Green Fiesta Juice

Try this green fiesta juice for a glass of goodness with a little kick! Note: start with half a jalapeno (with some seeds removed) to check your desired heat level. Cheers!

Makes two servings


Ingredients:

1 bunch kale (optional)
½-1 head of romaine
1 whole english cucumber
6 stalks celery
½ pear
1 green apple
1 yellow bell pepper
½ cup fresh parsley, mint, cilantro (optional)
1 jalapeno
1 inch peeled ginger root
Juice of 2 lemons
2 cups water (if using blender vs. juicer)

 

Directions:

Wash and juice all ingredients. 

*Note: follow the link below for instructions on how to make this juice sans juicer.

Source: http://nutritionstripped.com/green-fiesta-juice/

 

Smoothies vs. Juicing – What’s the difference?

Smoothies and juices can be healthy additions to one’s diet, but should you be drinking one over the other on the regular—and if so, why? Both drinks can pack a whopping amount of nutrients from fruits and vegetables, but each have their benefits and limitations to consider when selecting your beverage of choice. Instead of falling victim to the smoothie and juice craze, learn how each can be incorporated into long-lasting healthy habits.

 

The smoothie scene

Ah, smoothie—we see you. A blend of whole foods and liquids, you’re a vehicle delivering bountiful goodness in a glass. Often times picture-worthy, you are filling enough to be a meal replacement, can serve as a midday pick-me-up or to refuel post-workout. The creations are endless…but how do smoothies stack up against fresh juice? Review the benefits and drawbacks before deciding how to best incorporate smoothies into your routine.  

A few benefits of smoothies, include:

  • First up, fiber. When you blend up fruits and vegetables, the fiber stays intact. This is the main difference between smoothies and juice. Fiber is important for our digestive process (moving food and keeping you regular) and gut health, slows the absorption of glucose which helps stabilize blood sugar levels, and helps us feel full. In addition to the fiber from fruits and vegetables, you can easily include additional sources of fiber in smoothies from flaxseeds or chia seeds.
  • Meal replacement: the combination of fiber, fat and protein allow smoothies to be an optional meal replacement where juice is not. In addition to whole foods containing healthy fat and protein (such as nuts, nut butters, avocado) you can add in coconut oil, MCT oil, protein powder or yogurt to help increase satiety and keep you full between meals.
  • Booster add-ins: while both smoothies and juice contain vitamins and minerals from food, superfood boosters (spices, adaptogens, herbs) can easily be tossed in the blender to enhance nutrition.
  • Quick to make and easy clean up: It takes less time to blend up food and liquid. Blenders are also easier to clean and contain fewer parts than juicers (not to mention they can usually go in the dishwasher). It’s all about doing what works for you and your lifestyle, so these pros are worth noting.

 

What should be considered when making smoothies?

While smoothies are loaded with good stuff, they can often be overloaded with sugar and calories if not well planned. Many store-bought smoothies contain high amounts of sugar from juice, dates, fruit, sweetened yogurt or honey. Not only can too much of this cause spikes in blood sugar, it can increase calories, which may counteract your health goals. On that note, nutrient dense smoothies (containing oils, nut butters, nuts, etc.) are also high in calories, so they should be used as a meal replacement. Go for a lighter version if consuming with a meal or as a snack. Read how to build a power smoothie here.

Equipment needed: Blender

While a quality blender is flat out better, a standard (and less pricey) blender should do the trick for making smoothies. If you do not have a high-power blender (such as a Vitamix), try soaking nuts or dates to soften before blending. Blenders have many uses in the kitchen and make a worthwhile investment.

 

Juice it up

For many, the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables can be hard to meet. Juicing is an easy solution to obtain necessary vitamins and minerals in liquid form. The quantity of produce that you can reduce down to a glass is pretty remarkable. It also explains why fresh cold-pressed juice can have a high price tag—it packs a TON of produce! Even so, there are things to consider before you down that drink.

What makes juice so awesome?

