The following is an extract from Rich Roll and wife Julie Piatt’s book The Plantpower Way. For more information of Rich Roll’s diet, nutrition advice and plant-based recipes buy the book here or subscribe to his Plantpower Meal Planner.
Throughout my twenties and thirties, I abused my body with a revolving door of junk food, drugs. alcohol and pretty much anything I could find to numb my discontentment. Overhauling my diet played a crucial role in my midlife transformation.
I’m not a professional athlete. But over several years, I managed to balance my life of 20 to 30-hour training weeks and crazy endurance events with my (now former) career as an entertainment lawyer, my busy family life and writing books.
And yet despite the significant physical, professional, mental and emotional demands of my everyday life, I can’t recall the last time I got sick or missed a workout, family obligation, or professional deadline because I was too tired. And despite my advancing age, I continue to improve as an athlete — getting leaner, stronger and faster each successive year.
How is that possible? Superfoods.
Admittedly, the term is subject to cavalier overuse. And the purported health benefits are frequently overblown. But through personal experimentation, I am convinced that my intake of these plants (some uncommon, others more mainstream) has played a significant role in helping me break the glass ceiling of my potential.
If you’ve read the best-selling book ‘Born To Run’, then you know these tiny seeds are an ancient Aztec staple known as the “ultimate runner’s food” for their ability to increase oxygen uptake, impede dehydration, and provide sustained energy over long periods of time. One of the big critiques of a plant-based diet is that it is deficient in healthy Omega-3 EFAs (essentially fatty acids). Nonsense. Plenty of plant-based foods are packed with this important nutrient, and chia seeds are one of them.
Let’s first dispel the elephant in the room. This seed does not contain THC and and will not cause you to fail a drug test. Much like chia, they are high in omega-3 EFAs, dietary fiber, and important minerals including iron and calcium. In addition, hemp seeds are also considered a fantastic source of bioavailable, high quality protein — higher than any other nutritious seed. Hemp seed consumption can prevent arterial plaque buildup and reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, and fatigue while increasing sustained energy, immune system functionality and circulation. The significant anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of these tiny seeds have also been shown to expedite physiological recovery and repair from disease, injury and exercise-induced stress.
One of the most nutritious concentrated food sources on the planet, spirulina is a freshwater blue-green algae noted for having the highest percentage of protein by weight of any food on Earth (50% to 70% by weight, with red meat clocking in at around 27%). Moreover, the protein is highly digestible, and considered ‘complete’ because it contains all the essential amino acids. Spirulina’s health benefits are expansive. It promotes a systemic reduction in inflammation, enhances eye health, reduces total cholesterol, boosts HDL, improves liver function, reduces risk of health, and has been demonstrated effective in treating allergies, as well as asthma.
CORDYCEPS (SINENSIS) EXTRACTS
Well-known for centuries in Chinese herbal medicine, cordyceps sinensis is a parasitic dried fungus that grows on caterpillar larvae native to high-altitude regions of China, Nepal and Tibet. Gross, right? But awesome when it comes to health and athletic performance. Studies indicate that it enhances immune system functionality as well as improves stamina in endurance athletes. Chinese Olympic track and field athletes have been swearing by it for decades, and I can attest to its effectiveness. Another plus? Increased sex drive and functionality.
If you like curry, you’re already familiar with this yellow plant native to South India and Indonesia. What you might not know is turmeric — due in large part to curcumin, turmeric’s primary active ingredient — is one of the most powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories on the planet. Furthermore, it’s worth noting there is some evidence to suggest that people who eat diets rich in turmeric have lower rates of breast, prostate, lung, colon and skin cancers.
GREEN COFFEE BEANS
Similar to green tea and grape seed extract, organic raw green coffee beans have powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. There are also weight management benefits due to two active compounds: caffeine and chrologenic acid.
SUMA ROOT AND THE 4 GINSENG BLEND
Adaptogens are metabolic regulators that increase the body’s ability to adapt to environmental stressors, both physical and emotional. Suma is extracted from a root native to Brazil that is linked to improved immune system functionality and hormonal regulation. Combine with (American) ginseng, ashwagandha (Indian ginseng), and Eleutherococcus (Siberian ginseng) to create a potent combination that promotes longevity and stress management.
A sour lemon-sized orange-purple fruit indigenous to Amazonian lowlands, camu camu contains an impressive array of phytochemicals, bioflavonoids, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals like beta-carotene and potassium. Most important, camu camu boasts the highest natural vitamin C density of any food on the planet — anywhere from 20 to 50 times the level in a typical orange.
Dubbed the “miracle tree” and the “world’s most nutritious plant species” this amazing tree is native to regions of Africa and Asia but can grow almost anywhere. Its leaves are an all-round green superfood; with more than 90 nutrients, moringa is like a utility baseball player who can excel in every position.
This tea can be perhaps the most expensive in the world, with some cakes priced at $350k for a 250-gram cake, its leaves derived from trees that are hundreds of years old. A post-fermented tea product produced in the Yunnan province of China and carefully aged, the harvesting, creation, and ceremony of pu-erh is an art steeped in preserved tradition dating back a millennia. It is believed that the microbial activity in the tea provides probiotic health benefits unique to pu-erh such as reducing arterial plaque and LDL cholesterol levels, as well as aiding weight loss by reducing blood sugar levels and improving the bodies ability to metabolize fat. Very affordable versions are available, I recommend checking out Living Tea.