When it comes to staying healthy, it’s a good rule of thumb to “eat the rainbow”: A colorful diet offers a variety of nutrients. But in honor of Halloween, we’re taking a trip to the dark side of nutrition. And as it turns out, many black foods are antioxidant powerhouses in disguise.

Black beans are a great source of lean protein, with 15 grams in one cup and no saturated fat. Their black skins contain bioflavonoid pigments, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

(Courtesy Thinkstock)

Blackberries contain polyphenols, chemicals good for your brain. They also have a high concentration of fiber—one cup contains nearly a third of your daily recommended value. Black grapes are higher in antioxidants than red or green grapes because of their dark skin (and they taste a little sweeter!). Like blackberries, they contain high concentrations of brain-boosting polyphenols.

Black rice, like brown rice, has the nutrient- and fiber-rich hull that white rice lacks. But black rice has the added benefit of vitamin E, which supports the immune system.

Nori, most commonly known as the seaweed used to wrap sushi, is rich in minerals and vitamins—including B-12, which protects your nerves and blood cells and helps make DNA. Nori is a great option for vegetarians, who are prone to vitamin B-12 deficiencies.

(Courtesy Thinkstock)

Orange You Curious?

Black may be the new black this season, but we’d be wrong to ignore its colorful counterpart. Orange foods have long been respected as nutrient-rich noms.

Like most orange foods, pumpkins contain beta-carotene, which is good for eyesight. Plus, they’re full of fiber, and the seeds are packed with protein, magnesium and potassium.

Apricots are a good source of potassium, which can help prevent muscle cramps.

One medium orange provides 130 percent of your daily recommended vitamin C.

Sweet potatoes are also good sources of beta-carotene, vitamin C and potassium. Plus, they contain iron, which helps keep energy levels up, and magnesium, which combats stress.

 

 

 

(Photo by Erin Baiano)

Your Aches and Pains Addressed: Hip Flexor Pain

What is it?

Usually a strain in the psoas major (which controls hip flexion and external rotation) or the rectus femoris (which also helps with hip flexion), but the pain could come from any of the muscles surrounding the hip that help facilitate hip flexion.

What causes it?

Overuse. When dancers repeat a certain action over and over again, it creates a muscular imbalance. The psoas major is responsible for stabilizing and mobilizing both the spine and the hip joint, and if it’s not properly stretched and strengthened, repetitive flexion at the hip—such as a series of grands battements—can lead to strains. However, because dancers use their hips in so many different ways, there’s no one cause or source of hip flexor pain.

How to deal

To alleviate the pain, you need to restore a balance of strength and flexibility in the muscles surrounding your hip. Always warm up slowly and easily before you dance, with a special focus on the hip joint. Take care to stretch your hips after exercising, especially if they feel tight or sore; self-massage, rollers, tennis balls and ice can go a long way. If the pain persists for longer than 7 to 10 days, see your doctor to make sure you aren’t exacerbating the problem. Your doctor will likely refer you to a physical therapist, who can provide you with exercises tailored to your needs.

Sometimes, hip flexor pain is a sign of something more serious: a labral tear. The labrum is the ring of cartilage around your hip socket. It can’t heal itself because it doesn’t have a blood supply. In this case, surgery may be the only option for some people, but with proper rehabilitation, you’ll probably be able to restore function to your hip.

Consultant: Sean Gallagher, BFA, PT, CFT, CPT, is the founder and director of Performing Arts Physical Therapy in NYC and the owner of The New York Pilates Studio®. He has worked with dancers from Pennsylvania Ballet, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Parsons Dance, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and a number of Broadway shows.

Did You Know?

Pulling an all-nighter may cause brain damage. According to a study published in Sleep, individuals skipping out on sleep have higher concentrations of a molecule commonly associated with head injuries. Of course, staying up late every once in a while isn’t nearly as harmful as a head injury, but repetitive sleepless nights will start to add up. Long story short: Sometimes the best move is to stop cramming, close the book and get some shut-eye!

Choreographers: Feeling stumped by that next eight-count? Take a walk! According to a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, just 5 to 16 minutes of walking will help get those creative juices flowing.

FLU FIGHTERS

The weather outside is frightful, which means we’re all cooped up inside, sharing one another’s germs. Don’t wait until you’re already sick! Start fighting for your immune system now with these six nutrients recommended by registered dietician Marie Scioscia of The Ailey School.

#1 Beta-carotene: Any fruit or vegetable that’s yellow or orange contains beta-carotene. Throw some dried apricots in your dance bag for a sweet after-school snack, or munch on some baby carrots. While there’s no official Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), a handful of dried apricots or baby carrots will give you all you need.

#2 Vitamin C: It’s in most fruits and vegetables, such as red bell peppers, broccoli and strawberries. Citrus is delicious in the winter, so consider grabbing an orange. The RDA is roughly 3/4 cup of orange juice or 1 orange. If veggies are your preference, 1/2 cup of red bell pepper will do the trick.