Because the fiber is stripped away during the making of juice, you are left with a high amount of nutrients in your glass. Without the fiber to slow down absorption, these nutrients are easily digestible and quickly enter your bloodstream, providing an instant health kick. Flooding your body with so much goodness can lift your energy, boost your immune system, give your skin a healthy glow, and arm your cells with the vitamins, minerals, and enzymes needed to ward of disease and maintain good health.

Another benefit of juicing is the volume of produce that you can consume in a cup. Even for those of us who enjoy eating fruits and vegetables daily, juicing offers the opportunity to maximize your intake quickly and without cooking. If your goal is to simply increase your intake of vitamins and minerals, then juicing wins. You can only pack so many leafy greens in your blender before it starts to taste a little grassy…  What’s more, you can include veggies that you may not like to eat on their own. Combining different vegetables and fruits allows you to play with flavors and expand the variety (and color!) of your diet.

Things to consider when preppin’ your juice, include:

  • Due to the lack of fiber, it’s important to watch sugar content when selecting your ingredients. Incorporate more greens than fruit to limit sugar or enjoy your juice along with fiber-containing food to help stabilize blood sugar levels. Without fiber, juice is less filling too, which means it is not a good meal replacement.
  • Yes, drinking juice is good for you—but be mindful that you are still drinking calories. If you’re enjoying juice as part of a breakfast, opt for a smaller or lighter food portion to accompany your drink. Without chewing, or fiber, it’s easy to lose sight of the calories in beverages, especially when they provide so much goodness.

Equipment needed: Juicer

Juicing does require special equipment. At-home juicers range in price and quality does make a difference. There are two main types of juicers: masticating and centrifugal. Masticating juicers operate more slowly as they actually masticate (or chew) the food, which squeezes out the juice. They do contain several parts and can be harder to clean. However, they tend to handle leafy greens a bit better than centrifugal juicers, and the juice lasts a little longer (due to less oxidation). On the other hand, centrifugal juicers use a spinning mechanism to separate the juice from the pulp. They operate faster and are easier to clean. They usually have a wider opening (mouth), so less chopping is needed, which also reduces prep time. However, nutrients oxidize more quickly due to the spinning mechanism. The bottom line is to weigh what is most important for you in your juicing journey, do your research before purchasing, know your budget, and ultimately go with what will work best for your lifestyle. If your equipment sees more dust than action, maybe it’s not the right fit for you.

 

The take home message

Both smoothies and juice offer ways to supply your body with good nutrition to support an active lifestyle, and are hydrating, detoxifying and easy for your body to digest. Convenient for on the go, each drink can be part of your wellness routine. Looking for a quick breakfast and want to sneak in some greens? Grab a smoothie. Feeling lethargic and want a boost of energy? Drink a juice. Play around with different recipes and flavors to see how each work best for you. Have fun with it; after all, that’s what healthy eating (and drinking) is all about.

 

Blogpost written by Ascend Content Expert, Ashley H

 

Vegan Blueberry cheesecake bars

These vegan treats are beyond delicious. ‘Nuff said.

 

Ingredients:

Crust:

1 bag of @purelyelizabeth original granola + 1/3 cup ghee

Cheesecake:

1 ½ cup soaked raw cashews (soak in water for at least 3 hours)

1/3 cup pure maple syrup

1/3 cup melted coconut oil

¾ cup blueberries*

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Juice from one lemon

 

Directions:

1.  For the crust: Blend granola and ghee in food processor. Line an 8 X 8 pan with parchment paper, pour in and firmly press down the crust mixture.

2.  For the topping: Blend all ingredients in food processor or blender until smooth. Pour cheesecake mixture over crust. Place in freezer. Keep frozen until ready to eat, as they soften quickly. Enjoy!

*For a blackberry version, substitute ½ cup blackberries in place of blueberries

Recipe: @dani_nemeh and @restoring_radiance

 

FUEL: What to eat PRE and POST Ascend ride
Learn what to nosh on for top-notch performance

Learn what to nosh on for top-notch performance

 

To get the most out of each and every Ascend ride, it’s important to properly fuel your body before and after class. You want to feed your body what it needs to bring intensity on the bike, recover well, and reap the most benefits for your efforts. Not to mention the ability to push forward when you want to quit has both mental and physical rewards. We’ve got some tips on how to fuel your fitness—including what to eat and when—for optimal results.

