We know you’re driven, an animal in the gym and all this nonsense about health and what foods to eat to improve health is for soccer Moms and those who don’t know our Jay Cutler from “Da Bears” Jay Cutler. But listen up people, to make optimum gains you need to maintain optimal all round health and keep your immune system cranking out at 100% efficiency. By doing so your gym efforts will reap more, and faster, muscle gains. Here’s six whole foods to help put you on that super healthy track.
1) Nuts Linked to Longer Life Span
Eating nuts every day reduces the death rate by 20 percent compared to not eating nuts, according to a Harvard University study of more than 100,000 health professionals. Higher nut consumption was also linked to a reduced death rate due to cancer, heart disease and lung disease. Nuts are highly nutritious foods that are high in unsaturated fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants. Major health agencies, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, recommend that people eat nuts as part of a healthy diet. (New England Journal Of Medicine, 369: 2001-2011, 2013)
2) Long-Term Rice Intake Improves Blood Sugar Regulation
America is in the midst of an obesity and diabetes epidemic, mainly caused by physical inactivity and poor diet. We need simple solutions to turn the tide. Korean researchers, in a study on mice, showed that rice consumption (50 percent of caloric intake) resulted in reduced bodyweight, blood sugar, insulin and leptin compared to animals consuming a high-fat diet. Rice improved blood sugar regulation by activating a high-energy metabolic pathway (AMPK) and a cellular sugar transporter (GLUT4). It is not known whether these results apply to humans. (Nutrition, published online January 10, 2014)
3) Cherry Juice Reduces Inflammation and Muscle Damage
Cherry juice is the real deal for protecting muscle tissue from damage during intense exercise ranging from marathons to monster weight-training workouts— according to a review of literature by Stella Lucia Volpe from Drexel University in Philadelphia. Chemicals in cherry juice, such as flavonoids and anthocyanins, prevent muscle oxidative damage and inflammation associated with exercise recovery. Cherry juice, which reduces exercise-induced muscle damage, inflammation and oxidative stress, might be useful for reducing sports injuries and promoting recovery. (ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal 18(1): 32-33, 2014)
4) Eating Fish Linked to Slower Brain Aging
People who ate baked or broiled fish once a week showed less loss of brain grey matter during a 10-year period than non-fish eaters— according to a study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The benefits of eating fish did not apply to fried fish, and omega-3 fatty intake did not affect the results. Fish eaters were more likely to have a university education. It is likely that lifestyle was more important that fish for promoting healthy brains. Because two factors are related doesn’t mean that one caused the other. Don’t concentrate on individual foods. Rather, follow a healthy lifestyle that emphasizes a well-balance diet, exercise, minimal stress and positive associations with family and friends. (American Journal Preventive Medicine, published online July 29, 2014)
5) Apples Decrease Inflammation
Inflammation is a disturbance in the metabolism of critical structures in cells such as cell membranes. It is linked to serious health problems such as heart disease, dementia, stroke and arthritis. Antioxidants called polyphenols help fight inflammation by neutralizing highly reactive chemicals called free radicals that are produced naturally during metabolism. These chemicals trigger cell damage to membranes, DNA and mitochondria that impair the immune system and eventually lead to premature death. A study from New Zealand show that apples contained antioxidants called polyphenols that decreased inflammation and promoted more healthy microbes in the gut. It may be true that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. (Journal of Nutrition, 144:146-154, 2014)
6) Raisins Improve Blood Sugar Control
Eating raisins three times a week will reduce blood pressure, blood sugar and levels of glycated hemoglobin, a marker of long-term blood sugar regulation— according to a study led by James Anderson from the University of Kentucky. Test subjects consumed either raisins or other snacks three times per week for 12 weeks. While there were no differences in bodyweight between groups, raisin consumption improved blood sugar regulation and blood pressure by more than 10 percent. Eating raisins might lower your risk of heart disease and improve metabolic health.