The elements of an epic summer go something like this: Feel good, look great, stay healthy, and earn victory on the volleyball/basketball/insert-your-sport-here court. All you need is the right fuel to make this hopeful prediction a reality. Well, here it is. These 25 summertime foods that will bolster your efforts to get lean, add muscle, protect your skin, avoid dehydration, and improve your mood. Eat them, drink them, and get ready for the summer of your life.
5 SKIN PROTECTORS
Summer can be hell on a man's skin. The sun burns it, chlorine pools dry it, and bugs use it as a smorgasbord. To protect your hide against such ravaging, you generally put things on it--sunscreen, aloe--but here are some foods you should put in your body to protect your skin.
Halibut: A whitefish prized for its firm texture and delicate taste, halibut, because of its high omega-3 content, is also popular among those who care about their skin. According to Udo Erasmus, Ph.D., author of Choosing the Right Fats, omega-3 fatty acids promote healthy, well-moisturized skin, the kind she'll want to get close to.
Whole wheat: Whole grains, including whole-wheat breads such as Healthy Choice's Soft Honey Wheat, are high in zinc, which is essential for making collagen, a fibrous protein that is a primary skin component. Zinc also plays an important role in repairing burned skin.
Cantaloupe: This classic summer fruit-salad staple promotes healthy skin with its high beta-carotene content. Beta-carotene turns into vitamin A, which is essential for the growth and repair of skin tissue. To pick a good cantaloupe, look for a spherical shape, an even of "netting" on the skin of the fruit, and a mild melon aroma. Golden-colored cantaloupes are alrealdy ones will ripen in a few days.
Garlic: In a study performed on soldiers at Lund University in Sweden, garlic intake greatly reduced the number of tic bites experienced in the field; apparently those irritating little critters find the herb's scent repulsive (these obviously weren't Italian tics). Tic bites, common during the summer, are not only annoyinq, but also dangerous, as many tics carry Lyme disease. Garlic contains sulfuric compounds that exhibit powerful antioxidant properties that protect many parts of the body--includinq the cardiovascular system--from free radicals and related diseases. Make sure she eats some too, or else you'll end up being a solitary hiker.
Summer greens: Spinach and chard are also rich in vitamin A--as well as vitamin C--which provides antioxidant protection against sun damage, and B vitamins, which help prevent dry skin, rashes, itching and skin diseases.
5 MUSCLE BUILDERS
The most important muscle-building nutrient, you're well aware, is protein. But not all protein sources are created equal. In addition to containing high-quality protein, the following five foods host a wealth of other nutrients, all of which will work to support your muscle growth.
Red beans and rice: This Big Easy classic is easy to make and has the perfect ratio of protein to carbs for muscle building and fueling. When eaten together, it's also a complete vegetarian source of protein. While steaming the rice, saute some garlic, onions and green peppers in a teaspoon of olive oil for five minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, cider vinegar. vegetable broth and Cajun spices and simmer for 10 minutes. Add kidney beans, hot sauce and a little salt, cook for five minutes and then mix with rice. Put on a Dixieland jazz record and chow down. Throwing beaded necklaces at your honey is optional.
Organic beef: Bred without the use of hormones and antibiotics, organic beef has more protein, less fat, less cholesterol and fewer calories than regular beef. It's also safer and (according to many) tastier. Here's another plus: It's the most creatine-rich food on earth. As with nonorganic beef, some cuts are leaner than others: Good choices include sirloin, top round, eye of round, tenderloin and flank steak.
Barbecued chicken: Skinless chicken breasts have almost as much protein as extra-lean ground beef, though they contain far fewer total calories. Grilled and slathered in barbecue sauce, they make a healthier alternative for backyard grilling without the "weirdness" factor connected to, say, tofu burgers. (Note: To retain that lean, muscular look, be sure to choose a sauce that is low in sugar.)
Eggs: Versatile and satisfying, eggs have an unequaled amino-acid profile and are also high in vitamin E, which has been shown to reduce exercise-related free-radical damage to muscles. Kim Mueller-Brown. R.D., a San Diego nutritionist, suggests using a -3-to-1 ratio of egg whites to egg yolks when cooking with eggs, due to the cholesterol content of the yolk, but research shows that eating a few eggs a day does not increase cholesterol in those with healthy levels.
"Yogurt has it all," says Paul Goldberg, R.D., C.S.C.S., strength conditioning coach for the National Hockey League's Colorado Avalanche. "It has protein and zinc for tissue building, calcium to facilitate muscle contractions, and carbs for energy." Try tossing a cup of Dannon into a fruit smoothie for a cool summer cocktail.
5 FOODS FOR SUMMER ABS
Exercising like a mule while eating like a pig will not abet your quest for summer abs. The best formula for a flat stomach is combining exercise with a diet emphasizing foods such as the ones below.
Fresh figs: When you think figs, chances are you think Fig Newtons. But according to Joe Vinson, Ph.D., of the University of Scranton in New Jersey, fresh figs, available in summer, are just as tasty as those processed, dough-wrapped globs of fig mush. When you bite into a fig, you'll be surprised at how much it tastes like the cookie (sans the fat). With only 70 calories, but sweet enough to calm a sugar craving, figs also contain calcium and fiber, both potent fat fighters.
Tomatoes: Considered a "wet carb," tomatoes are an ideal food to fill up on: They're packed with water, fiber and vitamins, but have very few calories. A smart fat-loss strategy is to substitute for your mealtime starch--usually rice or potatoes. By weight, rice has more than six times the amount of calories as tomatoes but none of the fruit's wealth of nutrients.