But first, everybody is different, and what does one bod some good may not work as well for another. We each have unique preferences for what we enjoy eating, along with different goals (i.e. improve athletic performance, weight loss, weight gain, build strength), sleeping habits, digestion sensitivities, etc. Those training for a triathlon have different needs than body builders or weekend warriors. Here, we’re offering general guidelines to help compliment a 60-minute sweat session. Experiment to find what works best for your body, goals, and lifestyle.

 

Hydration

Hydration is important before, during, and after a workout. The dog days of summer (and off the charts humidity) make hydration even more essential to keep things balanced and running well. Drink up and include hydrating foods in your diet to replenish losses. Water is sufficient for workouts lasting under an hour but if you are exercising for longer periods of time, you may need to also replenish electrolytes. (Get the 411 on H20 here).

 

Pre-ride guide: energize with carbs + protein

A pre-ride bite should provide you with enough energy to help you peak—not putter—through your workout. Gas up your tank to curb hunger and prevent running on fumes.

 

What: Choose mostly carbohydrates with a little protein. Carbs will give your muscles quick energy (glucose) to smash those hills and drills and protein will help minimize muscle breakdown. Go light on fat and fiber, as they take longer to digest, and avoid sugary or fried foods.

A few considerations for fueling up pre-ride, include:

·      Instead of eating more food, plan your existing meals or snacks around your workout (unless you’re weight lifting or exercising at high intensity for longer than 60-90 minutes when calorie needs are higher). If you’re exercising moderately (walking, yoga) for less than 60 minutes, you may skip the pre-workout fuel altogether.

·      Consider portability when planning. If you have a long commute, late work meetings, or need to carpool the kiddos before you exercise, having a healthy bite on the go can save you in a crunch.

·      What about caffeine? Ditch the energy drinks and go for the standard cup of coffee or tea for your caffeine boost. Studies show that caffeine can enhance your workout, but limit to 1-2 cups to avoid unwanted jitters. 

·      Can’t stomach anything before your 5:45 am ride? Don’t sweat it, early bird. If you feel ok pushing through your (60 min or less) workout and can refuel with a good breakfast afterwards, that’s fine—but make sure not to skimp on hydration beforehand. If you do feel low on energy, try eating a small handful of almonds or a banana and see if your stamina improves.

When: If you can schedule a more substantial meal around your workout program, then aim to eat about 2 hours beforehand to prevent a full stomach and ensure digestion is well under way. That’s not always possible with early morning classes or evening classes after work; here is where smart snacking comes in. Try to consume a light snack at least 30 minutes before you ride. When exercising for an hour or less you don’t need a lot of pre-workout fuel, so try limiting your snack to around 150 calories. You don’t want to overcompensate for the calories you burn!

Try munching on these for pre-ride energy:

·      Banana with peanut butter or nut butter of choice

·      Apple and a handful of almonds

·      Light smoothie that’s easily digestible

·      Toast with nut butter and berries or honey

·      Fuel for fire (available at the studio)

·      Energy bites

·      Good quality protein bar (eat half beforehand and the other half afterwards if nutrient dense)

·      Dried fruit

·      Greek yogurt with fruit

 

Post-ride guide: recover with protein, carbs, a little fat + water!

You’ve hit the studio and put in some hard work. Now it’s time to replenish what you’ve lost and rebuild.

 

What: A post-ride meal or snack should include protein, carbs, some fat, and water for rehydration. Protein is essential to support muscle growth and repair. Carbs will help you replenish glycogen stores and a little fat will help you absorb nutrients as well as keep you satiated until your next meal. Replenishing your fluids is crucial, especially for those of you who leave puddles under your bike or if exercising outdoors in high heat and humidity.

When: If you can eat a balanced meal within an hour or two of your workout that’s best, but if not, plan to consume a snack 20 min – 30 min post workout.

