The magic bullet. Whole food super pills. Hours of energy in a bottle. Easy, quick, short-cut, convenient nutrition. If you’re looking for any of these, this particular post is not for you. To love the bike, I’m proposing that you have to take care of and love your body…the slow-food, whole-food, real-food, old-fashioned way.
This week, we’re going to get back to basics. To eating fresh, raw, whole foods that promote health. It’s time to eat your veggies.
Recipe of the week: Homemade Whole-Food Ranch Dressing
- 1 cup organic cottage cheese
- 3-4 tsp water or milk
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 small garlic clove, crushed
- 2 Tbsp chopped onion
- ¼ cup Italian Flat-leaf Parsley, chopped
- 2 Tbsp fresh Chives, chopped
- 4 tsp fresh dill weed (2 tsp dry)
- ¼tsp salt, or to taste
- Fresh ground pepper, to taste
Add ingredients to blender or food processor and blend until smooth. (About 3 min.) Enjoy!
Or, if you prefer non-dairy, substitute 8 oz. silken tofu and 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil for the cottage cheese.
Nutrition information: (per 2 Tbsp) 20 calories , 0.5 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 185 mg sodium, 1 gram carbohydrates, 1 grams sugars, 4 grams protein, 25 mg calcium
Surprisingly, I’m not going to write specifically about the ingredients in this recipe. Sure, they’re great. And, I could go on and on (as you know) about the benefits of garlic, onion, parsley, pepper, lemon juice, etc. However, this week’s recipe is actually a vehicle to a super-charged nutrient-dense diet. By having a good dressing on hand, you can load up on vegetables every day. And I mean load.
I don’t recommend vegetables just for my health…it’s for yours, too. They contain components that cannot be isolated, put into a pill, or chemically derived. Many of these components are not macronutrients (carbs, proteins, or fats), nor do they provide calories or direct energy necessarily. They do, however, provide huge benefit to overall health. They are miniscule. They are alive and therefore reduced, damaged, or killed with processing or high-heat cooking. They are not well understood. But somehow, when consumed, they join the fight against the Big 3 cellular foes: inflammation, free radicals, and toxins. In fact, vegetables:
- Reduce inflammation in your body. Specifically, they phytochemicals which are plant chemicals that contain protective, disease-preventing and disease-fighting compounds. In some vegetables, such as broccoli, we’re talking hundreds of types of phytochemicals in a serving.
- Reduce oxidative stress from free radicals – many vegetables contain an abundance of antioxidants, which fight damaging free radicals and reduce the destruction to your cells.
- Provide nutrients that promote cellular detoxification – our bodies have systems in place to detoxify our blood, our organs, and our cells. However, these systems work best when they have the right tools and ingredients. Specific vegetables provide nutrients that either increase the detox compounds our bodies make, or provide compounds that directly work to detoxify cells that have been harboring toxins from polluted air, pesticides, food additives, and more.
What’s this mean to you, as a cyclist? It means more days on the bike. More days loving the bike. Less feeling aged, feeling tired, feeling bogged down. Sure, you can ride, and likely even ride well on a highly processed, fast-food diet…for a while. But, if this is your mode of operation, your body doesn’t like it. It’s getting clogged…and sooner or later it will rebel and start to drag.
A high-vegetable, fresh, whole food diet, on the other hand, can do wonders for your body. It will help it be and feel healthy. I’ve seen it reduce headaches, digestive issues, cholesterol, high blood sugars, and chronic fatigue. I’ve seen cyclists ride better and win big when they focus on real, whole foods that support cellular and whole body health.
Now that you can’t wait to load them on, how much? I recommend 3-4 cups, or servings, of fresh vegetables per day (or if using frozen, 1.5-2 cups cooked…but, the more raw and fresh, the better). For me, this usually manifests as one large, whole carrot at lunch and ~ 3 cups of salad at dinner. For the most nutrition benefit, I recommend generally choosing very vibrant or dark vegetables (there are exceptions to this rule). Some of my favorite powerhouse vegetables include: kale, spinach, savoy cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, carrots, tomatoes, bell peppers, garlic, onions, and chili peppers.
Choosing Organic without Busting Your Budget
Since the levels of pesticides that reside in vegetables vary, you can save money by buying some organics and some non-organics. The highest pesticide non-organic vegetables are:
- Celery, Bell Peppers, Spinach, and Kale/Collard Greens – Do your best to always buy these organic.
- On the other hand, the lowest pesticide non-organic vegetables are:
- Onions, Avocado, Sweet Corn, Sweet Peas, Asparagus, Cabbage, Eggplant, Broccoli, and Sweet Potato. If you don’t have the funds to buy all of your produce organic, you can buy these ones non-organic.
For any vegetables not listed, buy organic if/when you can.
Recover after a Hard Ride
One of the best times to devour high-antioxidant foods is when recovering after a hard ride. Free radicals are usually abundant, and the anti-oxidants can neutralize them and reduce cell damage. For starters, if you drink a recovery smoothie, add a large handful of spinach to it. Or, if you’re looking for recovery options, try a Chicken Ranch Sandwich with:
- 1 whole-wheat pita round, tortilla, small to medium bagel, or 2 slices bread
- 2-4 Tbsp High-Protein Homemade Ranch Dressing
- ½ cup Spinach or Kale leaves
- 1 slice tomato
- ¼ avocado, sliced
- 3 ounces cooked chicken breast
Assemble as a sandwich and eat within 30 minutes of finishing your ride.
Why go to all the trouble of making your own dressing when you could simply buy one from the store? You’ll be hard-pressed to find a whole-food, real-food dressing on the shelves. And, since we’re determined to eat our veggies, we might as well top them with something that’s as beneficial as they are. This week, you can start dinner with a ½ plate of beautiful, colorful vegetables and top it with a healthy, high-protein dressing. You can flood your cells with phytochemicals and nutrients that will heal them and prevent damage. You can keep taking care of your body, so you can keep loving your bike, from your cells on up.