Adding these 10 superfoods into your daily diet will set you up for the ultimate healthy balanced diet. Running demands a great deal from the body so packing yourself with these nutritious foods will keep your body healthy and lean and you running strong.
This extract strips nutrition down to the basics, highlighting 10 easily sourced foods you should incorporate into your diet. They’ll help to boost your metabolism, melt fat, fight disease, lower cholesterol, stabilise blood sugar and extend your life. Did we mention that they’re also delicious? Make it your goal to work these superfoods into your day, every day.
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When it comes to breakfast, you can’t beat eggs. (That was too easy, wasn’t it?)
Seriously though, at a cost of only 72 calories, each large egg holds 6.3 grams of high-quality protein, along with a powerhouse punch of vital nutrients.
A study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that people who replaced carbs with eggs for breakfast lost as much as 65 percent more weight.
Research conducted in Michigan showed that regular egg eaters enjoyed more vitamins and minerals in their diets than those who ate few or no eggs. By examining surveys from more than 27,000 people, the researchers found that egg eaters were about half as likely to be deficient in vitamin B12, 24 percent less likely to be deficient in vitamin A, and 36 percent less likely to be deficient in vitamin E.
And here’s something more surprising: those who ate at least four eggs a week had noticeably lower cholesterol levels than those who ate fewer than one. Turns out the dietary cholesterol in the yolk has little impact on your levels of blood cholesterol.
Recipe idea: Serve a fried egg over a wholemeal muffin with salsa; hard-boil a dozen eggs and keep them in the fridge to eat on their own or chopped over salads; or sauté diced vegetables and knock up an easy omelette.
2. Green Tea
Literally thousands of studies have been carried out to document the health benefits of catechins, the group of antioxidants concentrated in the leaves of tea plants.
Among the most startling studies was one published by the American Medical Association in 2006. The study followed more than 40,000 Japanese adults for a decade, and at the 7-year follow-up, those who had been drinking five or more cups of tea per day were 26 percent less likely to die of any cause compared with those who averaged less than a cup.
Looking for more immediate results? Another Japanese study broke participants into two groups, only one of which was put on a catechin-rich green-tea diet. At the end of 12 weeks, the green-tea group had achieved significantly smaller body weights and waistlines than those in the control group.
Why? Because researchers believe that catechins are effective at boosting metabolism.
Substitutes: Yerba mate, white tea, oolong tea, rooibos (red) tea
Recipe idea: Start your day by making a smoothie with chilled green tea instead of juice. Then sip a cup after lunch when your eyelids start feeling like lead curtains.
Allicin, an antibacterial and antifungal compound, is the steam engine pushing forward garlic’s health benefits.
The chemical is produced by the garlic plant as a defence against pests, but inside your body it fights cancer, strengthens your cardiovascular system, decreases fat storage, and fights acne. To activate it crush the garlic as finely as possible.
Peel the cloves, then use the side of a heavy chef’s knife to squash it before carefully crushing or chopping. Then be sure not to overcook it, as too much heat will render the compound completely useless (and your food with a bitter aftertaste).
Substitutes: Onions, chives, leeks
Recipe idea: Mix crushed garlic with chopped parsley and fresh lemon zest for a bright topping for pasta and grilled meat; or roast an entire head in a foil packet at 170˚C/gas mark 4 and fold the sweet, soft cloves into mashed potatoes or spread on crusty bread.
Just call it the better-body fruit. In a study of 100 obese people at the Scripps Clinic in California, those who ate half a grapefruit with each meal lost an average of 3.6 pounds (1.6 kilos) over the course of 12 weeks. Many lost more than 10 pounds. The study’s control group, in contrast, lost a paltry ½ pound.
But here’s something better: those who ate the grapefruit also exhibited a decrease in insulin levels, indicating that their bodies had improved upon the ability to metabolise sugar.
If you can’t stomach a grapefruit a day, try to find as many ways possible to sneak grapefruit into your diet. Even a moderate increase in grapefruit intake should yield results, not to mention earning you a massive dose of lycopene—the cancer-preventing antioxidant found most commonly in tomatoes.
Substitutes: Oranges, watermelon, tomatoes
Recipe idea: Skip the morning orange juice and have a grapefruit instead; chop the fruit over a leafy salad; or pop half a grapefruit under the grill for five minutes until caramelised and juicy.
5. Greek Yogurt
Regular yogurt is more of a dessert than a meal. If you want substance, go Greek.
What sets the two apart? Greek yogurt is separated from the watery whey that sits on top of regular yogurt, and the process removes excessive sugars such as lactose and increases the concentration of protein by as much as three times.
That means it fills your belly more like a meal than a snack. Plus half a big pot has almost a quarter of your day’s calcium, and studies show calcium-rich diets can help you to lose body fat.
In one of these studies, participants on a high-calcium dairy diet were able to lose 70 percent more body weight than those on a calorie-restricted diet alone. If only everything you ate could make a similar claim.
