4 Pomegranate Perks for Athletes + Healthy New Year Cocktail

4 Pomegranate Perks for AthletesFall and winter are prime time for pomegranates, a delicious superfood with juice and arils (fleshy seeds) that appear in everything from seasonal salads and smoothies to holiday cocktails and desserts. But there is much more to a pomegranate than festive flavor and ruby-red good looks, the prized fruit offers an abundant supply of vitamins, essential minerals, and a rich assortment of antioxidants – it’s also a good source of dietary fiber. It addition helping optimize health and wellness for the general population, pomegranate has several distinctive benefits for runners, ultra runners, cyclists, triathletes, obstacle course racers and other endurance and strength athletes.

Reduces DOMS: A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests that the polyphenols found in pomegranate juice may help reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in previously resistance-trained individuals.  Study participants who drank pomegranate juice, rather than the placebo, reported less incidence of discomfort in the exercises administered to provoke arm and leg soreness. Take away:  Drinking pomegranate juice before exercise may lessen soreness and quicken recovery so that you can train again sooner.

Increases Exercise Efficiency:  A 2014 study reported in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, sports scientists at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill say that the nitrates in pomegranate extract enhance exercise efficiency by decreasing oxygen consumption during exercise without limiting performance, increasing blood lactate or increasing energy contribution from glycolysis or the phosphagen system. It’s the same sort of benefit that has also been attributed to consuming beet juice before endurance exercise. Take away: Pomegranate juice or extract supplements may enhance exercise efficiently and increase the amount of time it takes to get to reach exhaustion.

Reduce Inflammation and Bolster Immunity: Pomegranate seeds are rich in specific polyphenols, such as tannins, quercetin and anthocyanins — all of which may offer both heart health and anti-cancer benefits. Studies have shown that quercetin can help lower LDL cholesterol, reduce inflammation and serves as a natural antihistamine to fight seasonal allergies.  Additionally, studies specifically on athletes have suggest this phytochemical bolsters health during the 3 to 72 hour window of impaired immunity following heavy training and also may help increase endurance. Take away: Recover faster and keep from getting sick during intense training cycles with pomegranate.

Quick Source of Energy: A glass of pomegranate juice diluted with a bit of water makes a healthy “sports drink” that will fuel your brain and body with quickly-sourced, natural sugars.  Take away: Ditch sugary, store-bought sports drinks and power up with the healthy carbohydrates and antioxidants found in pomegranate juice.

Smart Tart Pomegranate Meyer Lemon Spritzer makes a healthy cocktail for New Years Eve or other celebrations.A mocktail featuring pomegranate is the perfect way to ring in 2106 – it’s a tasty toast to your health with no worries about driving home or feeling bad the next day. Shake up your holiday libations with my Smart Tart Pomegranate Meyer Lemon Spritzer, the recipe is simple, has no added sugar and features less acidic Meyer lemons (a hybrid orange-lemon) and the previously mentioned benefits of pomegranate arils and juice — it’s also no coincidence that both these fruits are in peak season as we speak!

Smart Tart Pomegranate Meyer Lemon Spritzer makes a healthy cocktail for New Years Eve or other celebrations.Directions: In large pitcher, pour 2 liters sparkling water and mix in 1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice, 4 packets Stevia (more or less to taste), and 4 ounces pomegranate arils (along with any juice in bottom of carton). Serve with thinly sliced Meyer lemon. Serves 8. 

What are you drinking for New Year’s Eve? Do you seed your own pomegranates or buy the packaged arils? 

 

 

Watermelon Coconut Cherry Sippers + 8 Ways to Enjoy Picnic Day

Watermelon and Picnics #LivingOnTheWedge

Pack your cooler and head to the nearest park, lake or recreation area because June 18 is International Picnic Day! Yes, that’s right, folks all over the world will be lounging on blankets, grilling or eating cold-cut sandwiches and enjoying refreshing beverages. While I personally think it might be a bit cold for a June picnic in some parts of the world (uhh, like Siberia), Texas certainly has more than enough of the warm weather thing going on – that’s why I insist on making watermelon part of our picnic in every way possible.

Eight Ways to Enjoy Watermelon on a Picnic

Watermelon Coconut Cherry Sippers are a refreshing, hydrating drink for your summer picnic.Not only is a slice of watermelon super tasty, it’s also hydrating. Did you know that munching on 8-ounces of watermelon is like drinking almost that same amount of water – but in addition, you get natural sugars, electrolytes, vitamin A, vitamin C, and lycopene! It’s like Mother Nature’s sports drink except with no added sugars or funky stuff.  You’re going to love to quench your thirst with my recipe for Watermelon Coconut Cherry Sippers at the bottom of this post.

8 Unique Ways to Enjoy Watermelon at a Summer Picnic

In addition to the Watermelon Coconut Cherry Sipper recipe, I’m also sharing eight ways to enjoy watermelon at your next picnic or outdoor event!

Eat by the Slice: Uncut, this fruit is easy and mess-free to pack for a picnic – and big enough to share with a crowd. Slice up your watermelon on-site with this simple way to make watermelon spear slices for sharing.

Use as “Ice” in Cooler:  Chill an uncut watermelon or two in the refridgerator overnight, get ‘em good and cold. Transfer watermelon to a cooler the next day before your picnic and pack remainder of food around and on top of the melon.  If using picnic perishables within a few hours, food should remain cold and safe. However, if it’s going to be a long day in the sun, add a bit of ice.

Repurpose Rind as Vase:  The bowl-like rind that remains after watermelon flesh is scooped out makes a clever vessel for displaying flowers.  Use a personal-sized melon and slice off the top three-fourths of the way up.  Or, for a dramatic display on a big table, slice a large oval melon in half lengthwise and arrange with blooms.

