Food for Fitness.
Last week I found myself speaking to a customer who explained that his interest in Your Nuts started with discovering foods and supplements that supported his body whilst running and swimming. The conversation got me thinking; do people involved in ‘fitness’ have healthier diets? Can people who aren’t so heavily involved with physical activity learn from those who are? In light of those questions, here we have a blog about foods for fitness; inspired by our lovely customers!
Here are some interesting facts:
- Tiredness is the most common complaint cited in doctors’ surgeries today. Over the last fortnight/month try and recollect how you’ve felt. Perhaps you’ve experienced flagging energy levels, lack of concentration, feeling unrefreshed after a goodnights sleep, mood swings or food cravings. These can all be symptoms of tiredness.
- A shocking 50% of all UK adults are overweight and the number of seriously obese adults has trebled in the last 20 years.
- The amount of adults diagnosed with diabetes has doubled in the past 20 years
- Adults developing heart disease has increased by 25 per cent since the late 1980s, resulting in 2.65 million people now living with this crippling condition.
These are concerning statistics but perhaps even more frightening is that almost any Western country has a similar picture emerging.
So why are these health trends occurring? The real key to understanding this lies in our past. The diet and lifestyle of Westerners has changed almost beyond recognition over the past century. This in itself wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that our basic physiology and biochemistry remain almost exactly the same as those of our ancestors 1,000 years ago. Consequently, there is a mismatch between the foods that we eat and the foods that our bodies really need.
Although our ancestors ate the same amount of calories as we do today, if not more, they were much more active than we are and obtained considerably fewer of their calories from carbohydrates. Their carbohydrate sources were beans, vegetables, wholegrain cereals, fibrous fruits and berries. Lack of refrigeration and little knowledge of food processing meant that much of this food remained relatively unchanged from the field to the plate. Consequently, most of the processing of their food was done by the body after they had eaten it. This took the body a long time, resulting in a gradual, sustained release of sugars into the bloodstream, leaving them feeling full and satisfied for longer.
By contrast, today flour is ground as thin as talcum powder to enable us to bake the lightest, fluffiest cakes and breads. Preferred fruit varieties are those that are high in sugar and low in fibre because they taste better. Cereals are so highly processed that they become unrecognizable, then refined sugars are added to them to make many of the foods we see on our supermarket shelves. Fibre-filled pulses are often absent from our food cupboards. Instead they have been replaced by highly refined, fatty, fast foods that take little time to prepare and even less time to digest.
As a result, almost every meal we eat contains the sorts of carbohydrates that break down quickly and release their sugars rapidly into the bloodstream, such as baked potatoes, chips, easy-cook rice, biscuits, cereals, cakes, breads and fast foods. And it is these foods that are contributing to many of our health problems. While it may not be possible or even desirable to return to eating habits of old, thanks to extensive testing of carbohydrate foods by leading researchers, we can now monitor the sorts of carbs we eat on a scale called the ‘glycaemic index’.
The sugars in high-GI foods are broken down quickly so they do not supply a sustained source of energy. Instead, they cause our blood sugar levels to rise rapidly. The body has to respond to this by making large quantities of the blood sugar-lowering hormone; insulin and releasing it into the blood. Unfortunately, insulin is often too good at its job and instead of just reducing blood sugar levels to a desirable level, it sends them plummeting to levels lower than they were originally. This sets up a yo-yo effect as the body then responds by making us crave fatty, sugary foods in an attempt to make our blood sugar levels rise once more.
Food Cravings and Lethargy.
Many of us experience this yo-yo effect as the ‘mid-afternoon lull’. We eat a high-GI lunch – sandwiches or a baked potato, for example – and by 3.30pm we are not only feeling tired, lethargic and lacking in concentration but we are positively craving something sweet to give us that much needed energy boost. This often happens again after the evening meal when we find ourselves heading back to the kitchen for a dessert, some chocolate biscuits or a glass of wine just a short while after having eaten.
Weight Gain and the High GI Diet.
A diet rich in high-GI foods can cause you to eat more calories (and therefore gain weight) for two reasons. The first is that high-GI foods are quick to break down. The quicker a food breaks down, the sooner you will become hungry and the more likely you will be to want to eat again. Secondly, high-GI foods will cause your blood sugar levels to rapidly rise and then fall, which in turn results in strong urges to eat fatty, sugary foods shortly after a meal. Both points are compounded by the fact that another of insulin’s main roles is to promote fat storage. So the more insulin you have in your blood the more likely you are to store any excess calories you eat as fat.
