A: There isn’t any one ‘superfood’ that athletes should have, although there a wide variety of foods that deliver important nutrients that athletes should routinely work to include! Also keep in mind, there isn't a technical definition of 'superfood', I consider superfoods to be those foods that deliver important nutrients and/or properties like: vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, etc.
Rather than thinking of any one food as THE food to have, focus on getting a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat bread), nuts and seeds, beans and lentils throughout the week. Each superfood food will deliver different benefits, for example, here are a couple of foods and the benefits that they deliver for athletes:
Lentils provide plant-based protein, soluble fiber, insoluble fiber folate, potassium, iron, and manganese. Each aspect of nutrition that lentils deliver is essential for athletes! Adequate protein is a must for rebuilding muscles, repairing muscles, maintaining strength, and overall muscle mass. While most people get plenty of protein from meats/animal sources, it is important to incorporate plant-based protein sources as well that deliver fiber, vitamins, minerals, and lentils deliver all-that! Each cup of cooked lentils has about 18 grams of protein, which is equivalent to the protein content of about 3 large eggs.
Try this Chia Cherry Lentil Muffin recipe (pictured above)! Click here for the recipe.
Quiona delivers fiber, protein, and important vitamins and minerals including: magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, iron, thiamine and folate. For athletes, magnesium is especially important because it is a key player in energy production and metabolism.
Make a stir-fry and serve it with quinoa instead of brown rice.
Almonds delivers unsaturated fat and vitamin E, in fact one ounce (a small handful) of almonds delivers 34% of the daily value for this important vitamin. For athletes, vitamin E is important as it is an antioxidant that can help to keep cells healthy.
Add-in almonds to trail mix, enjoy a handful of almonds, or add sliced almonds to cereal!
Walnuts deliver unsaturated fat and omega-3 fats (a type of polyunsaturated fat); one once (a small handful of walnuts delivers 0.76 grams of omega-3 fats. This is important for athletes because omega-3 fats are linked to decreased inflammation in the body.
Add-in walnuts to trail mix or to quick breads (e.g. banana bread)!
Broccoli delivers vitamin C, an important vitamin for the immune system! Each serving of broccoli delivers 220% of the daily value for vitamin C, plus about 4 grams of fiber. Vitamin C can help to keep athletes immune system healthy throughout the year!
Try chopped broccoli with your favorite dip for a snack or add roasted broccoli as a side dish at dinner!
1. Update on the relationship between magnesium and exercise. Magnesium Research. 2006. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17172008
2. NIH Vitamin E - Health Professional Fact Sheet: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/
3. Omega-3 fatty acids and athletics. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2007 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17617998