Heal Thyself

by: Cynthia Sass | March 07, 2013

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Three everyday superfoods that maximize your body’s recovery after training.

Training and nutrition must go hand in hand: While exercise is necessary for strength, endurance and body composition, it also takes a toll on the body. The wear and tear results in the build-up of free radicals, unstable oxygen compounds that contribute to DNA damage, often referred to as oxidative stress. Unchecked oxidative stress fuels inflammation, muscle wasting and premature aging, and increases the risk of such diseases as diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Fortunately, some every day superfoods can undo the damage. Here’s how they minimize cellular harm and maximize post-training recovery:


Strenuous exercise is known to generate an inflammatory state in the body, a trigger of premature aging and disease. While we’ve long known that berries protect the brain, new science from Appalachian State University finds that consuming blueberries after running enhances immunity, slashes inflammation and reduces oxidative stress.

Eat More Toss blueberries into smoothies, or thaw and fold into muesli along with organic nonfat yogurt, sliced almonds, organic oats, cinnamon and fresh grated ginger.

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate has enjoyed a health halo in recent years, and a new study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found it’s also effective for reducing oxidative stress in athletes. Men who consumed a 100-gram bar of 70 percent dark chocolate before cycling experienced higher blood antioxidant levels pre-exercise and reduced markers of oxidative stress post-exercise.

Eat More Indulge in artisan brands with at least 70 percent cocoa content. Mast Brothers is a Brooklyn-based brand of hand-crafted intensely dark bars that include such varieties as Serrano Pepper and Maine Sea Salt.

Tomato Juice

In a recent study published in Nutrition Journal, Swedish scientists found that when 15 healthy subjects were asked to perform 20 minutes of intense exercise, blood markers for oxidative stress spiked by between 42 and 84 percent. But after a washout period, when the same study participants consumed 150 ml of tomato juice every day for five weeks, blood samples revealed no indicators of oxidative stress. Scientists believe the juice’s antioxidant package, which includes lycopene, vitamin C and carotenoids, may be responsible for the results.

Drink More Look for 100 percent organic tomato juice, which has been found to pack higher levels of beneficial antioxidants. Spruce it up with lemon, black pepper and a pinch of cayenne poured over ice, or chill as a base for simple gazpacho by adding minced cucumber, onion, bell pepper, garlic, cilantro and olive oil.

Cynthia Sass is the author of S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds, and Lose Inches. The nutrition consultant to Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays and the National Hockey League’s New York Rangers, she works with a wide range of athletes, including tennis players, as a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics.

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