“I’ve been high, I’ve been low, I’ve been people that I don’t know,” sings Jeff Bridges in the movie Crazy Heart. Indeed, each of us is a high and low crazy quilt of possibilities that we explore in many ways as we perform our Pilates day after day. Pilates helps us become people today that we wouldn’t have known or imagined yesterday. And in the best possible way, as long as we use our imagination.
Smart exploratory eating also helps us to push our boundaries at mealtimes. Because just as Pilates is not just about flatter abs or more flexibility, feeding yourself is not just about filling your stomach and/or amusing your mouth.
If you come to Pilates without imagination and you’re fixated on one take-away—like getting more flexible or flattening your belly—you may not take away all Pilates has to offer. Similarly, if you come to the table to get less hungry or feel less bored, you may miss out on the amazing life-enhancing chemistry that a good meal (or snack) can provide both your mind and body when you are eating imaginatively.
Food in point? Berries. The most nutrient dense of the warm-weather produce bounty are berries—red, black, blue and purple. When you get off the mat, Reformer or Tower, use your bean, and think berries. Here’s why and here’s how.
Juicy Fruit Benefits: Berries, especially blueberries, provide manganese to keep bones strong and vitamin C to strengthen immunity. Thanks to their ellagic acid (and that vitamin C content), cranberries, raspberries and strawberries all help suppress the growth of several cancers and provide cardiovascular protection. Eating more berries can reduce your risk of arthritis, specifically of the knee (where arthritis is most common). And don’t worry about the caloric damage. Most berries, when eaten fresh, deliver between 50 and 70 calories per cup, along with plenty of fiber. What to reach for? Eat raspberries for the most fiber, blueberries for the highest antioxidant content, strawberries for the most vitamin C and fewest calories, and currants and blackberries for the most potassium, a nutrient essential in preventing stroke, high blood pressure and osteoporosis.
Boost Night Vision: Bilberries (also called European bilberries) are at the top of the ocular health list, enhancing microcirculation in the capillaries, which in turn strengthens the retina, improving everything from macular degeneration to glaucoma, night vision and cataracts. Take between 400 and 2,000 milligrams daily of standardized bilberry extract. (It takes 100 pounds of bilberries to extract l pound of extract.) Second most therapeutic berry after bilberries? Blueberries, their American cousin.
Blueberries for Eyes, Allergies, and More: During the Civil War, soldiers drank blueberry juice to ward off scurvy. We still drink it for the vitamin C and a whole lot more—to protect eyes from the damaging effects of sunlight, prevent and treat allergies, and help with varicose veins. Blueberries are also known as “the brain berry” because studies have shown that daily consumption dramatically slows age-related impairment in memory and motor coordination. Blueberries also help lower cholesterol, promote urinary tract health, halt cataract progression and protect against glaucoma. Blackberries are a close second.
Take a Strawberry Shortcut Against Arthritis: Strawberries, perhaps our favorite summertime berry, are grown in twenty different varieties and are a good low-calorie (45 per cup) source of quercetin, a flavonoid that fights free radicals. The anthocyanins in strawberries help protect against inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
EMS for UTIs: Fresh or dried cranberries fight urinary tract infection (UTI) by preventing harmful bacteria such as E. coli from adhering to bladder walls and H. pylori bacteria from causing ulcers. The anthocyanins in cranberries (as in oranges, which cranberries partner well with) also help normalize cholesterol and improve blood circulation. (Blueberries provide the same benefits.)
Breakfast Berry Pops
1–1/2 cups fresh or thawed frozen strawberries
1 cup fresh or thawed frozen blueberries
1 cup fresh or thawed frozen raspberries
1/2 to 1 cup frozen white grape juice concentrate
1/2 cup plain yogurt or plain kefir
Puree ingredients in blender until smooth. Optional: Strain mixture through a fine sieve to remove seeds. Ladle into ice pop molds or small paper cups, and freeze for 4 hours. If using cups, insert small plastic spoons or sticks after 30 minutes in freezer.
Stir in 1/2 cup crushed walnuts or whole-grain cereal.
Use 1 cup fresh or thawed frozen peach slices in place of 1 cup berries.