Chili peppers: In a British experiment subjects who ate a diet supplemented with a small amount of spicy foods, like chili peppers and mustard, burned more calories than subjects who ate the same meals minus the heat. "One theory is that capsaiciin, the chemical in chili peppers that keeps your tongue begging for fluids, triggers a thermodynamic burn that can last up to five hours after eating," says Elisa Zled, M.S., R.D., a media representative for the New York State Dietetic Association. "This process speeds the metabolism: and helps you burn additional calories."
Whole-grain breakfast cereal: Eating first thing in the morning primes your metabolism, so you wind up burning more calories throughout the day than you will if you skip breakfast. Whole-grain breakfast cereals are a good choice because their low-glycemic carbs provide sustained energy. In a Penn State University study, before taking a stationary cycling test, one group of athletes ate a rolled-oats cereal while another group ate a high-glycemic puffed-rice cereal. Both breakfasts contained 75 grams of total carbohydrate. Those who ate the rolled oats were able to cycle significantly longer than those who ate the puffed rice, due to greater glucose availability. The more energy you have in the tank for cardio, the easier it will be to stay lean, Good whole-grain cereals include Wheaties, Kelloggs MiniWheats, and Post Shredded Wheat.
Soybeans: Soybeans aren't just for hippie vegans anymore. " As a low-glycemic food soybeans prevent spikes in insulin, which results in less production of lipoprotein lipase, an enzyme that promotes fat storage," says Mueller-Brown, who suggests soy-meat tacos as a delicious way to enjoy the benefits of soybeans during the summer.
5 KEY HYDRATORS
Many nutrition experts believe that a majority of us live in a state of chronic mild dehydration, which leads to fatigue, digestive issues, an agitated constitution, and a host of other problems. The threat of dehydration is highest in summer, when we tend to sweat more. Here are a few, options beyond water that will help your body maintain healthy fluid levels.
Flavored water: Research has shown that people prefer flavored beverages to plain water. But generally, added flavor means added sugar. (For example, Clearly Canadian Sparkling Flavored Water contains 90 calories and 22 grams of sugar per eight-ounce serving.) But you can have your flavor and drink it, too, with a bottle of "fitness water." Propel, Aqua-Lean by Pinnacle, Reebok Fitness Water and Dasani Nutriwater are just a few of the flavored vitamin-and-mineral-enhanced waters that contain just 10 calories per eight ounces.
Sports drinks: "Sports drinks provide not only the water and electrolytes you need to prevent dehydration, but also carbohydrates to provide energy and prolong endurance," says Mueller-Brown. "And some of the newer sports drinks even have a little protein to enhance the energy efficiency of carbohydrates and accelerate postworkout recovery." Try a bottle of Powerade or Accelerade after a particularly sweaty workout.
Watermelon: A great postworkout recovery food, watermelon has high-glycemic carbohydrates (energy replenishment); is more than 90% water (hydration); and contains the antioxidant lycopene (prostate-cancer prevention). The best watermelon is available between mid-June and late August. To select a ripe one, give it an open-hand slap and listen for a hollow sound.
Iced-tea: Iced-tea offers another way to get your water with a little flavor. Just don't go overboard with it, because each cup contains about 50 milligrams of caffeine. Once you get past 300 milligrams, about six cups, a diuretic effect kicks in and you'll wind up losing more water than you take in. Unsweetened teas such as those by Lipton and Nestea are better than premade, sugary varieties.
Cucumbers: They ought to call them "watercumbers," as they contain even more water (96%) than watermelon and virtually zero calories--only 14 per cup. Cucumbers don't score high nutritionally, but the rest of your salad ingredients can pick up the slack.
5 GOOD-MOOD FOODS
Grace Slick was right: You need to feed your head. But there are better ways to go about it than emulating '60s rock icons (most of whom are pushing up daisies). Here are five healthy, and perfectly legal, foods that promote relaxation, well-being and low stress levels.
Popcorn: Carbohydrates, especially when eaten alone, boost levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is associated with positive mood states. When you feel your spirits drooping, try a low-calorie, low-glycemic carbohydrate snack such as air-popped popcorn by that geek Orville Redenbacher.
Cashews: Cashews are high in magnesium, which has an interesting circular relationship with stress. "Stress actually causes magnesium to be flushed from the body, and some research suggests that magnesium helps reduce stress," says Elizabeth Somer, R.D., author of Food and Mood. Other good magnesium sources are almonds, beans and whole grains. Stay away from candied or heavily salted nuts, and opt for raw nuts such as those by Planters.
Blueberries: One of nature's genuine superfoods, blueberries not only elevate mood with their natural sugars, but according to research performed by the neuroscience laboratory at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, they also enhance memory and cognition because of their many antioxidants. Blueberries even improve such brain skills as balance and coordination, so you don't fall on your face as you saunter by her, trying to act oh so slick.
Tuna: The so-called chicken of the sea is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been proven to elevate mood and reduce stress. "They appear to do this by improving circulation to the brain and the functioning of neurotransmitters," says Erasmus, who produces a proprietary blend of essential fatty acids for those who don't get enough from food sources (www.udoerasmus.com). Make sure your tuna is water-packed (Starkist, Bumble Bee) and not soaking in high-fat oil.
Beer: You're probably going to drink it no matter what we say, but it so happens that alcohol is a nervous-system depressant that promotes healthy relaxation when consumed in moderation (if you have no history of abuse or dependence). "There's nothing wrong with drinking one beer after work--or even two," says Somer. Any more, though, may create the opposite effect--insomnia, or at worst, your bed will spin as if you're possessed. Low-calorie brews such as Michelob Light and Bud Light are great for keeping the weight off, but darker beers like Sam Adams and Bass contain antioxidant polyphenols as well as trace minerals.
COPYRIGHT 2003 Weider Publications
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