Post-workout foods can include:

·      A meal consisting of whole foods such as chicken, salmon or quinoa, veggies or fruit and some healthy fat

·      Smoothie (with whey or plant protein)

·      Eggs, avocado and toast (hard boiled eggs are easily portable)

·      Baked sweet potato, sautéed spinach and roasted chickpeas

·      Overnight oats or oatmeal with fruit and a spoonful of nut butter or hemp seeds

·      Chocolate milk

·      Matcha or energy bites

·      String cheese with whole grain crackers and grapes

·      Hummus, pita bread and veggies

·      Watermelon, feta, and arugula salad

Keep in mind that your goals dictate your needs—but for most, the quality of your daily intake is more important than what you eat surrounding a workout. Make sure to include lean proteins, healthy fats, whole grains, greens, and plenty of fluids and you’ll likely be giving your body exactly what it needs to ascend. Giddy up!

 

-Blogpost written by Ascend content expert, Ashley H

Creamy Peach & Honey Popsicles

Summertime means peaches are in season and temps are hot AF. Cool down with these creamy and dreamy pops for a guiltless and delicious treat!

 

Ingredients:

1 pound ripe peaches (about 3 medium), peeled and sliced ½ thick

6 Tbsp honey, divided

Dash sea salt

2 cups full fat/whole milk plain yogurt (I used full fat coconut yogurt)

1 Tbsp lemon juice

½ tsp vanilla extract

 

Instructions:

1.     Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the sliced peaches in a single layer on the baking sheet, gently tossing with 2 Tbsp honey and a dash of sea salt.  Roast for 30-40 min.

2.     While the peaches are roasting, blend together the yogurt, ¼ cup honey, lemon juice, and vanilla extract in a medium bowl. Refrigerate.

3.     Let the peaches cool then scrape the peaches (and their juices) into the bowl of yogurt. Gently fold them in, using a big spoon.

4.     Using a spoon, transfer the yogurt blend into the popsicle molds. Use your spoon to push the contents down. Insert popsicle sticks and freeze overnight or for at least 4 hours.

5.     When you’re ready to pop out the pops, run warm water over the outside of the molds for about ten seconds and gently remove the popsicles. Enjoy immediately!

Yield: 8 popsicles

Recipe source: cookieandkate.com

 

Got Nut Mylk?
Moove over dairy, there are new milks in town.

Moove over dairy, there are new milks in town.

 Whether or not you’re one to tolerate dairy, it’s hard not to notice the ever-expanding milk department in the grocery store. The market has grown beyond soymilk or lactose-free milk to include alternatives such as: almond, cashew, coconut, hemp, flaxseed, rice, and pistachio. Interest in non-dairy “mylk” is booming—but did you know that you could whip up these milks right at home? Not only are homemade nut and seed milks delicious, they’re super easy to make and can help you steer clear of many unwanted added ingredients found in store-bought varieties. Try upgrading your post-Ascend ride recovery smoothie with homemade milk!

 

Time to ditch the dairy?

At Ascend, we recommend choosing organic varieties if consuming dairy products, and doing so in moderation. Rather than encouraging anyone to remove dairy from their diet—as we believe dietary choices are highly individualistic—we’ll highlight a couple reasons why some are choosing more plant-based options.

The concern with conventional dairy farming has to do with the synthetic growth hormones that are often given to cows (to increase milk yields) along with antibiotics that could be passed to humans through the consumption of dairy products. Despite the added hormones, cow’s milk itself contains natural hormones and growth hormones that may affect our bodies. One growth hormone in cow’s milk (that our bodies also produce), insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), has been linked with stimulating cancer proliferation—particularly breast and prostate. Milk from cows that are treated with synthetic hormone rBGH (banned in many countries, but approved in the US) has been shown to contain higher levels of IGF-1. Dairy intake has also been linked to acne and inflammation.

