whole food... whole you

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Shopping List

March 4th, 2008 by Stefania Vaughan, adapted from Liz Applegate's article in Runner's World Magazine

Let's pretend to go to your favorite store to buy groceries. By the way our favorite is Costco for it's bulk prices and availability of organic products. Most traditional grocery stores have a particular department arrangement: the produce, dairy, fresh meats and fish, and bread sections are located on the perimeter of the store. It is a 'live groceries' section and we all should stack up most of our shopping carts with products from it. After you got well loaded till your hearts content with various vegetables, fruits, berries, fresh cuts and dairy, feel free to venture out to the center of the store and into the world of 'limited groceries', such as frozen meats, fish and veggies, whole grain pastas, cereals, beans, flours, condiments and sauces. Stay away as much as possible from pre-packaged foods like cookies, crackers, since most of the time it contains hydroginated fats. And at last, let's select one treat of the week from the 'no-no groceries' menu, say pint of ice-cream, and call it a day!

SUGGESTED GROCERIES LIST:
* ALMONDS - Eat 24 them, 3-5 times per week
* FRESH OR CANNED BLACK BEANS One cup gives you more than half the fiber you need per day
* SKINLESS CHICKEN BREAST One breast gives you more than half your daily protein needs even for athletes.
* FRESH FRUIT All fruits are wonderful, but limit the amount of bananas and dry fruit like raisings for high glycemic index.
* EGGS Most athletes can safely eat up to 15 whites and 5 yolks per week.
* FRESH OR FROZEN MIXED BERRIES We need at lest two cups of fruit every day
* FRESH AND FROZEN VEGGIES Buy a colorful mix to get an array of antioxidants, limit corn and carrots for high glycemic index.
* LOW FAT AND LOW CARB YOGURT We need 3 cups of dairy per day. Stay away from sugar-free products as they contain dangerous chemicals.
* MIXED SALAD GREENS A variety of greens provides the most nutrients
* ORANGES Just one orange a day will fulfill your vitamin C needs
* SALMON Two or three servings per week provides healthy fats and high-quality protein
* SWEET POTATOES This carb provides the bonus of more than 250 percent of the Daily Value for vitamin A
* WHOLE GRAIN BREAD Look for the words "100% whole grain" - it is very important!
* WHOLE GRAIN CEREAL w/PROTEIN Limit your grain intake for high glycemic index, except for grains like whole oats. One serving should offer at least 5 grams of fiber, 8 grams of protein
* WHOLE GRAIN PASTA Limit to a 2 servings per week, unless you are an athlete.

NUTRITIONAL GUIDELINES FOR EVERY DAY
The following guidelines are proposing health benefits and menu suggestions for healthy and active population. The demand for greater and more thoughtful nutrition is three time higher for athletes, so one should adjust their own daily menu in accordance to their lifestyle. Let's highlight certain foods and food groups:

* WHY Almonds
Athletes should eat a small handful of almonds at least three to five times per week. Nuts, especially almonds, are an excellent source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that many athletes fall short on because there are so few good food sources of it. Studies have shown that eating nuts several times per week lowers circulating cholesterol levels, particularly the artery-clogging LDL type, decreasing your risk for heart disease. And the form of vitamin E found in nuts, called gamma-tocopherol (a form not typically found in supplements), may also help protect against cancer.
Suggested recipe ideas: Add almonds and other nuts to salads or pasta dishes, use as a topping for casseroles, or throw them into your bowl of hot cereal for extra crunch. Combine with chopped dried fruit, soy nuts, and chocolate bits for a healthy and tasty trail mix. Almond butter is perfect spread over whole-grain toast or on a whole-wheat tortilla, topped with raisins, and rolled up. Store all nuts in jars or zipper bags in a cool dry place away from sunlight and they'll keep for about two to four months. Storing them in the freezer will allow them to keep an extra month or two.

* WHY Eggs
One egg fulfills about 10 percent of your daily protein needs. Egg protein is the most complete food protein short of human breast milk, which means the protein in eggs contains all the crucial amino acids your hard-working muscles need to promote recovery. Eat just one of these nutritional powerhouses and you'll also get about 30 percent of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin K, which is vital for healthy bones. And eggs contain choline, a brain nutrient that aids memory, and leutin, a pigment needed for healthy eyes. Choose omega-3 enhanced eggs and you can also increase your intake of healthy fats. Most athletes can safely eat up to 15 whites and 5 yolks per week. Separate and throw away the rest of yolks for high amount of cholesterol - eggs are farely cheap.
Suggested recipe ideas: Whether boiled, scrambled, poached, or fried (in a nonstick skillet to cut down on the need for additional fats), eggs are great anytime. Use them as the base for skillet meals such as frittatas. Or include them in sandwiches, burritos, or wraps as you would meat fillers. You can also add them to casseroles and soups by cracking one or two in during the last minute of cooking.