Lack of Concentration and Mood Swings.
The brain is entirely fuelled by blood sugar. Therefore, when levels drop as a result of the excessive production of insulin it becomes more difficult to concentrate. Research has also found that low blood sugar levels are often linked to mood swings, reduced reaction times and even depression.
If you’re starting a new healthy eating routine or you’re simply wanting to improve your fitness/health, adjusting some of your diet to replace high GI with low GI carbohydrates should give you great results. Below are a few other examples of options for food switching:
Runners should eat a small handful of almonds at least three to five times per week. Nuts, especially almonds, are an excellent source of vitamin E an antioxidant that many runners fall short on because there are so few good food sources of it. Studies have shown that eating nuts several times per week lowers cholesterol levels, particularly the artery-clogging LDL type, decreasing your risk for heart disease. And the form of vitamin E found in nuts, called gamma-tocopherol (a form not typically found in supplements), may also help protect against cancer.
Add to your diet: Add almonds and other nuts to salads or pasta dishes, use as a topping for casseroles, or throw them into your bowl of cereal for extra crunch. Combine with chopped dried fruit, soy nuts, and chocolate bits for a healthy and tasty trail mix. Almond butter is perfect spread over whole-grain toast or on a whole-wheat tortilla, topped with raisins, and rolled up. Store all nuts in jars or zipper bags in a cool dry place away from sunlight and they'll keep for about two to four months. Storing them in the freezer will allow them to keep an extra month or two.
Canned Black Beans
One cup of these beauties provides 30 percent of the daily value for protein, almost 60 percent of the daily value for fiber (much of it as the cholesterol-lowering soluble type), and 60 percent of the daily value of folate, a B vitamin that plays a key role in heart health and circulation. Black beans also contain antioxidants and researchers theorize that this fiber-folate-antioxidant trio is why a daily serving of beans appears to lower cholesterol levels and heart-disease risk.
Add to your diet:
For a quick, hearty soup, open a can of black beans and pour into chicken or vegetable stock along with mixed veggies and your favorite seasonings. Mash beans with salsa for an instant dip for cut veggies, or spread onto a whole-wheat tortilla for a great recovery meal. Add beans to cooked pasta or rice for extra fiber and protein.
Mixed Salad Greens
Rather than selecting one type of lettuce for your salad choose mixed greens which typically offer five or more colorful delicate greens such as radicchio, butter leaf, curly endive, and mache. Each variety offers a unique blend of phytonutrients that research suggests may fend off age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer's, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. These phytonutrients also act as antioxidants warding off muscle damage brought on by tough workouts. You can usually buy mixed greens in bulk or prewashed in bags.
Add to your diet: Toss a mixed greens salad with tomato, cucumber, spring onions, and an olive oil-based dressing (the fat from the oil helps your body absorb the phytonutrients). You can also stuff mixed greens in your sandwiches, wraps, and tacos. Or place them in a heated skillet toss lightly until wilted and use as a bed for grilled salmon, chicken, or lean meat. Greens store best in a salad spinner or the crisper drawer in your fridge for up to six days. (Just don't drench them in water or they won't keep as long.)
Everyone deserves at least one indulgence—especially one you can feel so good about. Dark chocolate contains potent antioxidants called flavonol’s that can boost heart health. In one study, a group of soccer players had lower blood pressure and total cholesterol levels and less artery-clogging LDL cholesterol after just two weeks of eating chocolate daily. Other research study suggests that the flavonol’s in dark chocolate ease inflammation and help prevent blood substances from becoming sticky, lowering the risk of potential blood clots. But not just any chocolate will do! First off, dark chocolate (the darker the better) generally contains more flavonol’s than milk chocolate. Also, the way the cocoa beans are processed can influence the potency of the flavonol’s, so raw chocolate bars or cacao nibs are best in class!
Add to your diet: Besides the obvious (just eat it!), you can add dark chocolate to trail mix, dip it in peanut butter (my favorite) or combine it with fruit for an even greater antioxidant punch.
If you would like any help or assistance with your journey into a healthier lifestyle, please do not hesitate to call in, email or telephone Your Nuts. We would be delighted to help.
Wishing you happiness and good health.