.
Once the staple of Peruvian Incas, quinoa has many nutritional advantages over other carbohydrates such as brown rice. Unlike brown rice, quinoa is not a grain but more a seed which closely resembles spinach. It is also a complete protein source, which brown rice is not. It’s muscle building credentials are based on its glycemic index value of only 53, which gives a sustained infusion of calories. Quinoa is also rich in all essential amino acids. It cooks in just 15 minutes and can be eaten with other proteins or mixed cold with a salad.
Last but not least in our lesser known list is the little sardine. Sardines are better than tuna and, unlike tuna, are available canned in olive oil. The tuna comparison also shows sardines well ahead with 37 times less mercury than canned tuna and 1.8 grams of omega-3 fats compared to tuna’s 0.3 grams. Omega-3 fats are good for the heart and also have anti-inflammatory qualities that help with the joint pain often encountered with weight training.