Asia and South America have given us some of the most buzzed-about superfoods, but some of the best superfoods are actually the ones right in front of us. Each season right here in the U.S. provides us with the perfect balance of nutrients to help us perform our best. For example, winter chills bring vitamin C–packed citrus to boost the immune system and collagen production, which is perfect considering it’s when viruses are highest and the cold weather wreaks havoc on our skin. Spring brings tons of anti-inflammatory leafy greens to help keep allergies at bay. The summer sun brings a whole slew of skin issues, from burns to eczema, which is when fruits that help boost the skins natural ability to fight off sun damage, such as watermelon, tomatoes, and berries, thrive.
As for fall, I am pretty sure our predecessors saw plants dying and animals migrating and hibernating so Mother Nature provided muscle boosting foods to give them the strength and endurance to survive winter. My fall favorites are pumpkin, sweet potatoes, beets, and pomegranates. Each one plays a vital role in muscle maintenance and recovery, and although you can find them year round, they are the best tasting and most beneficial in the fall.
Sweet Potatoes and Yams
These are one of the best carbohydrates for every type of athlete to help refuel muscle glycogen stores. They provide a nutrient-packed dose of complex carbohydrates, without added sugars. They are also high in fiber, which helps keep exercisers full in order to burn off fat reserves. One serving provides an entire day’s vitamin A and about 35% of the vitamin C requirements. For the maximum benefit, enjoy a serving of yam right after your workout, along with a high quality protein and a small amount of fat. My favorite way to prepare them is simple: wash, rub the skin with coconut oil, place on a baking dish, use a fork to poke a few holes on top, and bake on 450 degrees for 60 minutes. Yams and sweet potatoes come in various colors and flavors so have fun trying them all!
Recipes to Try: Sweet Potato Toast, 3 Ways
The meat of these orange beauties are packed with electrolytes such as potassium, which helps maintain water balance to regulate muscle contractions while exercising. They are also very high in fiber and low in calories, so they are great for fat loss. As an added bonus, pumpkin seeds are packed with protein (8 grams per ounce) and zinc, which contributes to normal cell function and can help your overall ability to build muscle during resistance training. Enjoy 1-2 servings of pumpkin in the evening to help maintain muscle.
Consuming beets regularly is scientifically proven to boost performance. In addition to providing vitamins A, B, and C; antioxidants beta-carotene and beta- cyanine; folic acid, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, iron, and fiber; beetroot is packed with nitrates. Nitrates are converted to nitric oxide, a powerful vasodilator, which increases blood flow to muscles to help produce energy so you can go longer, faster and stronger! This superfood can be consumed as a juice, raw and cooked.
Recipe to Try: Ina Garten’s Roasted Beets
Like beets, pomegranates are rich in nitrates, anti-oxidants, and vitamins C and K. In addition to boosting performance, they are a powerful anti-inflammatory which helps reduce recovery time after a grueling workout. They also reduce joint pain. Although you can find pomegranate juices almost anywhere, they are usually processed and lose many of their benefits while containing too much sugar. It is best to eat the actual fruit. I’ve got a trick to deseeding a pomegranate so fast, you will eat them by the crateful.
Linda Niazi has over a decade of nutrition and personal training experience. She has helped her clients feel their best by creating a positive relationship with clean eating and corrective exercise. As a wife, mom of three young children, and a business owner, she understands the challenges of leading a healthy lifestyle; losing weight; and maintaining mental health. Her goal is to inspire to others to make their best choices when it comes to what goes in their bodies, their activity levels, and positive thinking.
Have a health, wellness, and nutrition of your own to ask Linda? Ask away below.