Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Red For Valentine's Day? Think Red (Cherries) For Recovery!

Training for a marathon definitely takes a toll on your body. Managing muscle aches and pain becomes a focus of your pre- and post- runs. Antioxidants serve as a source of relief for inflammation as they protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals, which are believed to contribute to certain chronic diseases and play a role in the aging processes.

Naturally, I always look for foods high in antioxidants because I think food is the body’s best medicine. I recently read Leslie Bonci’s article on cherries, which explains a lot of important qualities about this super fruit and the benefits of incorporating cherries in your diet. She is a sports dietitian and Director of Sports Nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh, so I find the science of what she says very interesting- however listed below are the take-home facts you should know about cherries.

Cherries are high in antioxidants and specifically in:
v            Anthocyanins 1 and 2, which contribute to their beautiful color and effective reduction in muscle pain inflammation.

v            Melatonin:  Another antioxidant found in cherries that may aid in improving your natural sleep cycle.

v            Vitamin A (beta carotene): Cherries also provide a good source of beta carotene, which functions to support eye health and contributes to healthy skin and tissues.

Cherries have about 95 calories a cup and approximately 3g fiber. That makes this fruit a healthy, portable food you can enjoy anytime! If you have some extra time- try this SUPER easy recipe, which incorporates dried cherries and other fruits with protein packed couscous.

Sweet Couscous with Nuts and Dried Fruit
Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

Yield- 4-6 servings
Total time-14 minutes

    2 1/3 cups water
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/3 cup dried cranberries
    1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
    1/3 cup dried cherries, chopped
    2 1/2 cups (about 1 pound) couscous
    1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted slivered almonds
    1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted and skinned hazelnuts
    1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, if desired

In a medium saucepan, combine the water, sugar, cranberries, apricots, and cherries. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes. Stir in the couscous and remove the pan from the heat. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid until the couscous has absorbed all of the cooking liquid, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Using a fork, fluff the couscous to break up any lumps. Add the almonds and hazelnuts and toss. Spread the mixture evenly on a baking sheet until completely cooled, about 10 minutes.
Transfer the couscous to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.
Serving Suggestion: Drizzle the couscous with 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil for a moister texture.

Sara Shipley, Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Management, University of Central Oklahoma BS Student- Projected graduation May 2013

I am a nutrition and dietetics student at the University of Central Oklahoma. I am a career changer after studying and graduating with a BS in fashion merchandising and working in corporate retail buying in New York City for several years. I am now studying to become a registered dietitian because I enjoy the science of nutrition and want to share my passion for balanced eating and healthy living with others. I love helping people make educated decisions about nutrition. Eating flavorful, delicious food does not have to be compromised by choosing to eat healthy. I love to cook and eat all types of food. I am an avid runner and I enjoy writing, reading and learning about anything related to nutrition, sports, food and wellness. I practice yoga and enjoy being outdoors doing anything active,- hiking, running, walking or biking.