Beets:You Really Can’t “Beat” Them When it Comes to Boosting Athletic Performance

Beets are one of my favorite foods to boost athletic performance (and curb sugar cravings!) Not only are beets high in potassium, phosphorus, iron, and magnesium but they are also rich in manganese, beta carotene, zinc, vitamins C & A, calcium, folic acid and fiber. To find more about how beets increase athletic performance read my article on Digital Running.

I am always looking for creative, easy ways to diversify my salad options and here is one of my favorite summer salad recipes!


Arugula Salad with Grilled Beets and Butternut Squash

4-6 beets

2 cups butternut squash

Cracked hazelnuts (essential for the crunch and oomph!)

Arugula (or other green such as spinach)

Olive oil

Sea salt

Balsamic vinegar

Peel and cut the beets into quarters and cut the butternut squash into cubes. Place both on baking trays liberally dousing them with olive oil and sea salt. Grill at 350 degrees until cooked to desired consistency. Place aside to cool.

Place arugula (or other lettuce) in a salad bowl then layer the beets and butternut squash on top. Sprinkle the hazelnuts on top and dress with a balsamic olive oil dressing.

The best thing about this salad is that there are always beets and butternut squash left over so you can store it in the fridge to save for another day! When you are  training, you need all the time management tricks that you can get!!!

Beet Pasta with “Alfredo”

For more information on how you can make this recipe, go to Digital Running. This dish is easy to make, high in protein, and can be kept in the fridge for several days. It also travels well if you bring your lunch to the office or are on airplanes a great deal!

Go Nuts for Nuts: But, which ones?

almonds in hand

Anyone who knows me can attest that I am absolutely crazy about nuts! Not only are they an ideal plant-based protein source but they are also bursting with healthy fats and other vital nutrients that will keep you powered up and your cravings at bay!

If you lead an extremely busy, stress-filled life, are an athlete, or are just trying to lose weight, nuts are something I would highly recommend that you add to your diet.

While some people may have a problem digesting nuts (you will know if you get very bloated and heavy feeling after eating them), most people do not. Due to the fact that nuts such as almonds contain an enzyme inhibitor  that make it difficult for us to digest them (think of it as natures way of making sure that the seed has a higher chance of becoming a tree), it is helpful for us to first pre-soak the nuts before we eat them.

How do you soak your nuts?

So easy! When you buy your nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, macadamian nuts) put them in a bowl of purified water for 4-6 hours then rinse dirty water off and place in a collander to drain. Basically, not only are you getting rid of the enzyme inhibitors but you are also starting the sprouting process with the nuts, which will increase the nuts’ nutritional value. Once you soak your nuts and see what comes off you will never want to eat them before presoaking again!

Here are my favorite nuts (in order!):

Almonds

Not only are almonds high in vitamin E, which has been proven to prevent cellular damage responsible for stress (think aging!) and reduce the risk of heart disease, but they also are a source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, folic acid and fiber. Almonds are also high in antioxidants and are low in saturated fats. One ounce of almonds (20-25 almonds) represents 12% of your daily allowance of protein, 35% of your daily allowance of vitamin E and as much calcium as a glass of milk! One important caveat, though. Almonds contain phytoestrogens so if you are a cancer patient or have cancer in your family, talk to your doctor first before adding them into your diet.

How do I eat them?

Use almond milk instead of regular milk over your cereal in the morning or in your smoothies. Use almond butter instead of peanut butter on your toast in the morning. Toast almonds and serve ontop of steamed broccoli or asparagus, or just carry a baggie of almonds with you for an easy afternoon snack on the go!

Brazil nuts

Not only are brazil nuts high in iron, zinc, magnesium, but they are also an excellent source of selenium, which is a powerful antioxidant that protects us against aging by improving cell quality and elasticity, stimulating our immune system and helping fight off heart disease and some forms of cancer. Brazil nuts have 2500 times as much selenium as any other nut!

Another bonus is that brazil nuts do not contain phytoestrogens like almonds. For most of us, we need not worry about this but for cancer patients or those at risk who have been told to avoid them, brazil nut butter may be a better option.

How do I eat them?

Have brazil nut butter on your toast in the morning or add a dollop on top of your yogurt. Add whole brazil nuts or brazil nut butter to your smoothies. Chop up brazil nuts and add them to your pancakes or sprinkle on top of a salad for a crunchy addition!

Walnuts

Walnuts are another one of my favorite nuts. Not only are walnuts high in Omega 3’s (1/4 cup= 90% of our daily requirement) and protein (with 26% more protein

than that of an egg!), but they also contain potassium, manganese, phosphorus, calcium, iron, vitamins B & E, folate and beta-carotene.

How do I eat them?

My favorite way to eat walnuts is on top of salads! Walnuts are also a delicious addition to breads, pancakes and even chopped up on top of oatmeal or cereal. Sometimes as an alternative to a straight-forward pesto, I will use walnuts instead of pine nuts in my pesto recipe- delicious!

Pecans

Pecans are great because they have such as sweet flavor that you almost feel like you are eat dessert! Like walnuts, pecans are not only a good plant-based protein source, but they are also high in magnesium, phosophorus, potassium, vitamins A & E, folic acid and zinc.

How do I eat them?

I love to add pecans to salad- particularly when they contain more acidic flavors such as tomatos that balance the sweet flavor of the pecans. I also love to add pecans to pancakes or crush them up on top of cereals or yogurt. Crushed pecans also make a delicious pie crust!!!

Cashews

While cashew
s might look like boring white kidney beans, they actually contain a powerful punch of minerals and vitamins. Cashews are not only high in copper, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc and iron but they also contain potassium, selenium, folate, niacin, thiamin, vitamin C, and calicum.
How do I eat them?
Cashew nuts are on of the most versatile nuts I know and are essential in the kitchen if you are trying to cut back on your dairy consumption. Believe it or not, but you can use cashew nuts in lieu of creams to make rich puddings, pasta sauces and even dessert puddings! I make a killer chocolate pudding with them as well as a decadent pumpkin ‘cream’ gnocchi.

raw pudding

Chocolate Cashew Cream Pudding

2 cups of cashews (preferably pre-soaked for 4-6 hours and rinsed)
1½ tbsp unsweetened chocolate powder
¼- ½ cup agave nectar
Squeeze of lemon
Dash of sea salt
Optional: maca powder or Sun Warrior Chocolate protein powder

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Slowly add just a bit of water or coconut water until you reach your desired consistency. For rich, thick pudding try to add as little as possible. Note, though, that the pudding will thicken once placed in the fridge. My kids adore this pudding and it makes a nice, healthy treat or dessert that we all can enjoy!

Pumpkin Cream Pasta

Pasta (I use Tinkyada gluten-free rice pasta) or gnocci
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 cups cashews (preferably pre-soaked for 4-6 hours)
1 cup vegan bouillon
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 diced onion
1/4 cup champagne vinegar (or other white wine vinegar)
Dash of cinnamon, nutmeg and pumpkin pie spice (if you have it)
Chopped sage (or can use canned spice if don’t have fresh)
Olive oil
Sea salt

Cook your pasta according to the package instructions while doing the following:

Place the cashews into a blender slowly adding water and blend until smooth and creamy.

In a separate skillet, place some olive oil, diced onions and garlic and sautee. Add bouillon, white wine and cashew cream sauce to skillet along with additional spices, and stir until thickens.

Add sauce on top of pasta or gnocci, decorate with sage and enjoy! This truly is so delicious!!!