If you have been attempting to improve your physique and overall health this year, then I’m sure you’ll have some awareness of how important the dietary component is to the overall quest for a leaner, stronger, healthier and functional body!
Whether your goal is Fat loss, conditioning improvement, mass building, strength building or even just to improve general health. These Fruits and Vegetables I will outline below will play a crucial role in assisting you to achieving whatever specific goal you may have.
Fruits and Vegetables are crucial because they are powerhouses when it comes to nutrient content! All kinds of Fruits and Veggies have varying amounts of essential vitamins and minerals. In particular, vitamins A, B, C, E and K are in abundance. They are also huge providers of minerals such as Magnesium, Potassium, Iron and Calcium, amongst others that are present in smaller amounts. They are also densely packed with dietary fibre!
All of those vitamins and minerals are essential for optimal body function and Fibre is essential for optimal digestive health.
- Vitamin A plays a huge part in Eye health and the ageing process and can reduce various Cancer risks
- Vitamin C is absorbable only and isn’t stored by your body, which further increases the need for it on a daily basis. It helps regulate “free radicals” and toxins from the body, creating a “detox” effect, it also plays a key role in Blood sugar regulation and also is a known weapon for stress reduction and reducing Cortisol levels
- Vitamin E provides tremendous anti-oxidant qualities and is another “secret” weapon you should equip yourself with if you want to retain your youthful skin, hair and good looks. It also reduces your risk of developing diseases such as; Heart disease, Diabetes, Alzheimer’s and can also aid in controlling harmful Cholesterol levels
- Vitamin K is present in countless leafy greens and vegetables, it also plays a large role in your bone health with low levels being shown to increase risk of Osteoporosis, Tooth decay, Prostate, Liver and Lung cancer along with Leukaemia
- Magnesium controls over 300 bodily functions, including Melatonin and Serotonin production; crucial chemicals for improved mood and relaxation/sleep quality. Specific functions Magnesium controls are Protein synthesis, Testosterone production, Insulin sensitivity/control, Calcium absorption and regulation of the Sympathetic nervous system
- Potassium is necessary for optimal function of the Heart, Kidneys and various other major organs. It also improves Brain function, Blood pressure, Muscle function and Stress and Anxiety issues. Potassium is a renowned “feel good” mineral, so ensuring your levels are optimal will work wonders for improving your mental state and general happiness
- Iron is imperative for health quality as it transports Oxygen around the body, the very substance we literally CANNOT live without! Iron is the main driving force behind your body’s production of Red Blood cells too. Maintaining optimal Iron levels can also aid Muscle endurance and work capacity during strength and resistance training as the production and circulation of Blood cells and Oxygen enable the muscles to resist fatigue for longer
- Calcium is a vital link in the mineral chain as it strengthens your Bones and Teeth. Increased Calcium levels have been shown to prevent Osteoporosis and Tooth decay as we inevitably age. Solid Calcium levels are also required to balance out your body’s levels of other KEY minerals such as Magnesium and Vitamin D
With that said, let’s let the countdown commence!
Pineapples are a great fruit for any active individual as they have tremendous anti-inflammatory qualities! Which makes them a great fruit for your post-workout meal/period. Providing 47.8 mg of Vitamin C per 100g as consumed, they are a tasty way to effortlessly restore your Vitamin C levels. Oh, and they taste GREAT too! So those of you with a sweet tooth, start tucking into some guilt free Pineapple!
Avocados are one of the newest additions to my diet. I recently learned to like them and am immensely glad I did! Avocados are a great supplier of mono-unsaturated fat, that is the Heart healthy form of fat. This form of fat also enhances Testosterone production which is vital for optimal results in virtually all divisions of physique improvement. Be it fat loss or muscle building. An Avocado is also a superb provider of Vitamin E and Fibre. The combination of healthy fat and fibre makes it a great fruit to halt hunger cravings and provide satiety. It also has a very LOW Glycemic index, which means your blood sugar will remain stable after you’ve consumed this great fruit!
Butternut Squash flies slightly under the radar as far as widely known health foods go. Infact, it’s only over the last few months I’ve had exposure to this great fruit. As a matter of fact there is often some discrepancy as to whether the Butternut is actually a fruit or vegetable. Allow me to reinforce the fact that it is a fruit that is commonly consumed as a vegetable (confusing, I know!) The Butternut originates from the Cucurbitaceae family of field Pumpkins. Simply put, the Butternut and Pumpkin are cousins. At just 45 calories per 100 grams, it is a very low calorie food option! It also contains only 12 grams of carbohydrate per 100 grams too, which makes it a great addition to any low carb or weight loss diet. Much like the Sweet Potato, the Butternut is a supersonic supplier of Vitamin A. Providing a vast 10,630 IU per 100 grams as consumed! It also has a rich content of B vitamins, such as vitamin B6, Riboflavin and Thiamin. Vitamin C is also provided by the Butternut Squash, with 21mg per 100 grams. Also as bonus point of interest, it tastes DELICIOUS! It’s taste is probably best compared to Sweet Potatoes. Sprinkle some Cinnamon on and you can’t go wrong!
