Not Another Case of the Mondays: BLUEBERRIES for Health and Energy!
I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling the heat this summer! Maybe it’s being 9 months pregnant, living lower in elevation and higher heat than I’m used to, or just plain ol’ hot weather. No matter the reason, it’s time to recover with a perfect recovery-nutrition frozen treat. tomorrow, I’ll give you a great recipe: Frozen Blueberry Greek Yogurt . Wit hit, you’ll get the carbs, protein, and antioxidants you need to replenish glycogen stores, prevent muscle wasting, and combat free radicals. Add some fluids on the side and you’ll be set. Today, let’s talk blueberries:
Although the commercial-sports nutrition companies often focus on fluids, carbs, and protein, we “whole-food” junkies know that antioxidants are a cyclist’s best friend when recovering. A little-known-fact is that the healthy bacteria found in fermented foods like Greek yogurt actually increase your absorption of antioxidants (even in the short-term), so high-antioxidant foods and healthy bacteria are a no-brainer-recovery-combo.
This week, I’ve taken the easy road once again and picked a “key” ingredient that has obvious and vast nutrition benefits. Most everyone has heard that blueberries are high in antioxidants, but what does that mean to you and your adventure?
First, blueberries offer a wide variety of antioxidants for whole body health:
Antioxidant status is improved in all of these body systems following consumption of blueberries: cardiovascular, nervous system, muscle systems, hormonal systems and blood sugar regulation, digestive tract – most every system in our bodies! And, for us cyclists, blueberries have specifically shown positive results in studies for reduced damage to muscles after overly-taxing exercise!
The Cardiovascular System
One to two cups of blueberries per day over one to three months improves blood fat balances (cholesterol and triglycerides), reduced oxidation of LDL cholesterol (oxidation is what allows “bad” cholesterol to enter artery walls and form plague), improved health of cells that line artery walls, increased plasma antioxidant capacity, and reduced inflammation of the cardiovascular system. What’s more, studies show that routine blueberry consumption improves blood pressure in both men and women. Now this should get your active heart pumping!
In a study of older adults (average age: 76 years), cognitive function tests were improved after 12 weeks of consistent blueberry intake. One of the tests measured memory and the other the postponement of cognitive disease. With a healthy heart and brain, there’s no need to stop pedaling as we age. The protection is likely a result of the wide variety of antioxidants in the berries and their contributions to a healthy nervous system.
Along with brain cells, eye cells have a high susceptibility to oxidative stress. In animal studies, the anthocyanins in blueberry protected the retina from unwanted oxygen damage. Interestingly, they have also been determined to help protect the retina from damage from sunlight.
Remember, endurance athletes use and “turn-over” a lot of oxygen – the more oxygen turnover, the more oxidative stress. And although this is a potential problem, the health benefits of cardiovascular exercise far outweigh the risks. But, we do need all the antioxidants we can get!
Blood Sugar Hormones
Healthy blood sugar levels usually have to do with a balance between food that are metabolized and turned into blood sugar, insulin (the hormone that causes blood sugars to be stored in the cells), glucagon (the hormones that increases the release of sugars into the bloodstream), and the health of cells and their ability to respond to insulin and glucagon appropriately. Research on blood sugar balance and blueberry intake has been conducted on individuals who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or insulin resistance, and the results of this research have been consistent. They have shown that blueberries (along with other berries) have a favorable impact on blood sugar regulation in persons already diagnosed with blood sugar problems.
For anyone who doesn’t have issues with blood sugars, this is still beneficial: insulin resistance and blood sugar problems can creep on with age – so stay healthy, keep training, and eat foods that combat age- and inflammation- related diseases.
1) Blueberries can be expensive and are usually only available at a reasonable price a few months out of the year. When they are on sale, stock up and freeze them. Freezing does not decrease the antioxidant power!
2) You can also take advantage of blueberry season by make them into freezer jam. Take a look at this recipe for a low-sugar, healthy jam (perfect for a pre-training or recovery nut butter/jelly snack): http://www.care2.com/greenliving/no-cook-freezer-jams.html#solution_comments
3) Organic blueberries have significantly more antioxidants that conventionally-grown ones. If you can afford it, go for organic. Or, if you live in a place where they can be grown, put in the time and reap your own berries!
4) Go for other berries, too. Most all berries have a vast array of health benefits for you. In fact, blueberries offer so much, yet they only score 9th among berries in terms of their ORAC score (oxygen radical absorbance capacity). Always eat a variety of fruits and vegetables for the best consumption of antioxidants and other health-promoting nutrients!
A berry good tip: Cool down this summer and recover well from training (recipe coming tomorrow) – you’ll feel great the rest of the day and in subsequent training.
Give your body what it needs for great energy and health every day and during training with the right Foods, Drinks and Supplements. If you would like my help with it, I offer comprehensive plans as Instant Downloads and as Custom Clients starting at just $20. And, as a FuelRightBlog reader, get a further discount with coupon code: password-frblog username-reader. I’d love to work with you!
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