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? 

 

 

Gone Fishing . . . Kayaking and Wakeboarding #FlavorYourAdventure

This “Flavor Your Adventure” post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds. For more snack ideas to “Flavor Your Adventure” this summer, visit Blue Diamond Almonds on Facebook , Twitter, and Instagram .”

Kayaking is a great way to get a workout at the lake.I love everything about the lake and am so lucky to be surrounded by so many bodies of water where I live! I’m an active, warm-weather loving person, so naturally, all the sports that a lake welcomes get me excited – I’m  a happy girl on a waterski, wake board and stand up paddle board or rowing around in a kayak for a friendly race or to explore unchartered territory.  I also like to take a trail run around the lake and then jump in to cool off! And, when I need a break, there’s no lack of relaxing choices — fishing, floating or snoozing in a hammock.Balsamic Veggie Sandwich and Almonds make a balanced, healthy lunch.

Staying fueled up for a busy day in the sun requires balanced meals and healthy snacks – and, of course, it should all taste fantastic and be easy to tote around!  Almonds are probably my favorite way to flavor an adventure – these versatile nuts are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and heart healthy fats.  Almonds are one of the most abundant sources of protein, fiber, calcium, niacin and vitamin E when it comes to tree nuts.  I’m a fan of getting enough protein throughout the day to keep my motor running and almonds never fail – a one-ounce serving (about 23 almonds) adds an extra six grams of protein along with heart healthy fats to my meal or snack. Research has shown that the fats and protein in nuts curb hunger longer that other food choices, leading to less mindless snacking and overeating throughout the day.

Blue Diamond Almonds - Lightly SaltedBlue Diamond Almonds come in so many different flavors that my taste buds never get tired, but honestly, the lightly salted roasted almonds are perhaps my favorite – simple and just enough salt without being overpowering!  The six-ounce cans are sized just right for taking down to the dock and sharing with family and friends – plus, I appreciate that almonds are a snack that needs no refrigeration. There is NO way I’m putting my snack in the same cooler where my husband keeps the finishing worms!

Fishing on the lake

Fishing at dusk means a late dinner, eating almonds keeps the “hangries” away in a healthy way!

Have you spent time on the lake this summer? How are you flavoring your adventure? Are you a simple salted nut person or do you like flavors that are bold and exotic? Please share in the comments – XOXO, Jennifer

Kale and Caramelized Onion Sweet Potatoes + Favorite Fall Recipes

Check out Recipes for a Fit & Flavorful Fall

by The Fit Fork at Foodie.com

If you take pleasure in eating the signature dishes of the season, fall is a particularly comforting time of year.  Just thinking about the bounty of upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and autumn harvest inspired recipes gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling of well-being of being at Grandma’s house with all the family gathered round.

Pumpkin aside, the most iconic ingredient of autumn may be the sweet potato. Even though this practically royal root is actually enjoyed year-round to the tune of 2.6 billion pounds in the US, it makes the most of its popularity in October, November and December.  Think about it — if you haven’t had sweet potatoes on your holiday dinner table, you may not be normal.

What is normal in my kitchen is to skip mucking up this orange tuber with marshmallows (why, WHY?!) and instead mash up and mix in other healthy ingredients – like the healthy greens, onions, coconut milk and wellness enhancing spices in my recipe for Kale and Caramelized Onion Sweet Potatoes below. If said it before, but I’ll say it again – I love using the sweet potato as a way to fuel my distance running, it’s the perfect choice for healthy carbohydrate loading. Not only does the sweet potato have a lower glycemic index than the traditional white potato (meaning it will be deployed as energy to your body at a more steady state), it is also packed with other nutrition that benefits athletes including vitamins A and C,  manganese, calcium, potassium, iron, vitamin B6 and fiber.

