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Performance Nutrition Starts in the Mind

Jill here - there are a number of ways to consider a recipe.

You might see a picture of the finished meal and it appeals to you.

You might look through the ingredients and feel that it will taste good or it's easy enough or you have all the ingredients so it's convenient - time is an important ingredient after all.

Yes to all the above - I also look at a recipe though and intuitively calculate the impact on performance and health.

Here's a tasty lunch recipe and I'll show you what I mean. Lets walk through the impact on performance and health.

1 TBS Olive oil /or Coconut oil

1 yellow Onion

2 Garlic cloves, minced

1TBS fresh Ginger, minced

1-2 TBS Curry powder, to taste

11/2 tsp. ground Coriander

1 tsp. ground Cumin

1 litre Vegetable broth

1 cup (250ml) uncooked red Lentils, rinsed and drained

1 medium Cauliflower, chopped into florets

1 medium Sweet Potato, peeled and diced

2 handfuls of Spinach

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oil over medium heat and sauté onion, garlic and ginger for 5 mins.

2. Stir in rest of spices and sauté for another 2 mins to release the flavours.

3. Add the broth and red lentils and bring to a slow boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 mins.

4. Sir in cauliflower and sweet potato. Cover and simmer for 25-30 mins until veggies are tender.

5. Blend (partially or fully or not at all!) and add handfuls of spinach, cook till wilted.

6. Season to taste with salt and pepper and ladle into bowls. You're done!

Now consider this assessment with regards to performance and health.

Onions and garlic are both members of the allium family, which are rich in plant-based compounds, such as organosulfurs. A diet that is high in organosulfurs is associated with a decrease in cancers of stomach and intestinal tract. Other phytochemicals in the allium family are known to be immune supportive, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial. They are also rich in vitamin C, B6, Potassium, Copper, Manganese...I could go on.

Now to the spices - we all know the incredibly positive effects of the volatile oil in ginger, Gingerol. Gingerol is a well studied antioxidant, meaning it protects your cells from the normal wear and tear of daily living plus the abnormal wear and tear that comes from training! It's also an anti-inflammatory, which supports recovery, especially when you are in the midst of a big training block. Add in its positive impact on gut health, nausea and blood sugar management and you’ll see why I consider it a superfood.

Most spices have similar properties re: gut health and blood sugar management by the way including curry, coriander and cumin. Spices also supply small amounts of key minerals like copper, manganese, and molybdenum.

Lentils are the edible seeds of the legume family. They are often overlooked but really shouldn’t be as they are an inexpensive way of getting a wide range of nutrients. They are 25% protein, rich in iron, B-vitamins, magnesium, zinc and potassium and of course its soluble fibre content is to be envied at 15.6 grams per cup.

I find that plant-based protein for lunch is nourishing, sustaining and yet moves through the gut quickly enough that you can schedule an afternoon training session. Animal based protein takes nearly 3-4 times longer to digest meaning that blood supply is diverted to the gut instead of working muscles. This can cause bloating and discomfort.

The star of the show though is the humble cauliflower. It’s one of those few vegetables that contain nearly every vitamin and mineral that you need. It’s the highest plant based source of Choline, an essential nutrient for brain and liver function.

It’s also got some unique antioxidants, glucosinalates and isothiocyanates, which have shown great promise in reducing the risk of several diseases including heart disease and cancer. But it’s the antioxidant, Sulforaphane, that is really motivating. It is probably the most researched of all plant based antioxidants and has been shown to suppress the growth of cancer cell lines in vitro amongst other things.

This is not to say it is a cure-all or a guaranteed preventative.

My position is simple, nutrition is cumulative, the more you incorporate positive additions to your diet the greater benefit you will reap re: performance and health over the long term.

Let’s wrap this recipe up with two fantastic vegetables, one root – sweet potato, and one leafy green – spinach.

The beautiful orange colour of sweet potato lets you know that it is rich in beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant and the precursor to vitamin A. It’s high in potassium, selenium and B-vitamins plus compared to white potatoes it’s got more soluble fibre, meaning it will keep you feeling full for longer. Another added benefit of soluble fibre is that while it’s moving unabsorbed through your gut it feeds all your good bacteria. Even things that your body cannot use nutritionally can have positive impact. Brilliant!

Last but not least spinach, that deep green colour signals a leaf rich in chlorophyll which also means it is rich in iron, vitamin K, calcium and magnesium.

Your kitchen is a regular pharmacy of vibrant ingredients that can support your performance and health. But it has to start in the mind. When you understand just what you are feeding yourself, all those ingredients take on new meaning making it much more likely that you’ll go the distance when it comes to food planning and preparation.

You plan to perform in your training sessions – right? Well, your kitchen is no different.


If you're interested in learning more about nutritional coaching check out my webpage.

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