Work Up a Sweat: Don’t lounge on the picnic blanket all day, get moving! Use a watermelon to get in a workout on dry land or exercise in the pool – watermelons in sizes ranging from 10 to 40 pounds are easy to find, so there is a weight option for everyone.

Kid-friendly Cutouts:  Keep younger children busy and entertained at your picnic by appointing them helpers who punch out shapes in slices of watermelon with cookie cutters.  Shapes can be served on an ice pop stick for a fun handle.

Drink Up: Because watermelons are more than 90 percent water, they are very refreshing on a hot day. The high water content along with vitamins, electrolites and other nutrients will help you and your family from becoming dehydrated on a hot day.  Drink the juice “as-is” or enjoy one of the numerous watermelon beverages around including the Watermelon Coconut Cherry Sipper recipe below or one of the many watermelon beverage recipes from the National Watermelon Promotion Board.

Create Unique Recipes: Watermelon is very versatile and can be incorporated into many creative recipes for your picnic. Pack the fixings for Watermelon Sandwich Wraps or, if grilling at your picnic, whip up a batch of Spicy Watermelon BBQ Sauce before you head out.

Play Games:  Keep the watermelon fun going all day long by using the fruit to play fun party games.  Small children will have a blast playing Hot Watermelon with a small, personal-sized watermelon. Have the kids sit in a circle and pass the watermelon around from person to person while music plays. The child who is holding the watermelon when the music stops is “out” and the game continues until one person remains.  Older kids will have fun at a pool or lake picnic playing Greased Watermelon Football, a game where a watermelon rubbed with Vasaline is tossed in the water and teams jump in to retrieve it and bring to dry land – it’s a slippery, action-packed and hysterical event!

Watermelon Picnic TableIf you’re feeling crafty, why not paint up a simple picnic table to resemble the quintessential fruit of summertime?!  I found this cute idea on Pinterest! That reminds me,  you should follow my #LivingOnTheWedge Pinterest board to keep up to date on all things watermelon!

 

Watermelon Coconut Cherry Sippers are a healthy, hydrating and refreshing beverage for your next picnic.

Watermelon Coconut Cherry Sippers Recipe:

  • 4 cups chopped watermelon
  • 12-ounce bottle coconut water
  • 1 cup frozen dark cherries

Add approximately 4 cups of chopped watermelon into blender. Pulse for 30 seconds, or until juiced. Pour contents through fine strainer to remove excess pulp (it’s okay if some goes through).  Add a 12-ounce bottle of coconut water to extracted watermelon juice. Stir. Pour evenly into 4 tall glasses and add 6 to 8 frozen dark cherries to each cup (to serve as tasty ice cubes).  Serves 4.

How would you enjoy a watermelon at your next picnic? Please post it in the comments below — XOXO, Jennifer 

The post is sponsored by the National Watermelon Promotion Board. However, the opinions and content (unless otherwise noted) shared are my own and NWPB did not tell me what to say or how to say it.

Zing in the New Year – Juicing Machine #Giveaway

This giveaway is sponsored by Hamilton Beach. 

After a season of sugary, salty, greasy, and not-so-good-for-you good eats, many of us are looking for a nutrition reboot for the New Year. Healthy fruit and vegetable juices are a quick and easy way to top off your tank with all those vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other vital nutrients that makes us all feel so good. Yes, I drink juice a couple times a week, but I’m not an advocate of juicing “diets” or “cleanses” because drinking only the liquid from produce is done so at the expense of proper daily fiber intake and food group balance – where’s the beef protein?

Golden Beet Zinger Juice - TheFitFork.com

However, I think juicing is a FANTASTIC way for people to get an on-demand dose of wholesome fuel – especially those who don’t like fruits and vegetables or are too busy to prepare a home-cooked meal.  As for the fiber deficit, you can add the pulp from a juice machine (and there will be a lot of it) into the batter for pancakes, muffins and other baked goods – or even mix it into a soup or stir-fry. Add the pulp to whole grains and your system will be fiber-fortified and super (ahem) functional.

hamilton beach juice ad

I’ve never owned a juicing machine before, so I was super excited when Hamilton Beach sent me a Big Mouth Pro Juice Extractor to test out. With a stainless-steel look exterior, this juicer is both BEAUTY and BEAST – and I’m saying that from the admiration of a CrossFitting, gym-going, functional strength-loving sort girl who still likes a streamlined look and attractive aesthetic.  This extractor ripped through the sturdy produce I slid through the super-sized chute – whole beets, carrots and big hunks of ginger root were reduced to liquid and pulp in three seconds – no peeling, coring or seeding required.  It was so powerful that it startled me at first – and then I became addicted to the high-speed, pulverizing power. If you love the zing of ginger, it’s worth it to own a juice extractor just to get ginger juice – you literally just put the washed-off gnarly root in the feed chute (no peeling), push a button and, voila – liquid ginger gold to use as a digestion, anti-nausea and anti-inflammatory aid.Benefits of Ginger - TheFitFork.com

Head over to Hamilton Beach’s blog at EveryDayGoodThinking.com and find out what else I thought about the juice extractor machine in my guest post.  And, you’ll definitely want to try out my recipe for Golden Beet Carrot Zinger (pictured at top of post)– there is so much goodness in just one little shot of this delicious detox juice.

Hamilton Beach Big Mouth Juice Extractor -- Win at TheFitFork.comAlso, enter below (through the Rafflecopter App)for your chance to WIN a Big Mouth Pro Juice Extractor! Whoohoo!

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