Fresh Figs are also a slightly eccentric fruit that doesn’t get much publicity, this is why I’m doing my bit to promote and introduce you to these LOVELY tasting Fruits! Figs are a great source of Fibre and Potassium. The leaves of Figs have actually been found to reduce the amount of Insulin needed by diabetics via injections. Other studies have found they can prevent muscular degeneration, and let’s face it, EVERYBODY should be aiming to retain as much muscle as possible. Particularly as we age! So start by picking up some Figs when you next go Grocery shopping. Also add them to your diet as part of your post workout feed.
#6- The Berries! Blueberries, Raspberries, Strawberries and Blackberries
All these delicious Berries should already be a main staple of your diet, but if they aren’t, let me give you a gentle push into introducing yourself to them. These Berries are great for fat loss as they are packed with fibre and anti-oxidants! These juicy berries have also been shown to reduce the Insulin spike that occurs with eating high glycemic foods. Raspberries in particular have been found to contain ellagitannins that have been shown to improve the brain’s sensitivity to Leptin. Thus, making you feel less hungry. As a bonus personal tip, throw a cup of Almond milk over a bowl of Berries for a mouth-watering, yet super healthy dessert!
#5- Green Beans
I have been enjoying Green Beans for as long as I can remember and I find them to be a very tasty addition to almost any meal! Green Beans are a great source of Vitamin K, Vitamin C and fibre. As well as a whole host of other essential nutrients. A personal favourite method to cook these is to steam them, thus retaining maximum nutrient content. So if you only eat glorious Green Beans at your Christmas dinner, it’s time to start incorporating them year round!
In a similar scenario as Green Beans, I have been a fan of Cauliflower since I was a young boy (rare to see a kid enjoying veggies I know!) Eating Cauliflower regularly will provide a superb portion of Vitamin C, with 48.2mg being present for every 100 grams. The Cauliflower is part of the Cruciferous vegetable family. Many of the Cruciferous vegetables have strong anti-estrogenic effects. So if you’re looking to optimise your Testosterone levels or if you’re a lady and looking to manage your Estrogen levels, it’s time to start eating some Cauliflower!
#3- Brussel Sprouts
Brussel Sprouts are traditionally thought of as every child’s nightmare! I can tell you that although I didn’t wake up in cold sweats at the thought of eating them when I was young………I can certainly tell you, I wasn’t very fond of them at all! Fast forward some 15 years + and that is changing! It is only very recently actually, that I’ve been incorporating Brussel Sprouts into my own diet. The Brussel Sprout is also a member of the cruciferous veggie family, so again, this vegetable has great anti-estrogen properties. In addition, this vegetable provides the largest supply of Vitamin K of any listed so far! It also has the largest dose of Vitamin C of any vegetables/fruits mentioned so far, with 85mg available for every 100 grams you eat. Brussels are also well known for having cancer prevention qualities. This is because they contain four forms of glucosinolates, namely…….glucoraphanin, glucobrassicin, sinigrin and gluconasturtiian. This combination is a unique blend that is exclusive to Brussel Sprouts!
Spinach is another AMAZING health vegetable that you won’t find topping any lists of children’s favourite foods anytime soon! Spinach can be eaten raw, can be cooked either by boiling or steaming it. Steaming tends to be preferred over boiling as it’s believed to retain more of the nutritional content. Spinach is the STRONGEST source of Magnesium of ANY vegetable! With 79mg available per 100 grams eaten. Spinach also outdoes Brussel Sprouts in the Vitamin K department too. With an incredible 987.2% of your RDI (recommeded daily intake) being provided per 180 grams! Spinach also provides a nice dose of Iron. As a bonus fact, my great-grandmother lived to the ripe old age of 106 before her sad passing in 2008, but one thing that stands out in our memory about her was just how much Spinach she ate! So use her as an inspiration and pile some Spinach on tonight’s dinner plate!
In at the coveted top spot we have my personal favourite all time vegetable………the brilliant Broccoli! Again, this is another vegetable that I’ve been a massive fan of for as long as I can remember. At present I eat Broccoli at virtually every meal! I think that’s what could be described as a “healthy addiction”! As a matter of fact, I’m actually growing some of my own Broccoli at present in my own garden and they are progressing at a rather rapid pace, which pleases me no end! From a nutritional standpoint, few if any foods can outdo the mighty Broccoli. Broccoli is the superior supplier of Vitamin C of any foods mentioned so far, with 89.2mg per 100 grams! Like the other members of it’s cruciferous family, it is a great source of Vitamin K too. It is also a very good source of Fibre, so will work wonders for your digestion and hunger cravings. Broccoli has also been found to have tremendous detoxification benefits in addition to being highly anti-estrogenic. It also possesses anti-inflammatory qualities, which makes it an obvious component to any detox diet. As mentioned before, Broccoli is also at it’s most nutritious when it has been cooked via the method of steaming, as boiling, particularly for too long will boil out more potential nutrients. Broccoli is hands down my favourite vegetable and is a staple of many bodybuilders, fitness models and various physique athlete’s diets. So grab yourself a nice bunch of fresh Broccoli the next time you’re at the Grocery store or local farmer’s market. It is one of the best things you can do for your mind and body!
Before I wrap this article up, I appreciate some of you may need to coax yourself into acquiring the tastebuds for certain foods mentioned. One tip I would like to offer you is to mix them in with other foods. I often mix many vegetables in with various complex carbs such as Brown rice and Quinoa. It’s a fool proof way of getting all the best veggies on a daily basis! Give it a try!
So you now know what foods should be on your shopping list!
The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.