* WHY Sweet potatoes
This Thanksgiving Day standard should be on the plates of athletes year-round. Just a single 100-calorie sweet potato supplies over 250 percent of the DV for vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, the powerful antioxidant. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamin C, potassium, iron, and the two trace minerals manganese and copper. Many athletes fail to meet their manganese and copper needs, which can have an impact on performance since these minerals are crucial for healthy muscle function. There are even new sweet-potato varieties that have purple skin and flesh and contain anthocyanidins, the same potent antioxidant found in berries.
Suggested recipe ideas: Sweet potatoes can be baked, boiled, or microwaved. You can fill them with bean chili, low-fat cheese, and your favorite toppings, or you can incorporate them into stews and soups. Baked as wedges or disks, sweet potatoes make delicious oven fries. Don't store sweet potatoes in the fridge because they will lose their flavor. Instead, stash them in a cool, dark place, and they should keep for about two weeks.

* WHY Whole-Grain Cereal with Protein
Limit your grain intake for high glycemic index, except for grains like whole oats, unless you are an athlete. Look for ingredients list with wholesome grains like wheat, flexseed, oats etc. One serving should offer at least 5 grams of fiber, 8 grams of protein to balance out the sugars to avoid 'highs' and 'lows'. For example, one cup of Kashi GoLean cereal, which is made from seven different whole grains, including triticale, rye, and buckwheat, fills you up with a hefty 10 grams of fiber (that's 40 percent of the DV) and is loaded with heart-healthy phytonutrients. It also contains soy grits, supplying 13 grams of protein per serving. If you pour on a cup of milk or soymilk, you'll get 30 to 40 percent of your protein needs as a runner in one bowl. Other high-protein/high-fiber cereals include Nature's Path Optimum Rebound and Back to Nature Flax & Fiber Crunch.
Suggested recipe ideas: Of course whole-grain cereal is excellent for breakfast--a meal you don't want to skip since research indicates that those who eat breakfast are healthier, trimmer, and can manage their weight better than nonbreakfast eaters. Cereal also makes a great postrun recovery meal with its mix of carbohydrates and protein. Or you can sprinkle whole-grain cereal on top of your yogurt, use it to add crunch to casseroles, or tote it along in a zip bag.

* WHY Oranges
Eat enough oranges and you may experience less muscle soreness after hard workouts such as downhill running. Why? Oranges supply over 100 percent of the DV for the antioxidant vitamin C, and a recent study from the University of North Carolina Greensboro showed that taking vitamin C supplements for two weeks prior to challenging arm exercises helped alleviate muscle soreness. This fruit's antioxidant powers also come from the compound herperidin found in the thin orange-colored layer of the fruit's skin (the zest). Herperidin has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels and high blood pressure as well.
Suggested recipe ideas: Add orange sections to fruit and green salads, or use the orange juice and pulp for sauces to top chicken, pork, or fish. And to benefit from the antioxidant herperidin, use the orange zest in baking and cooking, as with my Grilled Herbed Salmon recipe (above). Select firm, heavy oranges, and store them in the fridge for up to three weeks. Orange zest can be stored dried in a glass jar for about a week if kept in a cool place.

* WHY Canned Black Beans
One cup of these beauties provides 30 percent of the DV for protein, almost 60 percent of the DV for fiber (much of it as the cholesterol-lowering soluble type), and 60 percent of the DV for folate, a B vitamin that plays a key role in heart health and circulation. Black beans also contain antioxidants, and researchers theorize that this fiber-folate-antioxidant trio is why a daily serving of beans appears to lower cholesterol levels and heart-disease risk. In addition, black beans and other legumes are low glycemic index (GI) foods, meaning the carbohydrate in them is released slowly into the body. Low GI foods can help control blood sugar levels and may enhance performance because of their steady release of energy.
Suggested recipe ideas: For a quick, hearty soup, open a can of black beans and pour into chicken or vegetable stock along with frozen mixed veggies and your favorite seasonings. Mash beans with salsa for an instant dip for cut veggies, or spread onto a whole-wheat tortilla for a great recovery meal. Add beans to cooked pasta or rice for extra fiber and protein.

