Some foods for peak Health and Performance in Association with FYFFES Ireland, 'Discover More
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We all know that vitamins, minerals, trace minerals and a variety of other nutrients are essential to maintaining good health. Along with simply eating, an holistic perspective on caring for our bodies is also necessary by acknowledging that we are made up of ‘four parts’, all inextricably entwined; physical, psychological, mental/emotional and spiritual. Every athlete who has ever pushed him or herself beyond their normal comfort zones can attest to that and running mountains and trails often brings us to places of absolute soulful beauty, even amidst the pain! Plants also have their spiritual, mental, physical and emotional characteristics.
The human body can usually digest vitamins and minerals much easier if they come from ‘plant’ sources. When we eat the foods that contain plant-protecting compounds called phytochemicals or phytonutrients, they begin protecting us from the forces that wreak havoc in humans, such as high cholesterol, hardening of the arteries, heart disease, certain cancers, and even ageing itself.
There are three main ways that plants, herbs, fruits and vegetables keep us healthy by;
changing the habits of free radicals,
changing enzymes in our bodies by manipulating them and flushing out toxic chemicals to keeps us disease free and
adding hormones to the circulation and help keep a balance in the body.
“This process helps neutralize various cancer-causing toxins that naturally accumulate in the body”, (Gary Stoner, Ph.D., director of the cancer chemoprevention program at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Centre).
Herbs, Fruits, Vegetables and Plants. What to choose and Why.
Evidence from many cultures throughout history demonstrates that flavours have a specific pharmacological trait. The following are the six classifications;
SOUR-acting on the liver and gall bladder, e.g. bayberry, blackberry, lemon
BITTER-heart and small intestine, e.g. gentian, chicory.
SWEET-stomach, spleen and pancreas, e.g. liquorice, ginseng, honey.
PUNGENT-lungs and colon, e.g. ginger, peppermint, garlic.
SALTY-kidneys, adrenals, bladder, e.g. celery, kelp.
ASTRINGENT-skin, in Ayurvedic medicine, e.g. myrrh, witch hazel, apples. (Ayurvedic medicine evolved in India, and is considered to be the world's oldest healthcare system). Walter Kacera et al (1994). Canadian Journal of Herbalism. Spring Issue. April 1994. Vol XV No. II.
BANANAS Bananas are a low fat and low calorie food. Rich in potassium, vitamin B6, and inositol. Bananas are a very good source of electrolytes like potassium. Electrolytes are minerals that turn into electrically charged particles in the body, helping to control almost everything that happens inside, from muscle contractions and fluid balance to the beating of the heart. Bananas also quell heartburn and indigestion. Additionally, bananas contain some pectin, a soluble that helps to keep diarrhoea in check. The more ripe the banana the better for the athlete.
A seaweed that contains chlorophyll - an active healing agent. Spirulina has an affinity for heavy metals; mercury, lead, cadmium, etc. and is therefore useful as a detoxicating agent in the body. Rich in beta-carotene, Vitamin E, vitamin B12 and iron. A nutritious food supplement containing no less than 18 amino acids, including 8 essential amino acids that the body itself cannot produce. Spirulina delivers maximum nutrition from a minimum of food bulk. Its blood-purifying and hypotensive properties are made possible by its high chlorophyll content. Spirulina contains a Vitamin F factor and also contains iodine necessary for efficiency of the thyroid gland, which regulates metabolic rate. A useful supplement for any serious athlete.
APPLES Much of an apple’s healing power resides in the skin, which contains large amounts of a compound called quercetin, an antioxidant compound that can help prevent harmful oxygen molecules from damaging individual cells. Studies show that quercetin can not only inhibit the growth of tumours but it can also help prevent cancer cells from spreading. Apples contain insoluble fibre and vitamin C. Insoluble fibre is filling, which is why apples are such an excellent weight-control food for people who want to lose weight without being hungry all the time. Pectin in apples appears to reduce the amount of cholesterol produced in the liver.
PEARS Pears are high in lysine and low in arginine, the juice is anti-viral and the fruit contains boron, catechins and vitamin B6. Pears, along with beans, contain a type of dietary fibre that is very effective for lowering cholesterol. Pears contain lignin and pectin, insoluble fibres that helps usher cholesterol out of the body. We don’t usually think of pears as being “bone food,” but they contain a mineral, boron, that appears to play a role in keeping bones strong.
AVOCADO Avocado is high in biotin and contains beta-carotene that is a precursor of vitamin A. It also contains vitamins D, E and chlorophyll. Avocados are high in ‘good monounsaturated fats’, which lower uric acid levels in the blood. Avocados are high in vitamin E and glutathione and are a great source of fibre and folic acid. Studies show that people who eat diets high in potassium rich foods like avocados have a markedly lower risk of high blood pressure and related diseases.
BARLEY Barley is five times richer in iron than spinach. It relieves vomiting and is highly nutritious. Barley is one of the richest sources of tocotrienols. “Tocotrienols are potentially more powerful antioxidants than other chemical versions of vitamin E and have at least 50 percent more free radical—fighting power than other forms” says Dr. David J. A. Jenkins, University of Toronto. Barley is exceptionally high in selenium and contains lignans that can help prevent tiny blood clots from forming. High in lysine, an essential amino acid, it is one of the best and cheapest cholesterol blockers.
BROCCOLI Broccoli is the number one vegetable for cancer prevention. It contains not just one but two separate compounds—indole-3-carbinol (13C) and sulforaphane that both help sweep up cancer-causing substances before they have a chance to do harm. Broccoli also contains a high amount of boron, vitamin B6, calcium, beta-carotene, vitamin C, folic acid and fibre. The compound 13C is also found in cabbage and Brussels sprouts.
CELERY Celery stalks are a healthful snack, but it is the leaves that contain the most potassium, vitamin C, and calcium. Celery is also a good source of insoluble fibre as well as a number of essential nutrients, including potassium, vitamin C, and calcium. “Acetylenics found in celery, help to stop the growth of tumour cells,” says Robert Rosen, Ph.D., Rutgers University, New Jersey. Celery also contains magnesium and potassium; and is used to stop the pain of rheumatism.
Throughout history, yarrow is used as a wound healer. It contain flavonoids, which are thought to give yarrow its anti-spasmodic properties. Yarrow can be used as either a tincture, or as a poultice for bleeding and bruises. It lowers blood pressure and also reduces fever. Yarrow also helps regulate the menstrual cycle and is good for blood and venous problems. CAUTIONS: Do not give to anyone suffering from low blood pressure.
In conclusion, choosing wisely from a wide variety of herbs, fruits and vegetables on a daily basis enhances the athlete’s chance of staying ‘healthy’ on physical, psychological, mental/emotional and spiritual levels. Research your foods well and always seek professional advice for the best results. We are what we eat, so choose wisely and as the late Mr. Spock would say, “Live long and prosper!” See More at Fyyfes 'Discover More' Programme...