Substitutes: Kefir and yogurt with “live and active cultures” printed on the product label
Recipe idea: Don’t restrict your enjoyment to the morning hours. Use Greek yogurt in place of mayonnaise in your next potato salad, or combine with minced garlic, chopped parsley, olive oil,
and fresh lemon juice for a versatile sauce with fish and meat.
Here’s what often gets lost in our fat phobia: Some of those fats are actually good for you.
More than half the calories in each creamy green fruit comes from one of the world’s healthiest fats, monounsaturates. These fats differ from saturated fats in that they have one double-bonded carbon atom, but that small difference at the molecular level amounts to a dramatic improvement to your health.
Numerous studies have shown that monounsaturated fats both improve your cholesterol profile and decrease the amount of triglycerides (more bad fats) floating around in your blood. That can lower your risk of stroke and heart disease. Worried about weight gain?
Don’t be. There’s no causal link between monounsaturated fats and body fat.
Substitutes: Olive, canola and peanut oils, peanut butter, tahini
Recipe idea: Stuff slices into omelettes; remove the pit and fill an avocado half with tuna salad; spread some onto a sandwich in place of mayonnaise; or mash one with a few tablespoons of salsa for a quick, guacamole-like dip to use with tortilla chips.
Although not yet common in British kitchens, quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) boasts more nutrients than any other grain. It has more fibre and nearly twice as much protein as brown rice, and the proteins it has consist of a near-perfect blend of amino acids, so that your body can easily break them down and turn them into muscle.
And get this: All that protein and fibre—in conjunction with a handful of healthy fats and a comparatively small dose of carbohydrates—help ensure a low impact on your blood sugar. That’s great news for prediabetics and anyone watching their weight.
So what’s the trade-off? There is none. Quinoa’s soft and nutty taste is easy to handle even for picky eaters, and it cooks just like rice, ready in about 15 minutes.
Substitutes: Oats, amaranth, millet, pearl barley, bulgur wheat
Recipe idea: Forget rice; make quinoa your go-to starchy staple. Toss boiled grains with wilted spinach leaves, dried cranberries, goat’s cheese, lemon juice, and olive oil. Use in quinoa for risottos and pilafs; or mix hot quinoa with a bit of milk, cinnamon, and sliced banana for a great breakfast alternative.
All peppers are loaded with antioxidants, but none so much as the brightly coloured reds, yellows, and oranges.
These colours result from carotenoids concentrated in the flesh of the pepper, the same carotenoids that give tomatoes, carrots, and grapefruits their healthy hues.
The range of benefits provided by these pigments include improved cell communication, better immune system function, protection against sun damage, and a diminished risk for several types of cancer.
And if you can take the heat, try cooking with chilli peppers, too. They’re still loaded with carotenoids and vitamin C but have the added benefit of capsaicins, temperature-raising phytochemicals that fight headache and arthritis pain as well as boost metabolism.
Substitutes: Carrots, sweet potatoes, watermelon
Recipe idea: Use sliced peppers in place of tortilla chips to scoop dips; brush with olive oil and grill them alongside your favourite meat; or sauté a mix of diced peppers with garlic and chilli flakes for a side to any main.
Thirty grams of almonds a day, about 23 nuts, provides 9 grams of heart-healthy oleic acid, which is more than peanuts, walnuts, or cashews.
This monounsaturated fat is known to be responsible for many health benefits, the most recently discovered of which is improved memory.
Rats in California were better able to navigate a maze the second time around if they’d been fed oleic acid, and there’s no reason to assume that the same treatment won’t help you navigate your day-to-day life.
If nothing else, snacking on them will take your mind off your hunger. Nearly a quarter of an almond’s calories come from fibre and protein.
Researchers at Purdue University found this is made a group who ate the nuts feel full for an hour and a half longer than a group who at rice cakes.
Substitutes: Walnuts, pecans, peanuts, sesame seeds, flaxseeds
Recipe ideas: Sprinkle crushed almonds over yogurt, cereal, or salad; toss sliced almonds into your next stir-fry; or smear a spoonful of almond butter over wholemeal toast the next time you need a quick breakfast.
10. Swiss Chard
Most fruits and vegetables are role players, supplying us with a monster dose of a single nutrient. But Swiss chard is nature’s multivitamin, delivering substantial amounts of 16 vitamins and vital nutrients, and it does so at a rock-bottom caloric cost.
For a mere 35 calories’ worth of cooked chard, you get more than 716 percent of your recommended daily intake of bone-strengthening vitamin K, 214 percent of your day’s vitamin A ( to defend against cancer and bolster vision), and 17 percent of hard-to-get vitamin E (which can help sharpen mental acuity).
Plus, emerging research suggests that Swiss chard’s combination of fibre and phytonutrients and may provide an effective defence against colon cancer.
Substitutes: Spinach, mustard greens, watercress, arugula, romaine lettuce
Recipe idea: Chop the leaves and ribs into rough pieces and sauté in olive oil, garlic, and chilli flakes; mix it with golden raisins and toasted pine nuts and serve with meat or fish; or stir the green tops into minestrone or add to a pot of boiling white rice.