Many individuals have intolerance to dairy, with symptoms ranging from digestive discomfort to allergies. Lactose-intolerance refers to the trouble digesting lactose, a form of sugar found in milk. While human breast milk is considered the perfect food for a baby, cow’s milk is harder on the digestive system as it is much higher in protein. The protein most present in cow’s milk, casein, has also been shown to promote cancer.

 

Benefits of nut-ritious milk

Regardless of your stance on dairy, plant-based milks can be a healthy addition to your diet. Nuts and seeds are nutritious superstars on their own—offering healthy fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals. Naturally, they bring an added boost when made into milk and combined with other foods. You can use nut or seed milk just as you would cow’s milk: drink on it’s own, in your morning coffee, smoothies, golden milk or matcha lattes, or add to overnight oats, sauces, etc. The best thing about making your own milk at home is how easily you can manipulate level of sweetness by adding dates, maple syrup, or honey and altering flavor with cocoa, cinnamon, turmeric, matcha, etc.

If you do choose to purchase your non-dairy milk, make sure to look for varieties (even organic) that do not include carrageenan. This additive derived from red seaweed is used as a thickener and to improve texture, but may activate an immune response causing inflammation, and other negative health effects.

 

Do try this at home

When deciding what type of non-dairy milk to make, take note if soaking is involved so you can plan ahead (don’t get discouraged if soaking is involved - it couldn’t be easier, you just need to plan for a soaking time of at least 4 hours). A few items you’ll need to make your own milk at home, include:

·      Milk base of choice (nuts, seeds, coconut, etc.).

·      Filtered water

·      Blender

·      Nut milk bag or cheesecloth

·      Large mixing bowl

·      Airtight containers with lids such as mason jars for storage (most milks will last 2-4 days with refrigeration)

·      Good tunes, always

Below are two recipes for making your own vegan milk, one that requires soaking and straining and one that does not. Vanilla cashew milk tastes divine, and hempseed milk couldn’t be easier. But remember, there are many different varieties and flavor combos out there, so experiment with what works best with your unique taste buds.


Vanilla cashew milk

 

Ingredients:

1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 4 hours

3 cups filtered water

1 tsp vanilla extract (or scrape a vanilla bean)

3-4 dates, pitted (or more, to taste). Pro tip: soak for 15 minutes to soften before blending

Pinch of sea salt

Dash of cinnamon

Instructions:

After soaking, rinse cashews and add to the blender with the water. Blitz. Pour liquid through a nut bag/cheesecloth over a large mixing bowl, gently squeezing the nut bag to strain the liquid. Once you have the liquid in the mixing bowl, add it back to your blender along with the dates, vanilla, and cinnamon. Adjust to desired sweetness. Refrigerate in an airtight container. Enjoy!

 


Chocolate hempseed milk

Ingredients:

1 cup raw shelled hempseeds

3 cups filtered water

Pinch of sea salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

3-4 pitted dates

1 Tbsp maple syrup (optional to increase sweetness, or you can add more dates)

2 Tbsp cacao powder

 

Instructions:

Add all ingredients to the blender blitz! Note: there will be some natural separation as the milk sits in your refrigerator, so just give a good shake before drinking.

 

Inspired to give it a go? Tag @ascendcycle and show us your homemade concoctions. Bottoms up!

 

Blogpost written by Ascend content expert, Ashley H

  

 

 

A toast to…sweet potato toast!

Have you tried sweet potato toast yet? Swap out your favorite bread with a slice of sweet potato for a nutritious twist to your typical toast. Sweet potatoes pack a healthy dose of beta-carotene, which our bodies convert to vitamin A (important for our vision, immune system and healthy skin). Not to mention they taste delicious, and hold up well to a pile of toppings, and are inexpensive. What’s not to love?

Ingredients:

1 sweet potato

Toppings of choice

Directions:

1.  Very carefully slice your sweet potato into ¼ inch pieces, lengthwise.

2.  Pop in your toaster. You will likely need to toast multiple rounds at the highest setting to cook through. Keep an eye that your slices don’t burn.