Bowl of Mashed Sweet Potatoes

This Kale and Caramelized Onion Sweet Potatoes dish is the one I made earlier in the week to complement my Cinnamon-Rubbed Braised Lamb with Cranberry Ginger Sauce.  This recipe is so yummy, it’s BAAAAA-d to the bone!  And, by the way — totally approved by all my Paleo diet friends.Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Greens and Onions

Kale and Caramelized Onion Sweet Potatoes Recipe

  • 2 lb (about 2 large) sweet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, finely sliced
  • ¼ cup white wine (or broth)
  • 4 cups shredded kale (or other winter greens)
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

 Instructions:

  1. Peel the sweet potato and cut into even sized 1 inch cubes. Place the sweet potatoes in a large pot filled with water. Boil uncovered for 15 minutes or until softened.
  2. Drain the sweet potatoes in colander and set aside.
  3. In bottom of same pot, add olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, for approximately 15 minutes or until turning golden brown and caramelizing. Add wine to pot to deglaze pan and then quickly add kale or other greens and continue to cook for an additional 2 minutes, or until wilted. Turn off heat.
  4. Add sweet potatoes, coconut milk, ginger, and cinnamon and mash everything together to desired consistency. If needed, add a splash more coconut milk. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serves 4.

What is your favorite sweet potato recipe? 

This post is sponsored by Foodie.com – however, all comments, opinions and recipes are my own.

Showy Sides | Sweet Potato Skillet Stack Recipe

jennifer fisher sweet potato skillet stack textI’m going to keep this short and sweet (potatoes)! In addition to the Bourbon Cranberry Apricot Relish, one of my other contributions to the family’s Thanksgiving feast was this delicious dish – Sweet Potato Skillet Stack with Sriracha Orange Sauce. So pretty to look at and easy to make – you use the same skillet to roast the potatoes and simmer down the sauce on the stove top. Slicing the potatoes into nearly paper-thin slices is the most tedious detail, but it’s made much easier with a mandolin (watch your fingers) or food processor slicing attachment.

jennifer fisher thefitfork sweet potato ruffle

Sweet Potato Skillet Stack with Sriracha Orange Sauce Recipe

  • 4 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • sea salt to taste
  • 4 ounces orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger root
  • 2 teaspoons. sriracha
  • ¼ cup chopped green onions, including green tops
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

1) Preheat oven to 375°. In small microwave-safe bowl, melt butter and then mix together with olive oil; set aside.

2) Peel sweet potatoes and, using a mandolin or sharp knife, slice crosswise into very thin slices (1/8” to 1/16”).

jennifer fisher thefitfork.com slicing sweet potatoes

Slice potatoes as thinly and evenly as possible using a sharp knife, mandolin or food processor.

3) Coat bottom and sides of 12-inch cast iron skillet with two tablespoons of the butter-oil mixture; reserve the rest. Arrange the sliced sweet potatoes in concentric stacked rings until the entire pan is filled. Sprinkle tops with sea salt.

jennifer fisher thefitfork.com sweet potatoes skillet

Ready for the oven

4) Roast potatoes for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the middle of the potatoes are tender and the tops begin to brown and crisp.  If potatoes were sliced on the thick side or packed very tightly, they may take longer to cook.  Remove from oven.

5) In small bowl, stir together orange juice, coconut sugar, ginger and sriracha sauce. Drizzle mixture over potatoes and bring to boil over medium-heat on stovetop.  Lower heat and continue to simmer for approximately 5 minutes or until orange juice mixture is reduced to a thicker state. Sprinkle tops of potatoes with green onions and parsley and serve warm.

Serves 8.

 

I have sweet potatoes coming out my ears! Due to the holidays, they’ve been on sale for 25 cents a pound at my grocery store. Needless to say, I’ve been picking up a couple pounds every day “just in case.” Good thing I have a lot of favorite sweet potato recipes to finish off my stockpile. Check out all this yam-y yumminess:

sweet potato collage

Southwester Sweet Potato & Chickpea Soup

Spicy Beef & Sweet Potato Samosas

Jamaican Beef & Sweet Potato Kebabs

Baked Spicy Sweet Potato Chips

SuperFoodie: Southwestern Sweet Potato Chickpea Soup Recipe

Sweet potatoes. It’s hard to believe that I strongly disliked them until just a few years ago. I thank some overly sweet marshmallow sweet potato casseroles for the aversion and an amazing array of more savory dishes for my newfound love. In fact, I adore sweet potatoes so much today that they are my go-to carb source for pre-marathon race fuel. Plus, my recipe for Spicy Beef and Sweet Potato Samosas almost won me a million dollars in the Pillsbury Bake-Off.  Oh, some other potato appetizer won, but that’s okay — I still stand by the funky orange tuber!

sweet-potatoes (1)

Not native to America, the sweet potato was brought over by Columbus from the West Indies. Thriving in many parts of the country, folks during the Revolutionary War relied on this early “superfood” as a primary source of nourishment. One physician during the era anointed the tuberous root as an “indispensable vegetable” and I couldn’t agree more. The sweet potato is loaded with calcium, potassium and vitamins A and C. The Center for Science in the Public Interest rates sweet potatoes as the number one most nutritious vegetable on the planet because they such are so nutritionally rich. Sweet potatoes rate low on the glycemic index which keeps blood sugar levels from spiking. Sweet potatoes have a glycemic load of just 17 while a regular white potato comes in at 29. Finally, a carbohydrate you can feel great about eating!

