Summer is in the past, but don’t let that get you down – a new school year has begun! This means a time of starting fresh, feeling inspired and setting some new goals. And let’s begin all of that with some healthy, clean eating. And that means fruit! Not only does fruit taste so delicious and refreshing, but all fruits have compounds that reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, and are important contributors to an overall healthy diet, reduced muscle soreness and even cancer prevention. Bring on the power of fruit!
Here, check out some of our favourite fruits. Stock up on these, and pack yourself a school lunch and dance snack with them!
Wild blueberries, which actually have higher antioxidant levels than their cultivated sweeter cousins, can be consumed fresh, dried, and in recipes such as muffins and cornbread. The dark blue colour of these antioxidant-rich berries have anthocyanins and polyphenols that have been shown to improve memory, cognitive function and even can help heal the brain after traumatic injury.
Watermelon isn’t just a fruit for the summer. Yes, it’s delicious and hydrating (and contains only 50 calories per cup), but it is also a wonderful source of vitamin C. (And we know it’s better to get our vitamin C from food instead of pills or powders.) In addition, watermelon is a superfood because of its high amounts of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene. This is good for the skin, immune function and reduces the risk for cancer. Watermelon can also reduce the risk of age-related blindness and macular degeneration due to it being a rich source of lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidant vitamins and phytonutrients reduce oxidative stress and may lower inflammation.
#3. Cherries and tart cherry juice
The label “superfood” may be overused these days, but cherries have many reasons to deserve the title. Like some of our other favourite fruits, cherries also reduce inflammation and combat oxidative stress to cells. There are different kinds of cherries, which contain different bioactive compounds, but most of the studies out there focus on tart cherries consumed mostly through juice or powders and sweet cherries consumed fresh. Studies have shown that athletes who consume cherries can decrease pain, soreness and muscle damage. After a hard day of exercise or dancing all day in the studio, drinking tart cherry juice (either from fresh or concentrate) can promote faster recovery. Try adding cherries or tart cherry juice to a post-dance recovery smoothie, or add a couple of tablespoons of the concentrate directly into your water bottle. If the tartness is a little too much for your taste buds, add a squeeze of watermelon juice into the water bottle. This can combat the tart flavour and also encourage hydration in the process.
The sports nutrition world probably emphasises blueberries and cherries because of their availability and popularity, but have you ever heard of blackcurrants? While not as well known as those other berries, they sure aren’t short on nutrients or performance-enhancing potential. Blackcurrant extract has been shown to reduce muscle damage and soreness after exercise. Like blueberries, blackcurrants are high in the same anthocyanins, and consuming them also mitigates inflammation and oxidative damage. They may be harder to find, but check to see if your local health food store carries them frozen or dried, and they can also be found in powder form online.
In addition to these four favourites, don’t forget about peaches and mango (both high in vitamin A and C), strawberries (super high in vitamin C, manganese and beta-carotene) and apricots (a great source of iron when in dried form).