As we move into the fall, building an eating plan that supports your teaching schedule is fundamental. Seasonal superfoods are known to be rich in a plethora of nutrients that support immunity and vitality. But are these options worth the buzzy headlines? And if so, how can dance educators access their benefits?
While deemed nutrient-dense, the term “superfoods” is nothing more than tactical marketing. In fact, any food can technically be “super” if it provides you with a combination of energy and nutrients—vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. A food-first approach is always encouraged, and a varied meal plan is most helpful to access a broad spectrum of these nutrients. With an array of colorful produce abundant throughout the year, educators can take advantage of a few super mealtime additions to reap the benefits.
No. 1: Lycopene
Seasonal sources: Watermelon and tomatoes
Lycopene is a plant compound responsible for giving red produce its distinctive hue. As a potent antioxidant, lycopene protects cellular vitality. The notable lycopene-rich fruits include watermelon and tomatoes. Both can even play a role in supporting hydration during intense teaching sessions. Watermelon has a high water content while tomatoes are rich in potassium. Add color to your plate by incorporating tomatoes and watermelon into salads, salsas, and even as a base for chilled soups.
No. 2: Anthocyanins
Seasonal sources: Blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries
Anthocyanins are the plant chemicals responsible for the blue and purple hues in a variety of fruits. Associations exist between the consumption of foods rich in anthocyanins and heart health. Since berries often become costly when outside temperatures drop, frozen additions are a perfect substitute. You can enjoy them on their own or as the perfect ingredient blended into a smoothie. As another bonus, berries are rich in vitamin C, supporting the production of collagen, a bodily protein that contributes to the maintenance of healthy joints.
No. 3: Zeaxanthin
Seasonal sources: Dark leafy greens, like spinach and kale
As you continue to add color to your plate, consider the hues of dark leafy greens. These are potent in another phytonutrient known as zeaxanthin. Leafy greens are also rich in iron, a nutrient that can run low for some dancers. Fresh, frozen, raw, or cooked, leafy greens can be added to salads and omelets, or blended into smoothies for a nutrient-packed and flavor-neutral boost.
No. 4: Carotenoids
Seasonal sources: Yellow and orange veggies, like carrots and squash
Carotenoids, another family of strong antioxidants notable for supporting eye health, are responsible for the orange and yellow hues of many fruits and veggies like carrots and squash. Add these to soups and chilis, for an easy-to-prep option after long days.
No. 5: Omega-3’s
Seasonal sources: Avocadoes and tuna
Omega-3 fats represent a group of unsaturated fats known to play a role in reducing inflammation and, subsequently, supporting heart health. Avocadoes are especially rich in these heart-healthy fats and, as a bonus, are also rich in fiber. Fiber aids digestion and helps to maintain stable energy during longer periods of teaching. This creamy fruit can be used as a spread on nearly any sandwich or wrap. Canned tuna is another way to boost your intake of omega-3 fats. It’s also a reliable source of protein to keep you feeling full and satiated.
Embracing your seasonal harvest is a unique way to access a broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants. Prioritizing a diverse range of foods, whether they’re deemed “super” or not, is the goal. As educators, modeling supportive mealtimes will not only help your dancers, it will also promote the sustainability of your teaching.