* WHY Mixed Salad Greens
Rather than selecting one type of lettuce for your salad, choose mixed greens, which typically offer five or more colorful delicate greens such as radicchio, butter leaf, curly endive, and mache. Each variety offers a unique blend of phytonutrients that research suggests may fend off age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer's, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. These phytonutrients also act as antioxidants, warding off muscle damage brought on by tough workouts. You can usually buy mixed greens in bulk or prewashed in bags.
Suggested recipe ideas: Toss a mixed greens salad with tomato, cucumber, scallions, and an olive oil-based dressing (the fat from the oil helps your body absorb the phytonutrients). You can also stuff mixed greens in your sandwiches, wraps, and tacos. Or place them in a heated skillet, toss lightly until wilted, and use as a bed for grilled salmon, chicken, or lean meat. Greens store best in a salad spinner or the crisper drawer in your fridge for up to six days. Just don't drench them in water or they won't keep as long.

* WHY Salmon
Nutrition-wise, salmon is the king of fish. Besides being an excellent source of high-quality protein (you get about 30 grams in a four-ounce serving), salmon is one of the best food sources of omega-3 fats. These essential fats help balance the body's inflammation response, a bodily function that when disturbed appears to be linked to many diseases including asthma. A recent study showed that people with exercise-induced asthma saw an improvement in symptoms after three weeks of eating more fish oil. If you've been limiting seafood due to possible mercury or PCB contamination, simply aim for a variety of farm-raised and wild salmon for maximum health benefits.
Suggested recipe ideas: Bake, grill, or poach salmon with fresh herbs and citrus zest. Gauge cooking time by allotting 10 minutes for every inch of fish (steaks or fillets). Salmon should flake when done. Precooked (leftover) or canned salmon is great in salads, tossed into pasta, stirred into soups, or on top of pizza. Fresh fish keeps one to two days in the fridge, or you can freeze it in a tightly sealed container for about four to five months.

* WHY Whole-Grain Bread
Athletes need at least three to six one-ounce servings of whole grains per day, and eating 100 percent whole-grain bread (as opposed to just whole-grain bread, which may contain some refined grains and flours) is an easy way to meet this requirement since one slice equals one serving. Whole-grain bread may also help those who are weight conscious. One study showed that women who eat whole-grain bread weigh less than those who eat refined white bread and other grains. Whole-grain eaters also have a 38 percent lower risk of suffering from metabolic syndrome, which is characterized by belly fat, low levels of the good cholesterol, and high blood sugar levels. All this raises the risk for heart disease and cancer.
Suggested recipe ideas: Bread is versatile, portable, and ready to eat right out of the wrapper. Spread with peanut butter or stuff with your favorite sandwich fillings and plenty of sliced veggies for a one-handed recovery meal. Coat with a beaten egg for French toast, or use as layers or crumbled in a casserole. Just be sure the label says 100 percent whole grain (all the grains and flours included in the ingredients should be listed as whole, not milled or refined). And don't just stick with the popular 100 percent whole-wheat breads. Try different varieties of whole grains such as barley, buckwheat, bulgur, rye, or oat.

* WHY Frozen Stir-fry Vegetables
Research shows that eating a combination of antioxidants, such as beta-carotene and vitamin C, may lessen muscle soreness after hard interval workouts by reducing the inflammation caused by free-radical damage (for more on this, see "Should You Be Afraid of Free Radicals," page 61). Most ready-to-use stir-fry veggie combos offer a potent mix of antioxidants by including red and yellow peppers, onions, bok choy, and soy beans. And frozen vegetable mixes save lots of prepping time but still provide the same nutrition as their fresh counterparts.
Suggested recipe ideas: Dump the frozen vegetables right into a hot wok or skillet, add tofu, seafood, or meat, your favorite stir-fry sauce, and serve over brown rice. Or throw them into pasta water during the last few minutes of cooking, drain, and toss with a touch of olive oil. You can also mix the frozen veggies right into soups or stews at the end of cooking, or thaw them and add to casseroles. Vegetables store well in the freezer for about four months, so make sure to date your bags.

