When getting ready for your GuavaPass class, we often pay the least attention to the most important thing:
Fuelling your body with the right food and nutrition is crucial in optimizing your workout. Not only that you won’t feel lethargic, light-headed or even faint mid-exercise, but putting extra care and thoughts into your pre-workout meal can immensely boost your performance and lean muscle gains.
A simple yet nutritious meal that you can try out is the ever fancy smoothie (bowl)!
Smoothie bowls were a huge food trend a couple of years back but its health legacy remains until today. However, the long-debated controversy of whether a smoothie bowl is actually good for health or if it’s just a mere diet fad has made some people, or maybe even you, a bit skeptical in ditching their straw for a spoon. But don’t get it twisted; it all actually depends on what you put inside your smoothie bowl.
First of all, let’s get some things straight.
What makes your delicious smoothie bowl doing more harm than good for your body?
- Fruits are essentially made up of simple sugars fructose and water. Unfortunately, fructose can only be metabolised by the liver and can’t be used for energy. Thus, it should be consumed in moderation. Most of the “harmful” smoothie bowl aims to have that thick texture by blending in too many bananas (high in fructose) and other flavoured protein powders, which hold added sugars.
- The considerable amount of toppings you add does a little more than it’s supposed to. Too much granola, muesli, dried fruits, and shredded coconut added can escalate the calories up to 1,000 calories per bowl. So remember, choose them wisely and keep them as a sprinkle!
- Choose low-glycemic fruits instead, such as apples, oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, peaches. I know these fruits don’t sound like the ones you see on the typical smoothie bowl recipes, but consuming these fruits will allow a slower and steadier rise in blood sugar, which can help the body better manage post-meal changes. Try not to binge eat high-glycemic fruits such as mango, pineapple, banana. You don’t wanna go from attempting to be healthy to getting diabetes (hyperbolically speaking).
So what’s next? Can I still eat my delicious smoothie bowl?
Let’s call this “the art of outsmarting your smoothie bowl”, where you can enhance the nutritional content of your favourite smoothie bowl without adding too many calories. Here’s a list of 10 superfoods you can play with!
1. Goji berries
These tiny berries are called superfoods due to the chemical compounds within them called phytochemicals. Phytochemicals in goji berries contain polysaccharides, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin. Polysaccharides and zeaxanthin can help to improve your immune system, while beta-carotene is essential for bone, skin and eye health. Goji berries have a low GI, hence they can improve feelings of fullness and reduce cravings. And yes – they also make really pretty toppings for your smoothie bowl.
2. Raw cacao
At some point in your life, you might confuse yourself between the difference of cacao and cocoa, and then use it interchangeably. While actually, cacao is the raw, unprocessed version of cocoa. Both cacao powder and cacao nibs are rich in antioxidants, vitamin B, C, E, Magnesium, Zinc, Copper and Potassium. These can be beneficial for your blood sugar system, weight loss and brain function. Nibs are even better, they’re like chocolate chips without the sugary guilt.
This exotic superfood is a natural algae, which is growing its popularity due to their somewhat “mythical” health benefits; mythical because this green substance offers tremendous health benefits that are too good to be true. It has the ability to detox heavy metals, especially arsenic present in drinking water that is currently prevalent in the US, Bangladesh, India, Taiwan and Chile. Some even claim that it can prevent cancer, improve the immune system, lower risk of cholesterol and stroke.
I’m not done yet, a claim also state that combining spirulina powder with lime juice can immensely boost your stamina. Do we get a superhero character out of spirulina now?
Probably the best nut you could have. Walnuts are significantly higher in omega-3 fat than any other nut and it’s super rich in antioxidants. Putting walnuts in your meal will reduce the likelihood of post-meal bad cholesterol damage and its polyphenols properties act as an anti-inflammatory to your body. It also promotes gut health and gives support for weight loss by controlling your appetite.
To say that I like walnuts is an understatement because I literally put them into everything. I put it as my pasta topping, salad topping, and I even substitute pine nuts with walnuts for my pesto! #NutsOverWalnuts
Can you believe that these tiny seeds can actually bring a massive truck of nutrients? Yep, they do. As the word “Chia” means “strength” in the Mayan language, they contain five times more calcium than milk and seven times more vitamin C than oranges. They’re rich in protein, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Keep in mind that all these nutrient punch comes in very few calories and carbs, while most of the carbs are fiber. So technically, you’ll feel fuller for longer, and hence help you eat less throughout the day! To top it off, most of chia seeds are usually grown organically, non-GMO and are naturally gluten-free. They also taste like nothing but crunchiness, so if you’re asking why you should put it in your smoothie bowl, the real question is why not?
6. Hemp seeds
Hemp seeds are produced by the cannabis plant, which is also the origin plant of marijuana. But before you freak out, don’t worry – they don’t contain any THC active compound so no, you won’t get high from it. In fact, this superfood contains a special type of acids; gamma-linoleic acid, which can help in fat burning and weight loss. They also have this nutty flavour, a low calorie and delicious substitute for your peanut butter maybe? No?
When I hear the word ginger– I automatically associate it with its anti-inflammatory properties. And yes, ginger had a long history of being a natural medicine. Ginger can treat many forms of nausea – morning sickness, motion sickness, etc. It can also mildly and steadily reduce exercise-induced muscle pain and soreness, so overtime, you will be less likely to endure excessive muscle pain from your vigorous workout.
I personally love to add ginger to any of my smoothies to give it some extra punch of flavour – maybe you’d be a fan of it too!
Just like chia seeds, flaxseed is also a good source of antioxidants, omega 3-fatty acids, and fiber. Some claims support that flaxseed nutritional properties can essentially help in reducing the risk of cancer, typically prostate and breast cancer. Flaxseed is a good source of lignans – phytoestrogen with antioxidants quality, containing 0.3 g for every 100 grams (g) of flaxseed, which, again, reduce the free radicals in our body and help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Important caution: flaxseed may not be for everyone though. People with bowel obstruction and pregnant women are not be suggested to consume flaxseed as it may bring adverse effects. It should also be consumed in ground form with plenty of fluids (in your smoothie!).
9. Maca powder
Maca powder is ground from the maca root and has been used for thousands of years by the Peruvians for concoctions and food mixes. It has a historical stance that it can nourish the body and boost energy. Some claims state that it can increase fertility and libido, but research is still limited. It contains over 20 amino acids and heaps of nutrients such as vitamin B, C, E, Calcium, and Magnesium to just name a few. For safety precautions, people with thyroid conditions or pregnant women should avoid maca powder as there is still little evidence if it’s safe to be consumed by people with the mentioned circumstances.
I know the list is supposed to be all about low-calorie foods but this one is an exception. It’s a good pre-workout meal as it gives you a truck mount of energy from its high level of carbs, in the form of fiber. People who practice fasting usually break their fast with this palm tree fruit, as it can avoid overeating and tone down hunger. Its super sweet caramel-like flavour can also be a natural sweetener to your smoothie bowl. Moreover, dates can be a useful hangover remedy, thus if you ever get wasted over too much booze (which we definitely can’t recommend), make sure to have some dates in your smoothie bowl the next morning!
So, the next time you’re making a smoothie bowl, don’t forget to add these superfoods and they can be the hero to your bowl of goodness! Try adding these to your next pre-workout bow!