Here are five foods I’ve incorporated into my diet you probably never heard of before.
Also known as sea buckthorn, these small colourful berries were used by the ancient Greek hoplite warriors for enhanced endurance and stamina. They are a plant-based source of every omega fatty acid – 3, 6, 9, and 7. Being of Greek descent, I’ve used both the fresh fruit – while in Greece – and the dried berries in the U.S. They’re pretty tough to eat, but they definitely put a kick in your step!
Not only has fenugreek been shown to naturally facilitate the uptake of serotonin and thus elevate mood, it is a powerful antihyperlipidemic (reduces fat levels in the blood) and contains a unique type of fibre (gel gum) that reduces the rate of glucose absorption, which helps moderate blood-sugar levels. I use it regularly in many dishes and meals.
A small, bizarre looking fruit covered in gangly red tendrils, rambutan skin is loaded with gallic acid, a compound that behaves like a free radical scavenger and protects the body from oxidative damage. It has a high ORAC values (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity), which is especially useful for recovery. I’ve only tried rambutan once and it was quite tasty and aromatic. The fleshy white fruit inside pops out of the skin fairly easily.
A small tree cultivated primarily on the Greek island of Chios but also throughout Europe the Mediterranean and Middle East, it produces a resin with remarkable health benefits. Typically chewed as a gum, mastic has been known to relieve gastric distension, and reduce bacterial counts in the mouth and gums, which can be particularly helpful if you like to use gels or sweet sticky foods during training or racing. I get lemon-flavoured mastic gum at a nearby Mediterranean market. I like the flavour, and it helps liven up your mouth during a long run or an ultra. Settles the stomach quite nicely, too.
A sour lemon-sized reddish-purple fruit indigenous to the Amazon region, camu camu boasts the highest natural vitamin C density in Brazil (more than 20 times that of an orange). Who needs effervescent, powered drink mixes when you’ve got camu camu fruit! Camu camu is a lot easier to find in Brazil. World Cup anybody?
While still difficult to find, I think these foods will become more mainstream in the future. Keep an eye out when they do!