Since I was planning soup as our main dish for dinner, I wanted to add something to maximize the protein – chickpeas seemed an innocuous ingredient choice that would pump up the overall protein by 6 grams per serving (for a total of about 18 grams per serving) without altering the taste.  Knowing my family likes slightly spicy, southwestern flavors, I also added just enough Ancho chile powder to take down the sweet a notch without making it “hot.”  Soup’s on — hope you enjoy!

ancho sweet potato chickpea soup

 

spicy sweet potato and chick pea soupUpdate March 2017: This soup was featured in Taste of Home’s Healthy Cooking Annual Recipes cookbook.

 

 

 

 

 

Southwestern Sweet Potato Chickpea Soup Recipe

  •  1 ½ pounds sweet potatoes, halved lengthwise (about medium)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground Ancho Chile pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (eg: homemade, canned or reconstituted)
  • 1 15-oz can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ounce fresh Parmesan cheese, shaved (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 green onions, bubs and greens sliced

Place potatoes, cut sides down, in an 11 x 7-inch microwave-safe baking dish. Add 1/4 cup water; cover with plastic wrap. Microwave at HIGH 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Cool slightly; discard potato skins.
Heat stock pot over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 1 minute or until translucent. Stir in cumin and Ancho powder. Scoop sweet potatoes out of skin and add to pot along with stock and chickpeas.

Place half of sweet potato mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters); blend until smooth. Pour pureed soup into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining mixture. Stir in salt.
If serving as an entrée, divide soup evenly among 4 bowls (6 to 8 bowls for soup course); sprinkle Parmesan cheese evenly over top. Garnish with sliced green onions.

Oh, and if you’re in a breakfast-for-dinner mood don’t miss my “Top of the Morning” Sirloin Sweet Potato Hash, it’s great way to fuel up for the weekend and the leftovers make fast and filling breakfast tacos come Monday.

leftover-beef-sweetpotato-hash

Superfoodie: Spicy Sesame Salmon on Seared Watermelon

jennifer fisher - thefitfork.com - spicy sesame salmon seared watermelon

I love living life on the “wedge.” I’m crazy like that. Watermelon is one of my favorite fruits. Actually, it’s a vegetable related to cucumbers and squash, but don’t tell that to my kids. Everyone in the family agrees that there’s not much that tastes better in the heat of the summer than a big slice of juicy watermelon – the five of us have no problem polishing off a whole melon in one day! A simple and healthy dessert for picnics and pool parties, watermelon can be enjoyed right off the rind or dressed with a little spicy surprise – check out my recipe for Watermelon with Spicy Salsa that was once featured in Better Homes & Gardens.

Last night I decided to add a little sophisticated spin to watermelon and put it on the dinner plate as something other than just a sweet side. My experimenting has been named Spicy Sesame Salmon on Seared Watermelon and it is super delish, especially topped with my favorite fish – salmon. Hey, that’s two superfoods in the same recipe for maximized nutrition!  I served it on a bed of organic red quinoa and broccoli, but you can tweak that to suit your tastes.

Spicy Sesame Salmon on Seared Watermelon Recipe

For Watermelon & Fish:

  • 1 cross section watermelon (1″ thick)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • 2 wild caught salmon filets, skinned

For Sauce:

  • ¼ cup sweet chili sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

watermelon salmon

Cut watermelon into 2 planks approximately 1” thick, 6” long and 3” wide. Add olive oil to skillet and bring heat to medium high. Add watermelon and sear for approximately 2 minutes on each side, or until watermelon flesh is beginning to caramelize.  Remove from skillet, season with sea salt and set aside until fish is ready.

Keep heat on and add fish to skillet used for watermelon; leave residual juices and oil in there.  Saute for approximately 5 -6 minutes per side until cooked through and fish is lightly browned on the outside, firm and flaky.

