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Two Superstar Foods You’ve Never Tried

  • By Melanie McQuaid and Pip Taylor
  • Published Dec 31, 2012
  • Updated Dec 31, 2012 at 11:06 AM UTC
Photo: Nils Nilsen

Learn the benefits of adding beetroot juice and freekeh (aka roasted green grains) to your diet.

Is Beetroot Juice a Magic Elixir?

Drinking beetroot juice may help improve your cycling performance according to a recent study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. In the study, the juice helped male cyclists ride an amazing 2.8 percent faster over 4K and 16K time trials. Researchers randomly selected athletes to drink 0.5L of beetroot juice (an excellent source of nitrates), while others took a placebo without nitrates immediately before performing a simulated time trial. The athletes who drank the beetroot increased cycling power output by 2.8 percent compared to a previous time trial performed at the same VO₂max. Nitrate blood levels nearly doubled after drinking the juice, which reduced the oxygen cost of exercising muscles and allowed for higher power values.

This is not the first study to show that nitrates improve athletic performance. Previous studies showed that nitrate supplementation reduced the “steady-state” oxygen cost of submaximal exercise by 5 percent and increased the period of time to exhaustion for high-intensity cycling by 15 percent.

Where to find nitrates: Nitrates are not just found in beets (note: Be cautious of drinking too much beetroot juice—some athletes have reported that excessive amounts can cause GI distress). You can also get them from celery, lettuce, radishes, spinach and many other vegetables.
//Melanie McQuaid

Get Your Freekeh On

You may never have heard of freekeh (aka roasted green grains) but the super food has been around the Middle East for centuries.

Why you should try it: Freekeh contains more protein, vitamins and minerals than mature whole wheat and most other grains, it’s high in fiber, low in starch and fat and it’s even a source of beneficial prebiotics, promoting the growth of healthy bacteria in the digestive system.

What it tastes like: It has a firm, nutty texture and a rich, slightly smoky flavor.

How to use it: You can cook it on its own, simply seasoned and drizzled with olive oil, or use it to replace barley, pasta or potatoes. The simplest way to cook freekeh is to use the absorption method (similar to cooking rice) or steam it in the microwave.

Or try one of these ideas:

For breakfast, create an oatmeal-like concoction by adding dried and fresh fruits, a little juice or yogurt and some nuts and cinnamon to cooked grains.

Form veggie burger patties of cooked grains, beaten egg and chopped herbs and spices.

Add it to soups and stews in place of barley or potatoes.

Make a summer pilaf—add chopped fresh vegetables (such as tomatoes, cucumbers, finely chopped carrot), herbs (mint, parsley) and plenty of good-quality olive oil to cooked and cooled grains.

Use in place of rice to make a hot risotto.

Find freekeh in the natural food section of your grocery store, typically in a brown box near rice and other grains. For cooking tips, recipes and recommendations for where to buy, check out Freekehlicious.com.   //Pip Taylor

FILED UNDER: Nutrition / Recipes TAGS:

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