3.  Top with whatever you like or have on hand, the options are endless. Here are 4 options to try (pictured):

·      Sautéed spinach in ghee, fried egg, and red pepper flakes

·      Nut butter of choice, bananas, cinnamon and cocoa nibs

·      Mashed avocado, Himalayan salt, thinly sliced radish, and pea shoots

·      Vanilla yogurt, raspberries and hemp seeds

 

Get creative and enjoy!

 

Superfood Spotlight - I Love You So Matcha

With the recent health studies touting an association with drinking coffee and living longer, there is more reason to enjoy that morning cup of joe (thank heavens). However, matcha has been giving coffee a run for it’s money; quickly gaining attention in the food scene over the past few years and popping up on menus in the form of tea, lattes, smoothies, and even baked goods. Why the matcha madness? The hype over this brilliant green powder is due to it’s nutritional content and the fact that it offers a dose of focus with a side of calm. At Ascend, we’re always down for learning new ways of incorporating healthy ingredients into our lifestyle that support the mind and body, both in and out of the studio.

 

What is matcha and why is it so expensive?

Matcha is a green tea variety grown in Japan. Unlike traditional green tea, matcha tea bushes are grown in the shade (which boosts chlorophyll). The delicate leaves are handpicked, and minimally processed during harvest (lightly steamed and dried), preserving higher antioxidant levels. The dried leaves are then stone-ground into a fine powder. The high price of matcha is due to the quality and care it takes to make. While the cost seems high upfront, a little goes a long way; a container of matcha will last a while since a typical serving is only ½-1 teaspoon.

 

Before gaining popularity in hip coffee houses, matcha was used for centuries (and still is today) in Japanese tea ceremonies. As part of the spiritual ceremony, special care is given during the practice of preparing and drinking matcha. Mindfulness is a meditative practice—and the ritual of slowing down and sipping matcha can be replicated in your own home. Traditionally, matcha powder is combined with a small amount of water and made into a paste using a bamboo whisk until the right consistency is reached. Then, more hot water is whisked in until a frothy layer forms on top. At first, whisking for 1-2 minutes may seem unnecessary and you may find yourself feeling impatient and ready to drink up. In time, this ritual can provide a sense of calm, complimenting the effects of the tea itself. 

 

So what are the bangin’ benefits?

Tea is naturally abundant in antioxidants, which have been linked to preventing age-related diseases. Contrary to steeping green tea, matcha powder is combined with water and ingested so you consume the actual tea leaves (and all of their goodness) rather than tea-infused water. This is why matcha is more nutritionally potent than standard green tea. Just one cup of matcha provides ten times the amount of antioxidants as a standard cup of green tea!

 

Matcha is a nutritional powerhouse that can boost metabolism, detoxify, aid in weight loss, help prevent cancer and diabetes, enhance mood and provide long-lasting energy and focus. A few key compounds found in matcha, include:

 

·      EGCG: Matcha contains high levels of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a polyphenol antioxidant with cancer fighting properties and metabolic benefits.

 

·      L-theanine: A rare amino acid known for its relaxing effect on the mind and body, L-theanine can induce brain waves leading to a state of mental calmness and clarity. It counteracts the jitters typically associated with caffeine, and can lower blood pressure. L-theanine may also help improve memory. Monks would sip matcha for ease and focus during meditation. Relaxed alertness = best of both worlds. #winwin

 

·      Chlorophyll: Levels of chlorophyll are higher in matcha than other green teas due to its shade-growing conditions. Responsible for it’s bright green hue, chlorophyll naturally detoxifies (eliminating heavy metals and chemicals) and helps the blood deliver oxygen and nutrients to the body’s cells.

 

The taste of matcha is quite strong and is said to have a grassy or umami flavor. You can drink matcha mixed with hot water, make iced or hot lattes, and add it to smoothies, ice cream, or baked goods such as pancakes or doughnuts. Read how our rock star instructor, Jess, enjoys her matcha:

 

“I start every day with a morning matcha, and often enjoy another mid-afternoon. My go to recipe is hot water, matcha powder, coconut butter, cinnamon, collagen peptides, raw honey and a mix of herbs and adaptogens to support my mind and body. I blend it all together in my vitamix for a frothy concoction that starts my day off in the best way. Not only do I look forward to the ritual of it, I just love how it makes me feel! I find that I have more steady energy and endurance while I ride too! My muscles are fueled and my mind is sharp, all without the jitters and crash that I'd sometimes experience with coffee.”

