A common misconception is that eating a healthy diet is not tasty or enjoyable. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Learn about the health benefits of blueberries and be sure to check out our truly delicious and healthy blueberry ice cream recipe below.
Blueberries may be small, but they’re certainly not lacking when it comes to being loaded with phytonutrients and antioxidants. Antioxidants help to reduce inflammation and oxidative damage to cells resulting from free radicals produced during periods of strenuous activity or stress. Whether you’re an athlete or not, we all have stress in our lives so eating foods to help combat that is important. Blueberries have been shown to increase memory, reduce the risk of heart attack, prevent cancer and also promote healthy blood pressure. Researchers believe the high concentrations of anthocyanin, a very powerful antioxidant that gives blueberries their color, is responsible for the protective benefits.
One of the most important ways, aside from antioxidants, that blueberries can positively affect your workout and health is through their ability to provide your body with high amounts of water. Since our bodies are composed almost primarily from water (about 70-75%), it is not surprise that we require high amounts of fluid in our bodies in order to achieve optimal results when exercising and for overall health. This is not only important to keep you from getting dehydrated, but is actually very important in promoting athletic performance. If you do not have enough water in your system, you can experience severe muscle cramps, lack of energy, brain fog, dizziness, nausea and poor digestion.
Blueberries are also a great source of fiber. One cup provides a whopping 4 grams, 14% of the recommended daily intake. Fiber in the diet is important, but especially that of athletes because it provides sustained energy throughout your workout. Most people do not eat enough fiber throughout the day and experience sluggishness, irregularity and constipation. Keep in mind, however, eating too much fiber right before a race or workout can cause digestive distress. This can simply be avoided by making sure you’ve eaten 2-3 hours beforehand and by practicing your nutrient intake with race-simulation workouts. I do this quite frequently, but especially when I’m getting ready for an “A” race. I want to be prepared the best I can and eliminate as many things within my control that could go wrong.
Blueberries contain numerous vitamins and minerals that are not only important for good health and optimal growth, but are actually very important in improved athletic performance. They are high in vitamin C, which will help your immune system to keep running strong, prevent you from getting sick and help you to recover faster from workouts. Studies have also shown that blueberries help prevent post workout muscle soreness by reducing inflammation. Blueberries have also been found to be high in vitamin K, which is important in maintaining healthy blood flow, blood clotting and helps your body absorb calcium (important for bone health). The phytonutrients in blueberries take it one step farther by protecting blood components from oxygen damage that could lead to clogging.
Now that you know some of the ways you can benefit from adding blueberries to your diet, the nice part is that they’re easy to eat and go with just about anything. I eat them everyday in my post-workout or morning smoothie, but they go great topped on oatmeal or eaten alone. You can add them to salads and let the natural sweetness serve as your dressing. Blueberries can also be mixed in with a frozen banana to make a delicious ice cream. On hot days, eating frozen berries directly out of the bag is a great option, too. However you choose to do it, make it a point to eat loads of berries every day.
BANANA BLUEBERRY ICE CREAM
- 2 frozen bananas
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- 1/4 cup almond or coconut milk
- 1/4 cup coconut flakes
- 1/4 t vanilla extract
- 1/4 t cardamon powder
- Remove the frozen fruit from the freezer, and let it sit for about five minutes, so it softens up a little bit.
- Put all ingredients in the blender, and start to blend, using the pulse button. It will be difficult to blend at first. (I make sure I have my tamper ready to help distribute the ingredients).
- Blend until very thick and smooth.
- Scoop out and serve immediately.
- Serves 2. It’s the perfect after dinner treat. It tastes so good, you’d think it wasn’t healthy.
Happy Running & Eating,
Lindsey Hinty, M.S. Nutrition for Sports Performance