Up Your Nutrient Game With These 5 Foods!

As a sports dietitian, I have to admit I have had many conversations with players peewee to pro that go something like this:

  • Player: “I don’t like that!”
  • Me: “Have you actually ever tried it?”
  • Player: “No, but I know I won’t like it. It looks weird.”
  • Me: “Well maybe you should try a bite and see. It’s good for you and sometimes you eat things just because they are good for you!”

Just because a food is not familiar does not mean you should not eat it or at least try it. Many foods that people rarely eat are rich in nutrients, antioxidants and are powerhouses of nutrition. However, sometimes it takes branching out of your comfort zone to enrich your diet. So, if you are looking to want to up your nutrient game and try some new things, here are some foods to introduce into your diet:

  1. Kale: A member of the cabbage family, kale is jam packed of nutrients! It is rich in vitamins K and C, beta-carotene and has 2 grams of fiber per cup. Kale also contains the flavonoid antioxidants quercetin and kaempferol (I know, science words) that have been shown to have powerful cardioprotective, blood pressure lowering, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-cancer effects to name a few. It also contains a host of minerals like calcium, potassium and magnesium. Eat it green or purple with curly or smooth leaves; just eat it! And if your kids hate it? Try blending it into smoothie or cooking it into spaghetti sauce for a nutrient win!
  2. Avocado: Most people think of avocado only in the form of guacamole associated with chips, salsa and lots of calories, but the truth is the avocado is a powerhouse of nutrients and healthy monounsaturated fat. This unique fruit actually helps the body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Avocados are also a great source of fiber, folate, potassium and lots of other vitamins and minerals. Slice it on a salad, layer it on a sandwich or mix it with veggies and ground beef for a flavorful, filling burst of nutrients!
  3. Beets: Yes I said beets! They are high in potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, iron; vitamins A, B & C; beta-carotene, beta-cyanine; and folic acid. In addition, the nitrates in beet juice have been shown in research to lower the oxygen needed for exercise helping you work harder longer. Drink it as juice, roast them and dazzle with goat cheese and chopped pecans or mix into your favorite salad. Either way, this vibrant color vegetable will help fill you up with nutrients and maybe help you workout harder. And if your kids say no way, just tell them enough beets might give them the stamina to be a second faster and win the race!
  4. Tart cherries: Tart cherries, not sour or sweet, but tart, are high in anthocyanins, a class of antioxidant phytochemicals (disease-fighting agent found in plant foods). In particular, they encourage healthy circulation, ensure proper nerve function and offer anti-cancer properties. Tart cherries also boast to be an antioxidant powerhouse because they help buffer oxidative damage or things that can damage cells and potentially cause inflammation in the body. Around exercise, it can help reduce inflammation and provide carbohydrate to fuel and/or refuel workouts.     
  5. Quinoa: Quinoa is a grain rich in protein containing all nine essential amino acids! With 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber a cup, it is a power grain. It is also rich in the flavonoid antioxidants quercetin and kaempferol in addition to a host of other vitamins and minerals. Quinoa is gluten-free and thus a nutrient-rich grain choice for those with gluten intolerance or Celiac disease. A great way to eat it is in a bowl with your favorite veggies, beans, protein and cheese! Like being at Chipotle!