 

Try these recipes for your next afternoon pick-me-up:

 

Coconut Matcha & Chocolate chip Bliss Balls

 

Iced Matcha Latte

 

Ready for your #matchamoment?

 

Blogpost written by Ascend Content expert, Ashley H

Lemony Kale Chickpea Avocado Salad

This is the most simple, delicious superfood salad that is a snap to make. Keep this recipe on hand for when you want a quick fix of nutrients, a burst of flavor, and are short on time. Oh so good.

 

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 clove garlic (pressed or minced)

¼ tsp kosher salt

1/8 tsp black pepper

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (taste as you add to find the right amount for you)

8 cups kale (washed and torn)

1 15-oz can garbanzo beans (rinsed)

1 ripe avocado

 

Directions:

Combine lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper in medium-sized bowl, whisk in olive oil until creamy (or well combined).

 

Pour over kale; gently massage vinaigrette into kale leaves until they soften.

 

Fold in chickpeas, avocado and dish up!

 

Optional toppings: nuts (or you can try topping with cheese, nutritional yeast, pomegranate seeds, grilled chicken (or other meats), etc.)

 

Recipe source: thekitchengirl.com

Supercharge with Everyday Superfoods
With all of the media hype over food and nutrition trends, it can be confusing to decipher what is sound advice versus marketing ploys. This week at Ascend, we’re exploring the topic of real superfoods (actual foods), what makes them so super, and why they deserve a central place in our diet. We all want to reach our wellness goals to climb higher, sprint faster, recover well, and prevent disease. A healthy diet full of real food can help us get there—without the need for fancy shakes, high-priced supplements, or trendy juice cleanses.

With all of the media hype over food and nutrition trends, it can be confusing to decipher what is sound advice versus marketing ploys. This week at Ascend, we’re exploring the topic of real superfoods (actual foods), what makes them so super, and why they deserve a central place in our diet. We all want to reach our wellness goals to climb higher, sprint faster, recover well, and prevent disease. A healthy diet full of real food can help us get there—without the need for fancy shakes, high-priced supplements, or trendy juice cleanses.

 

What is a superfood?

You’re probably familiar with the superfoods that get a lot of attention: hello kale, salmon, and blueberries! However, there are many more superfoods that line the (outer) grocery aisles, and are probably already in your refrigerator or pantry. Keep in mind that all fruits and vegetables are good for you in their own way, providing unique nutrient combinations that aid our wellbeing. While there is no formal definition, superfoods are nutrient-dense foods—meaning that they pack a large amount of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals) for their serving size or calorie content. Many superfoods act as antioxidants, which fight free radicals—highly reactive chemicals that cause damage to our cells. Free radical damage has been associated with cancer, heart disease, eye disease, and memory decline. What’s more, nutrient-packed superfoods can also lead to healthier aging, improve skin, and boost energy. 

While superfoods may frequent the media spotlight, they should not be thought of as trends because they are simply real foods with stellar nutrient profiles. Fruit and veggies aren’t going out of style anytime soon, friends! The buzz around these foods becomes cautionary once companies start to include them in products solely for marketing advantages and financial profit. Cereal, chips, crackers, and cookies are all processed food that should be limited or eaten in moderation regardless if they contain goji berries, almonds, or dried kale.

 

Take home advice: eat the rainbow

Include a colorful variety of superfoods in your diet to supply your body with the mix of nutrients needed for optimum function and repair. Eating a wide range of foods also reduces your exposure to repetitive pesticides. A good way to switch up your plate is to buy seasonal produce, what looks the most appealing at the market each week, or join a CSA.

