Food For Thought
As a holistic nutritionist with a focus on fueling endurance athletes I am always trying to add nutrient dense foods into client meal plans; efficiency and flavor- more bang for your buck when one food gives you a ton of vitamins and minerals and tastes good. Ironman.com asked that I contribute a monthly article featuring 5 foods every athlete needs in their kitchen.
Bee Pollen is considered one of nature's most completely nourishing foods as it contains nearly all nutrients required by humans. It is rich in proteins (approximately 40% protein), amino acids, vitamins, including B-complex, and folic acid. There are some amazing benefits athletes will get – increased energy, lowered inflammation, digestive system aide, immunity boost and enhanced cardiovascular system. Rutin is one of the antioxidants in Bee Pollen that helps strengthen blood vessels and capillaries giving you a stronger internal breathing/circulation system. Another big bonus and why I included it this month – the allergy benefits. It's finally spring, everyone is outside and the flowers are in bloom. Bee Pollen reduces histamine, which is the same thing those dangerous over-the-counter medications go after.
Start gradually (½ tsp.) a day and work your way up to 1-3 tablespoons by the end of four weeks. I usually take a spoonful with my breakfast or add it to my morning smoothie. It's best to take with food, especially fruit. The fruit fibers will activate the pollen faster and cleanse your colon simultaneously. Store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. Important note: If you have a history of anaphylactic shock or highly allergic to bee stings, it’s best to avoid bee pollen.
Bone Broth has been prepared in 'kitchens' throughout history; it's a low cost, highly nutritious staple. As the bones cook, the minerals and nutrients leach out of the bones and into the water. Homemade bone broth is rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, glucosamine and chondroitin. What athlete doesn't complain of joint and tendon pain at one point or another? We lose calcium and magnesium while sweating; this becomes the perfect way to restock. The best benefit of broth is gut healing. Whether its leaky gut, post race gut discomfort or recurring illness – the gelatin helps seal up holes in the intestines and support healthy gut bacteria.
I discovered bone broth last year when I fractured my ankle (multiple times) – I needed a big bone healing boost and help falling asleep since I was unable to do my normal 5-10 mile runs. Bone broth also helped regulate my often irregular or non-existent cycle and my skin has never looked better. Outside Magazine, one of my favorite publications, posted an article Outsideonline.com talking about how broth has become an aide station staple at longer distance races. You can buy broth online but I really encourage you to make it at home. It's not much work and your house ends up smelling delicious...almost like Thanksgiving Day all year round. I make a big batch on Sunday and then store it in the refrigerator all week. I recommend 1-2 cups per day. I'll drink a cup warmed up first thing in the morning and a cup at night poured over sauteed kale or veggies or mixed in with cooked quinoa. Definitely season it- try garlic or cilantro or turmeric/cumin.
My favorite recipe:
2 lbs ORGANIC beef bones
2 chicken feet (extra gelatin)
2 stalks celery
2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 bunch parsley, 1 tbsp sea salt, 1 clove garlic and any additional spices you like)
In a large stock pot fill with a gallon of cold water and place bones and vinegar in. Allow them to sit for 30 min. The acid makes the nutrients in the bone more bioavailable. Chop all veggies and add to the pot with spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for up to 48 hours. The last 3 hours of cooking, add in parsley and garlic. Remove from heat and store in fridge. I like to scoop out the veggies and use for a delicious hot dinner with hemp seeds, wild rice and an egg fried in coconut oil. Mmmmmm....mmmmmm!
If you haven't tried this yet – definitely a must! I fell in love with kimchi at the Ferry Building Farmers Market in San Francisco. Its a spicy mix of fermented cabbage and veggies and the perfect topping for salads, sauteed greens, sprouted grains and eggs. My father likes his on a hot dog but thats another story. Kimchi contains high levels of vitamin C, beta-carotene and vitamin B complex. Its also mineral rich, sodium, calcium, iron and potassium. Kimchi is a gut superfood. It boosts immunity and acts as an amazing probiotic. Other benefits include healthy digestion, vitamin and mineral absorption, prevent tooth decay (after eating all those sugary gels and chews you definitely need a tooth cleaning) and has been shown to help prevent colon and bladder cancer. I purchase it by the jar full and think local farmers markets have the best tasting mixes.
Matcha is a finely milled green tea powder with a super high antioxidants – most important being EGCg that counteract the effects of free radicals from pollution, UV rays and dangerous environmental chemicals. Matcha contains L-Theanine, an amino acid that helps with memory, concentration and relaxation. Its become quite the trendy ingredient, as seen here on the Today Show http://www.today.com.
While you can pick up a cup at your local Starbucks, I'd recommend buying a quality organic powder and making it at home- the commercial kind often have added sugars and really aren't that good for you. Easy ways to use matcha: brew hot tea and add a spoonful of coconut oil, stir into your morning oatmeal or mix in with a smoothie. If you're feeling adventurous and want a reason to feel good about eating pancakes... add a few tablespoons to your mixture and enjoy with almond butter and cinnamon on top.
Teff is a tiny gluten free grain grown in Ethiopia and used to make traditional flatbread called injera. It packs a ridiculous nutritional punch- high in iron, protein, calcium, manganese, copper and vitamin C. It is made up of about 40% of resistant starches meaning it helps regulate blood sugar and slow digestion. You can eat it whole, steamed, boiled or baked. I've used it to make breads, waffles, cereals and snack foods. You can replace oatmeal with teff to make a hearty breakfast, use teff flour in banana bread, create vegan teff burgers and add it as a thickener in chilis and soups.
Teff Polenta (vegan + gluten free)
2 cups water
2 Tbsp olive oil
8 cloves of garlic
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
2/3 cup teff grain
½ tsp sea salt
2 cups chopped plum tomatoes
1 cup chopped fresh basil
Boil water. In a cast iron skillet, heat oil and brown garlic and onions. Add peppers and stir in teff. Turn down heat and add in boiling water and salt. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, add tomatoes and basil. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with tempeh, fish or grass-fed steak.
Be sure and check-in every month for 5 more fun food finds. I'd love to hear what you're eating, what are your go-to foods or new culinary obsession?