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Which Food Better Fuels Your Workout?

Picking the perfect brussel sproutphoto © 2009 Ed Yourdon | more info (via: Wylio)You may hear us say this quite often, “Food is fuel.” But when you’re deciding between similar-seeming nutritious items (say, turkey or chicken?), you may not know the superior choice.  While both are healthy, if you pick the nutritional champ may give your workout the boost it needs. In a healthy-food smackdown, here are our winning picks.

STRAWBERRIES vs. BLUEBERRIES
Both are health all-stars, but a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported that blueberries (particularly wild ones) showed the most antioxidant activity of all the fruits tested. Which in turn helps to reduce muscle damage from exercise.

HEALTHY CHOICE: Mix blueberries into lean ground beef for burgers. The juicy fruit will help keep the meat moist.

CHICKEN BREAST vs. TURKEY BREAST
Both breast meats are free of saturated fat, but turkey has three additional grams of protein per three-ounce serving, plus more iron (which helps deliver oxygen to muscles) and selenium.

HEALTHY CHOICE: Make your own lunch meat to avoid the excess sodium in much deli turkey. Bake turkey breasts, slice them thinly, and add to sandwiches.

PEANUT BUTTER vs. ALMOND BUTTER
While the two nut butters contain about the same amount of fat, the almond variety has 60 percent more monounsaturated fat. When consumed in place of saturated fat, monounsaturated fat lowers harmful LDL levels to help decrease heart disease and stroke risk. Almond butter also has three times more vitamin E, an antioxidant that may reduce cancer risk.

HEALTHY CHOICE: Use almond butter instead of PB on your bagel. Blend it into a postrun smoothie, or stir it into oatmeal.

SPINACH vs. KALE
Kale’s nutritional value would even win over even Popeye. Gram for gram, kale contains four times more vitamin C, and one and a half times the amount of immune boosting vitamin A and vitamin K. Kale contains three times more lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants deposited in the retina that work together to protect eye health.

HEALTHY CHOICE: Make kale “chips”: Spread bite-sized pieces on a baking sheet. Spray with olive oil, season with salt, and bake for 15 minutes (until crisp).

WHEAT BREAD vs. RYE BREAD
According to a study in the Nutrition Journal, researchers in Sweden found that participants who ate rye bread for breakfast experienced less hunger later in the day compared with those who ate wheat bread. Hanna Isaksson, the lead study author, believes that rye’s ability to quell hunger is due to its high fiber count. Rye can have up to eight grams of fiber per slice—even more than whole wheat.

HEALTHY CHOICE: Rye bread often contains some refined wheat flour, so to get the most fiber, buy “100 percent rye” loaves or make sure whole rye flour or meal is the first ingredient.

FAT BETTER: Earthy, rich-tasting extra-virgin olive oil contains more anti-inflammatory compounds than canola oil. Use it when you make dips, pesto, and vinaigrettes.

Quinoa beats brown rice
WHY: Quinoa has three extra grams of protein per cooked cup, plus more fiber, iron, and magnesium.

Greek yogurt beats regular yogurt
WHY: The Greek variety has about twice as much protein as traditional types.

Green tea beats coffee
WHY: It’s bursting with antioxidants (such as EGCG) that help ward off diabetes and certain cancers.

Pork tenderloin beats beef tenderloin
WHY: The pork version has less saturated fat, more B vitamins, and is cheaper.

Goat cheese beats feta cheese
WHY: Goat cheese has nearly half the cholesterol and a third less sodium.

Orange beats apple
WHY: They have similar amounts of calories and fiber, but oranges have 12 times as much vitamin C.

Red pepper beats green pepper
WHY: It boasts eight times the vitamin A, which keeps your immune system strong.

Flaxseed beats flaxseed oil

WHY: The seeds have lots of magnesium, potassium, selenium, and fiber.

Sources: Matthew G. Kadey, M.Sc., R.D., Runner’s World

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