 

You don’t need to search for exotic foods; examples of everyday superfoods that pack a healthy punch and are accessible at most supermarkets, include:

·      Dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables: bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, spinach, Swiss chard

·      Other vegetables: artichoke, butternut squash, mushrooms (technically fungi), pumpkin, red bell pepper, watercress

·      Fruits: apples, avocado, blackberries, blueberries, lemons, raspberries, strawberries, tart cherries, tomatoes

·      Nuts/Seeds: almonds, brazil nuts, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseed, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds

·      Legumes and beans

·      Dark chocolate, cocoa

·      Proteins: eggs, Greek yogurt, salmon

·      Spices: cinnamon, clove, garlic, turmeric

·      Seaweed

 

What about super herbs? Why aren’t they on the list?

Adaptogens are a group of medicinal herbs that may help your body respond—or adapt—to stress. We’ll dive more into these in a future post, but first want to emphasize the importance of choosing a foundation of real, wholesome foods for nourishment before adding special additions to your diet.

 

Five superfoods to eat this week:

Challenge yourself to rotate new superfoods into your meals and snacks each week for a variety of health benefits. Here are five superstars to try now:

 

1. Spinach: Not on the kale bandwagon? No problem. This super-versatile dark leafy green is an excellent source of water-soluble vitamins (B2, B6, C, and folate), fat-soluble vitamins (A, E, and K) and many minerals such as magnesium and iron. Further, spinach boasts a wide variety of phytonutrients with anti-inflammatory properties that help fend off cancer. Spinach may also help with digestion (due to fiber), protect against heart disease, maintain bone health and preserve eye health, among other benefits.

Try this: You can’t go wrong with dark leafy greens sautéed in olive oil or ghee with garlic then topped with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. There are many options to upgrade your weekly meals with spinach or other dark leafy greens: use in stir-frys, stews, soups, and smoothies or on your egg and avocado toast.

 

2. Cinnamon: One of the oldest spices, cinnamon is a natural blood sugar stabilizer, and may have antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. Plus, it tastes great and can help curb a sweet tooth.

Try this: Add a dash to your next smoothie, turmeric milk latte, or overnight oats. Top some toasted bread with nut or seed butter, bananas or berries and cinnamon. Switch up your seasoning and try roasting sweet potatoes with cinnamon and paprika—delish!

 

3. Lemon: Lemons are an excellent source of vitamin C, a powerful water-soluble antioxidant. Vitamin C has been linked with a lower risk of ischemic stroke; it can also boost the immune system, aid digestion, help with absorption of iron and the production of collagen. Lemons also help balance your body’s pH levels and have many therapeutic and antibacterial properties.

Try this: Rehydrate and flush out toxins by starting your day with warm lemon water. Also try squeezing fresh lemon on salads, cooked meats or fish. Add to salad dressings or sauces for an added zing.

 

4. Chia seeds: Packed with omega-3 fatty acids and high in fiber, these small seeds are also a complete source of plant protein, and contain calcium, phosphorus, and manganese (minerals important in bone health).  Chia seeds can help improve digestion, lower cholesterol, and stabilize blood sugar. Cha-ching.

Try this: Chia seeds work well blended in smoothies, added to overnight oats, or sprinkled on top of almost any meal. Tip: try blending in a food processor before adding to smoothies or recipes to prevent them from getting stuck in your pearly whites.

 

5. Walnuts: Antioxidant-rich, walnuts also contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids and can protect against inflammation, heart disease, and may improve brain function.

Try this: Though they contain good fat, keep an eye on portion size. Try a small handful of nuts for a mid-day snack (they pair well with dark chocolate or blueberries) or top off your yogurt or salad for an added crunch. 

 

While including superfoods in your diet can provide added benefits, remember that striving to consume a diet of colorful fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains, nuts/legumes, and quality proteins is more important than focusing too much on any select food or nutrient. It’s likely not one nutrient responsible for these amazing health effects but rather nutrients together in a whole food, or foods eaten together, that work some magic.

 

Now, grab your cape and eat up.

 

 

Blogpost written by Ascend content expert, Ashley H