In a small bowl, whisk together chile sauce, Sriracha sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, oil and sesame seeds. Pour over fish during last 2 minutes of cooking to glaze salmon and warm up.

To serve, place fish atop seared watermelon plank and spoon extra spicy sesame sauce from pan over the top.*

Serves 2.

love watermelon

More reasons to love watermelon:

Low Calorie: Watermelon is basically free of fat, cholesterol and sodium and has only 80 calories in a 2 cup serving. Plus, with a high water content, along with some fiber, this melon gives you a feeling a fullness that will help curb unhealthy snacking.

Nutrient Rich: An abundance of vitamins and minerals are found in watermelon including Vitamin A (25% DRV), Vitamin B6 (6% DRV), Vitamin C (30% DRV), Thiamine (6% DRV), Magnesium (6% DRV), and Potassium (8% DRV).

Lycopene Leader: Watermelon actually trumps tomatoes when it comes to lycopene, offering up to 20 milligrams in a two-cup serving. Not only does this amazing antioxidant give watermelon its pink-red pigment, it’s an efficient oxygen scavenger that helps to repair cell damage caused from daily living.

Heart Health: Eating six cups of watermelon (not that hard, trust me) increases free arginine which maintains cardiovascular function. Plus, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, as opposed to a diet filled with bad fats and processed foods has been shown to contribute to longer living.

Hydration: Watermelon is a tasty way to replenish body fluids, plus it is naturally infused with electrolytes.  Because watermelon flesh is comprised of 92% water, eating 1 cup of diced watermelon is the equivalent of drinking 7.36 ounces of water.  Get super hydrated with my recipe for Watermelon Blueberry Nuun Agua Fresca!

Facts come from the National Watermelon Promotion Board.

Superfoodie: 16-cal Strawberry Lemonade Coconut Water Pops

strawberries thefitfork.com

Are you ready to cool off with Strawberry Lemonade Coconut Water Pops? Just as yummy as a tall glass of the summer-time sipper (maybe even tastier) and loaded with potassium from the coconut water – a great way to replace the nutrient lost through sweat while running or working out.

Strawberries are a bona fide superfood, high in vitamin C and other antioxidants. Studies show that eating this red fruit has a myriad of benefits including reduced inflammation and cell damage, increased folate levels for heart health, and a lessened chance of age-related ocular issues. These are just a few perks!

And, there’s no need to feel guilty about enjoying this frozen confection, each pop only has 16 calories!  I’m also sharing with you some fun facts about strawberries and some strawberry-inspired recipes from some fellow Fitfluential foodies.

jennifer fisher - thefitfork.com - strawberry lemonade coconut water pops

Strawberry Lemonade Coconut Water Pops Recipe

  • 1 6-ounce bottle coconut water (I used Zico)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Stevia
  • 1 ¼ cups fresh sliced strawberries

Place all ingredients in a blender and pulse on and off for about 30 seconds until everything is blended. The strawberries should be a little chunky.  Pour liquid into 3-ounce freezer pop molds. Freeze for at least 3 hour or until frozen solid. Makes 6.

strawberry lemonade coconut water pops

strawberry facts

  • There are 200 seeds on the average strawberry.
  • Organic strawberries have more vitamin C and antioxidants than regular berries.
  • Regular strawberries have one of the highest concentrations of pesticide residues of all produce tracked by the USDA. If organic berries aren’t available, soak your strawberries in water for 2 minutes before eating.
  • Strawberries stop ripening as soon as they’re picked. For best taste, select bright red berries with their caps intact.
  • Don’t wash strawberries until ready to eat them, otherwise they’ll spoil too fast.
  • Along with cherries and grapes, strawberries are one of the few sources of ellagic acid, a compound shown to prevent carcinogens from turning healthy cells into cancerous ones.
  • Every man, woman and child in the US each eats 3.4 pounds of fresh strawberries per year plus another 1.8 pounds of frozen strawberries.We should all eat more!
  • One cup of strawberries has just 46 calories.

strawberry recipes

balsamicberries2

Naturally Sweetened Balsamic Berries from Brenda at SugarFreeMom.com

chicken with strawberry basil sauce

Grilled Chicken with Strawberry Bail Sauce from Gina at RunningtotheKitchen.com

strawberry peach guacamole

Sweet & Spicy Strawberry Peach Guacamole from Lindsay at TheLeanGreenBean.com