* WHY Whole-grain Pasta
Pasta has long been an athlete's best friend because it contains easily digestible carbs that help you restock spent glycogen (energy) stores. Whole-grain versions are a must over refined pastas because they contain more fiber to fill you up, additional B vitamins that are crucial to energy metabolism, and disease-fighting compounds such as lignans. And even better, pastas such as Barilla Plus offer whole-grain goodness along with heart-healthy omega-3 fats from ground flaxseed and added protein from a special formula of ground lentils, multigrains, and egg whites to help with muscle repair and recovery. However pasta and pasta based menus should be limited for non-athletes to 2 times per week.
Suggested recipe ideas: Pasta makes a complete one-pot meal--perfect for busy athletes--when tossed with veggies, lean meat, seafood, or tofu. Or combine pasta with a light sauce, a bit of your favorite cheese, and turn it into a satisfying casserole.

* WHY Chicken
Athletes need about 50 to 75 percent more protein than nonathletes to help rebuild muscles and promote recovery after tough workouts. And just one four-ounce serving of chicken can supply about half a runner's daily protein needs. Along with protein, chicken contains selenium, a trace element that helps protect muscles from the free-radical damage that can occur during exercise, and niacin, a B vitamin that helps regulate fat burning during a run. New studies also suggest that people who get ample niacin in their diet have a 70 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
Suggested recipe ideas: Chicken's versatility makes it perfect for athletes with little time to cook. You can bake, broil, grill, or poach chicken in broth. Leftover chicken works well on top of salads, mixed into pasta, or stuffed into sandwiches and burritos. Fresh chicken stores safely for two days in the fridge, but can be frozen for six months or more.

* WHY Frozen Mixed Berries
The colorful compounds that make blueberries blue, blackberries deep purple, and raspberries a rich shade of red are called anthocyanins--a powerful group of antioxidants that may help stave off Alzheimer's disease and some cancers. Anthocyanins may also assist with postrun recovery and muscle repair. Not bad for a fruit group that contains a mere 60 calories or so per cup. And remember: Frozen berries are just as nutritious as fresh ones, but they keep far longer (up to nine months in the freezer), making it easier to always have them ready to eat.
Suggested recipe ideas: Frozen berries make a great base for a smoothie and there's no need to thaw them. Once thawed, eat them straight up or add to some vanilla yogurt with chopped nuts. Or liven up your hot or cold cereal with a big handful. You can also bake berries with a nutty topping of oatmeal, honey, and chopped almonds for a sweet treat after a long weekend run.
Suggested recipe ideas: Besides the obvious (just eat it!), you can add dark chocolate to trail mix, dip it in peanut butter (my favorite), or combine it with fruit for an even greater antioxidant punch. Just keep track of the calories. Buy chocolate wrapped in small pieces to help with portion control.

* WHY Low-fat Yogurt
Besides being a good source of protein and calcium (one cup provides 13 grams of protein and 40 percent of the DV for calcium), low-fat yogurt with live cultures provides the healthy bacteria your digestive tract needs to function optimally. This good bacteria may also have anti-inflammatory powers that can offer some relief to arthritis suffers. Just look for the live-culture symbol on the yogurt carton. Stay away from sugar-free products though as they contain dangerous chemicals sush as aspartame. See the link to Sugar Substitutes link for more information.
Suggested recipe ideas: Low-fat yogurt is great topped with fruit, granola, or nuts, or used as a base for smoothies. Plain yogurt can be mixed with diced cucumber and herbs like dill and spread over grilled tofu, chicken, fish, and other meats. Yogurt can also double as a salad dressing with vinegar and herbs. Or mix it with fresh salsa to stand in as a dip for veggies and baked chips.

* WHY Dark Chocolate
As an athlete you deserve at least one indulgence--especially one you can feel so good about. Chocolate contains potent antioxidants called flavonols that can boost heart health. In one study, a group of soccer players had lower blood pressure and total cholesterol levels, and less artery-clogging LDL cholesterol after just two weeks of eating chocolate daily. Other research suggests that the chocolate flavonols ease inflammation and help prevent blood substances from becoming sticky, which lowers the risk of potential blood clots. But not just any chocolate will do. First off, dark chocolate (the darker the better) generally contains more flavonols than milk chocolate. Also, the way the cocoa beans are processed can influence the potency of the flavonols. But again, it is not something one should consume daily due to high calories content, so keep it as a treat idea, and treat yourself when you feel like you really deserved it!