Dried figs can be found year round but there is nothing like the unique taste and texture of ripe fresh figs. Ripe figs are sweet with a chewy flesh, smooth skin, and a bit of a crunch thanks to the seeds. Figs grow on the Ficus tree and are a member of the Mulberry family. Depending on the variety, fig colors can range dramatically and their textures change subtly. The majority of figs are dried which creates a portable sweet and nutritious snack that can be enjoyed anytime. Figs are a good source of dietary fiber and potassium. Figs also contain manganese, iron, vitamins A, B, and C, folic acid, and zinc.
In the area of health, figs are a sweet way to lose weight thanks to being a good source of dietary fiber. As you may have read (from these articles and from other sources) fiber and fiber-rich foods may have a positive effect on weight management by helping you to stay fuller longer. Fiber rich foods also help keep your digestive system functioning in tip top shape. Research has also shown that fiber found in fruit and cereal may be protective against postmenopausal breast cancer.
Potassium, such as that found in figs and bananas, can help control blood pressure. Most people (in the most general sense) do not eat enough fruits and vegetables but normally consume high amounts of sodium, thanks to salt being added frequently to processed or canned foods. These people may be deficient in potassium. Research conducted by the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) found that a low intake of potassium-rich foods coupled with a high intake of sodium can lead to hypertension. In addition, figs are a fruit source of calcium, which is important for bone health but potassium also plays a role as well. Figs’ potassium may help counteract the increase urinary calcium loss caused by previously mentioned high-sodium diets, thus helping to further prevent the loss of bone mass.
As far as hair health goes, in a September of 2010 article written by Evelyn Ngugi for naturallycurly.com (entitled “Top 12 Snacks for Super Hair”) figs were listed among her top twelve snacks for “super hair” (as well as many other previously featured Super Foods). The nutrients found in figs are right in line with not only a healthy diet but a healthy “hair diet” as well. So if you want a mini health and hair boost on the go dried figs are acceptable snacks, but if you want to get the most out of figs (and pretty much any fruit or vegetable) fresh ripe figs(and many will add organic) are the way to go.
We all know that a healthful diet and physical activity are essential but how do we put the two together in our daily routine? How can I plan my meals to optimize my exercise performance? What do we eat before and after physical activity? When is the best time to eat lighter versus heavier meals? The truth is, when and what you eat can be important to how you feel when you exercise. So here are a few tips that may help you plan your meals a little better around your physical activity.
-Be careful not to overdo it when it comes to how much you eat before engaging in exercise. Here are a few general rules of thumb:
- Eat your large meals at least three to four hours before exercising.
- Eat small meals two to three hours before exercising.
- Small snacks can be consumed as early as one hour before activity.
Why does this matter? Eating too much or a large heavy meal before you exercise can leave you feeling sluggish (think back to every Thanksgiving dinner that required a nap after). Large heavy meals can even cause diarrhea or stomach cramps if consumed too close to physical activity. On the flip side, eating too little may not give you enough energy to keep you energized though the completion of your workout. For example, if you exercise in the morning you should get up early enough to eat a smaller breakfast about two hours before your workout. This keeps you from eating too much and from eating too little.
-To help your muscles to recover and to replace your glycogen stores, you want to eat a meal that contains both protein and carbohydrates within two hours after you exercise, if possible (this can count as a snack). Now, if you’re not hungry after your workout then you should reach for juice or a low calorie sports drink. Some excellent choices for food after working out are yogurt and fruit, a reduced fat peanut butter sandwich, low fat string cheese and crackers, nuts and dried fruit or even a regular meal with meat (or a non-meat protein source for vegetarians), starch, cooked veggies or a salad.
-Snack well. Most people can eat small snack right before and even during exercise. Honestly, it just depends on how you feel, so do what works best for you. Eating snacks just before physical activity probably won’t give you energy right away, but they can keep blood sugar up and keep hunger from distracting you. A healthy snack is especially important if you intend to workout several hours after a meal.
-Don’t forget about fluids! They too help to optimize your workouts. Adequate fluids should be taken in before, during, and after exercise to help keep dehydration at bay. To help stay well hydrated for exercise, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends the following guidelines:
- Drink about 2 to 3 cups (0.5 to 0.7 liters) of water during the two to three hours before you workout.
- Drink about ½ to 1 cup (0.12 to 0.23 liters) of water every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout. You may need more the warmer the weather is and the larger your body is.
- Drink about 2 to 3 cups (0.5 to 0.7 liters) of water after you work out for ever pound (0.5 kilogram) of weight lost during the workout.
Generally speaking, water is the best way to replace lost fluids but if you are exercising more than 60 minutes, you should use a low calorie sports drink to help replace electrolytes and a bit of energy lost during the workout.
That’s pretty much it. Keep in mind that these are just general recommendations. Special populations (such as those who may be diabetic) may require a more specified plan from a registered dietitian or physician. When it comes to eating and exercising, everyone is different, so let experience be your guide. Pay attention to how you feel during your workout and your overall performance and adjust accordingly. A journal may be helpful in monitoring your body’s reaction to meals and snacks so that you can plan accordingly.
Until next week…