Do the Best Supplements Grow on Bushes? Nutrition Expert Recommends Four Functional Foods for Fitness

This time of year, it seems everyone is refocusing on healthy eating and fitness in a furor of New Year’s goals. And some are looking for the fast track in the form of so-called “super foods.”

According to Stella Volpe, PhD, who heads the nutrition sciences department at Drexel and is a nationally recognized expert in nutrition and exercise physiology, the concept of a few super-powered foods misses the bigger picture of eating a comprehensively healthy diet. As she writes in her most recent column in the American College of Sports Medicine’s “Fitness Journal,” Volpe recommends trying to consume more of a Mediterranean-type diet that includes whole grains, nuts, vegetables and fish.

Blueberries photo by rsseattle, CC BY SA 2.0
Blueberries photo by rsseattle, CC BY SA 2.0

But, when pressed, Volpe still has some more specific suggestions for foods that may work extra hard for you when it comes to boosting health and fitness. She details these four functional food recommendations, and the research basis for consuming these foods, in her column:

  • Berries, including blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries, top Volpe’s list because they are packed with antioxidants. Volpe writes, “If you can consume a bowl of mixed berries every day, that is the best supplement.”
  • Avocados are not only packed with nutrients, they’ve been shown to help improve the absorption of nutrients from other foods consumed at the same time. They may even reduce the inflammatory effects of eating a hamburger; in one study Volpe cites, people eating a hamburger with avocado had less blood vessel constriction than people eating a hamburger unadorned.
  • Nuts such as almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts are associated with heart-health benefits such as decreasing “bad” LDL cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease. They may also have weight-loss benefits.
  • Fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which Volpe notes are associated with helping healthy brain function and preventing heart disease.

Read more about these four functional foods in Volpe’s column: Functional Food and Health.

Members of the news media interested in interviewing Volpe about nutrition, fitness or exercise physiology should contact Rachel Ewing, or 215.895.2614.