When determining how super a super food may be for you, there are many factors to consider. Among them: Are you male or female? Are you looking for a food with disease-fighting properties? Are you an athlete? If so, are you training for endurance competition or something requiring short, quick bursts and maximum muscle strength?
These are all good questions to ask yourself before you map out a super-food menu. When you Google super foods, you’ll find that many people have created a list. One list might not look anything like another and that doesn’t mean that one list is better than another. It just means a lot of foods fall under the broad heading of “super.”
Everybody’s definition of super food is a little different. Here is mine: A nutrient-dense food packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, key amino acids and fiber. A super food might provide a rich source of one or more of these nutrients.
Which super foods are best for volleyball athlete? Well, first of all, let me say that you shouldn’t narrow it down to just 10. I’ve made a list of 10 of my favorites and they’re all good volleyball foods.
I would recommend that you work them into your diet. But there are lots of other nutritious foods that are good fuel for volleyball players, so don’t view this as your only menu. Also, consider what time of year it is. You may choose different super foods based on where you are in your competitive season or the local growing season.
Don’t get stressed out trying to cram all the super foods from one list into one meal. Look at what you are currently eating and add in super foods where you can.
A super-food snack or meal after training and competition is a great place to start! For example, try local cherries and a Greek yogurt following your afternoon practice.
With that, here’s my list. Enjoy!
Sweet potatoesStarchy veggie, rich in vitamin C and A as well as iron and copper, which are important for muscle function.
KaleType of cabbage, rich in antioxidants, vitamin K, A, B6, calcium and iron (spinach and other leafy veggies are a nice substitute). Walnuts High in fiber, vitamin E, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins.
BeetsRich in antioxidants and nitrate (nitrate stimulates nitric oxide levels to enhance blood flow during exercise).
CherriesRich in antioxidants, vitamin A, C, folate, fiber and provide anti-inflammatory properties.
CoconutHealthy source of fatty acids, rich in vitamin E, K, iron and contains anti-microbial and anti-viral properties.
QuinoaA whole grain rich in complex carbohydrates, protein and B vitamins (can substitute for oatmeal in the morning or brown rice in the evening).
SalmonRich in B vitamins like B12 and B6, provides an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and contains anti-inflammatory properties (choose wild if possible).
Greek yogurtAbundant source of calcium and protein, especially the amino acid leucine, which is important for muscle recovery (choose low-fat plain when possible and sweeten naturally to your taste with honey and fresh berries).
Low-fat cottage cheeseExcellent source of protein; add chopped fruit or veggies to make a quick snack or use in smoothies as a protein source.
Shawn Dolan, PhD, RD, CSSD is a sport dietitian with the United States Olympic Committee. She works primarily with team sports based in the Los Angeles area and the United States Olympic Training Center at Chula Vista.