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5 Foods You Might Not (but Might Should Be) Eating

by Caroline Daniel

Tart Cherry Juice

I’d be willing to bet you’re not currently pouring yourself a glass of tart cherry juice to drink alongside your post-workout breakfast or brunch–but I’d argue that you should be. Recent research has provided a LOT of evidence of the wide-ranging health benefits of tart cherries. Here’s a few of the most notable ones:

  1. Tart cherry juice is RICH in nutrients that few people consume adequate daily amounts of. In an eight ounce glass of cherry juice, you’ll find 62% of the recommended daily value of vitamin A, 40% of vitamin C, 14% of manganese, 12% of potassium, 12% of copper, and 7% of vitamin K.
  2. Tart cherry juice can boost athletic performance! In a recent study, long distance runners drank either 24 ounces of tart cherry juice or 24 ounces of a placebo for a week leading up to a race–and the results were very significant. The runners who drank the tart cherry juice experienced three times less pain during and after the race (healthline.com).
  3. Tart cherry juice can boost recovery! Supplementing a balanced diet with tart cherry juice has been shown to reduce muscle breakdown and soreness in individuals who engage in resistance training. This is because tart cherries have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Salmon

While most people opt for chicken or beef at the grocery store, trading some poultry for salmon is well worth the investment. Salmon has been shown to be one of the most nutritionally loaded foods on the market. Here’s why:

  1. Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Unlike most other fats, omega-3 fats cannot be created by our bodies, meaning we must consume them through our diet. Omega-3 fats are rich in EPA and DHA, which have been shown to decrease inflammation, lower blood pressure, and reduce cancer risk.
  2. Salmon is very high in B Vitamins! This is rare–most people are not able to consume adequate amounts of B vitamins in their diets; however, B vitamins are vital to several body processes: they help turn food into energy, repair DNA, and reduce inflammation Just 3.5 ounces of salmon contain: 18% of Vitamin B1, 29% of Vitamin B2, 50% of Vitamin B3, 19% of Vitamin B5, 47% of Vitamin B6, 7% of Vitamin B9, and 51% of Vitamin B12. 
  3. Salmon is also rich in Selenium! While this may not be a nutrient that you hear about frequently, selenium is necessary for your body in small amounts–and once again, most foods don’t have it. Just 3.5 ounces of salmon contain about 65% of the recommended daily intake of selenium!

Dark Chocolate

“Eat more chocolate” is probably not a phrase you hear very often. But you should! Dark Chocolate with 70-85% cocoa is filled with a lot of important nutrients–and tastes oh so good. While it should be consumed in moderation like anything, dark chocolate contains solid amounts of healthy fats, fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese.

The most important quality of dark chocolate is its significant source of antioxidants. Dark chocolate is filled with biologically active organic compounds that function as antioxidants–substances that protect cells against “free radicals,” which may ultimately play a role in cancer, heart disease, and other diseases. Free radicals are not avoidable–they are produced when your body breaks down food. So ingesting foods with antioxidants can help limit the negative effects of this unavoidable process!

Beets

A diet rich in beets can be shown to have a significant impact on how your body functions during exercise. So much so, in fact, that I have a former teammate who swears her drastic improvement in running performance was at least partially due to her incorporating beets into her diet.

Beets are a great source of vitamin C, carotenoids, and other antioxidants. The most important of these in terms of athletic performance, however, is nitrate–a chemical occurring naturally in some foods that is converted to nitric oxide once consumed. Research has shown that nitric oxide can increase blood flow, strengthen muscle contractions, and improve lung function–all of which can greatly improve the performance of endurance athletes.

In a study of competitive swimmers ages 30-35, results showed that the masters swimmers were able to increase their oxygen capacity and lower their aerobic energy cost after they supplemented with beet juice. Beet juice appears to have the same effects on males and females of all ages. Adding just a small serving of beets (half a cup!) has been shown to have positive effects on athletic performance.

Kefir

You really might not have heard of this one. Kefir is a drink made from fermented cow’s milk or goat’s milk. The “kefir grains” added to the milk turn the milk’s lactose into lactic acid, making it possible for many people with lactose intolerance to consume kefir without stomach discomfort. In terms of consistency, kefir falls somewhere between milk and yogurt and tastes great when combined with cereal or granola.

Kefir is rich in calcium, protein, phosphorus, and Vitamin B12–all important nutrients fore bone and muscle health.

The most notable factor of kefir is that it is a more powerful probiotic than yogurt. Probiotics have been shown to aid digestion, weight management, and mental health. They help balance the “good” bacteria in your digestive system which typically reduces overall stomach discomfort (symptoms such as cramping, bloating, etc.). While yogurt has long been touted as the best dietary source of probiotics, recent evidence has shown that kefir provides even more probiotic benefits!

Caroline Daniel is a Student-Athlete running Cross Country and Track at Belmont University while Majoring in Exercise Physiology. She is currently completing her internship at Personal Best Fitness