Dancers think about food. A LOT. As physical beings, food is not only nourishment, but fuel we feed our bodies. Food is like an input of information. Eating some foods can turn on disease promoting genes, while eating other foods can help to keep chronic disease and illness at bay. As dancers, we know we need to be putting whole, real, unprocessed foods IN and keep the artificial, processed, chemical yielding stuff OUT in order to do our best in the studio and on the stage.
With the right stuff in mind, why not take it a step further? Dancers can make the most of their meals by incorporating superfoods, or foods that provide the highest nutrient content per calorie. Superfoods add more bang to your caloric buck in that they are low in calories and high in vitamins, minerals, macro and micronutrients. Two of these delicious, health promoting, superfoods, include quinoa and kale.
Quinoa, a grain-like seed, is an ideal food for endurance making it a great food for dancers. Containing all 8 amino acids, quinoa is considered a complete protein that is easy to digest, while strengthening to the kidneys, heart and lungs. Quinoa also packs high amounts of B vitamins that promote energy; iron to help carry oxygen throughout our bodies; zinc for brain function; potassium to keep electrolyte levels balanced; calcium and Vitamin E.
Kale helps strengthen the immune system, fight inflammation, purify the blood and assists the respiratory system by reducing congestion in the lungs. This leafy green is a highly alkaline food, which means that it helps the body’s pH level stay balanced. Kale is also high in calcium, magnesium, iron, and Vitamins A, C, E, and K.
The recipe below mixes kale and quinoa together with turmeric, an anti-inflammatory herb, lemon to promote digestion and liver function, and almonds for a healthy heart. I’ve adapted this recipe from The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook. It’s a weekly staple in our house and my husband even loves it. I hope you will too.
Superfood Quinoa Pilaf
This is a super quick, easy and inexpensive recipe you can throw together after a long day of rehearsal. It makes enough for leftovers or the next day’s lunch. It’s also an excellent source of plant-based protein that will provide you with lots of energy, without weighing heavy on your stomach. Feel free to add animal protein as well.
Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Serves: About six
1-2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 carrots, sliced into rounds
1 cup sliced almonds or pine nuts, optional
½ cup raisins
2 teaspoons mild curry powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 cups chopped kale
4 to 5 cups cooked and completely cooled quinoa (or brown rice)
Juice of 1 small lemon
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes. Then add the sliced carrots and sauté for about 10 minutes. Adjust the temperature so as to allow the onions to still cook but not brown.
Add the almonds, currants, spices, and salt and sauté 5 minutes more.
Add the kale. Note: it is best if your kale is still dripping wet from rinsing when adding it to the pot. The extra water will help it to cook. Sauté about 5 minutes, or until kale is tender.
Then add cooked quinoa and stir together over low heat. Add a few tablespoons of water if the pilaf seems dry. An extra tablespoon of oil will also help prevent the quinoa from sticking to the pan.
Remove from heat and add the lemon juice. Stir together, taste, and adjust salt and seasonings if needed.