#3 Vitamin E: It’s found in all oils and nuts. Try 2 to 3 ounces of almonds as a midday pick-me-up, or toss 1 ounce of almonds in a salad dressed with 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil and a vinegar of your choice.

#4 Zinc: Many proteins—including beef, poultry and seafood—are good sources of zinc. Vegetarians should reach for beans, nuts and fortified cereals. The RDA is equivalent to 3 to 4 ounces of beef or crabmeat or 1 1/2 cups of baked beans.

Scioscia says: “Strict vegetarians require up to 50 percent more zinc because their bodies absorb less zinc when they eat lots of plant fibers. But don’t overdo it! Consuming more than 30 milligrams of zinc (some zinc supplements contain 50 milligrams) can actually suppress your immune system.”

#5 Selenium: Eating one Brazil nut a day will give you all you need, but it’s also found in tuna, beef, poultry and fortified grains.

#6 Quercetin: It’s found in onions and garlic, so consider tossing up a delicious veggie stir-fry. While there’s no official RDA, Scioscia recommends getting quercetin from food sources rather than supplements, which probably contain too high a dosage.

Scioscia says: “Less is more when it comes to immune support. It’s all about having variety in your diet and not overdoing it on one particular food or vitamin supplement.”

 

(courtesy Nature Made)

DID YOU KNOW?

Our intestines contain more immune cells than the rest of our entire bodies! A healthy gut is key to overall health. And digestive health starts with regularly scheduled, wholesome meals. “Because dancers are always on the go, they can’t always eat when their bodies need it. Therefore, it’s common for them to have digestive hiccups,” says registered dietician Marie Scioscia. She recommends taking the probiotic supplement Lactobacillus acidophilus every day for digestion. Try Nature Made’s acidophilus daily tablets.

 

RESOLUTION RAMPAGE

January is a month of fresh starts, but too much resolving can be counterproductive. Dr. Linda Hamilton, a performance psychologist  with New York City Ballet who specializes in wellness, offers her advice on how best to approach the New Year’s resolution.

Be positive. A New Year’s resolution shouldn’t be about punishing yourself for last year’s mistakes. Instead, it should be about looking forward, and thinking constructively about the changes you want to see in the coming year.

Don’t make too many. The more you make, the harder it’ll be to follow through, so pick just a couple of goals to focus on. Have a plan. Don’t expect to completely transform your lifestyle on January 1. “Change has a number of stages,” says Hamilton. “You must acknowledge the problem, set up a plan and then start working.”

Be patient. “Change is not an on/off switch,” Hamilton says. More than likely, you’ll have a couple of lapses. The key is to remember that’s a normal part of the process. Nobody’s perfect!

 

“C” OVERLOAD! When you feel a cold coming on, you might reach for Emergen-C. But this popular supplement contains 1,000 milligrams of Vitamin C—more than 10 times the recommended daily amount! Vitamin C overload can cause stomach distress and kidney stones, so next time, grab an orange instead.

All photos iStock unless otherwise specified.

 

This month, dance teams from around the country will head to sunny Daytona Beach, FL, for the National Dance Alliance Collegiate Championships. We know you’ve been working hard and are ready to rock the stage, but are you ready for fun in the sun? Pick up the items on our checklist to ensure a fabulous (and sunburn-free!) trip.  

 A wide-brimmed hat

 Lip balm (with at least SPF 15!)

 Sunglasses

 SPF 30 Sunscreen

 After sun lotion with aloe vera

You’ve heard it a million times: Load up on antioxidants! But what are you actually trying to rid your body of?

It’s no surprise that dancing requires our cells to consume a lot of oxygen. But did you know that this extreme oxygen use actually attacks the cells in our bodies, damaging them and producing oxidants called free radicals? Think of these free radicals as little monsters inside your body. They’re missing an electron and are unstable. In order to stabilize, they “steal” the electron they need from your other healthy cells, resulting in oxidative stress—damage to your muscle fibers, proteins, red bloods cells, cell membranes and DNA. This means we need to eat lots of antioxidant-rich foods, like acai berries. —Caroline Lewis-Jones

Caroline says: Get plenty of sleep, avoid excessive UV light and toxins like cigarettes and alcohol and relax (smile more!) to help your body in the fight against oxidative stress.

DID YOU KNOW? The best way to snap out of an afternoon slump may not be a doughnut run. According to a new study published in the journal Neuron, it’s protein not sugar! that may be the best boost. The researchers found that protein, like a hard-boiled egg, helps keep our orexin cells the brain cells that produce the stimulant that gives us energy active, while sugar actually prevents them from functioning properly.

Your Aches and Pains Addressed: Bunions  

You feel: Soreness and swelling around a bulging bump on the outside of your big toe joint.

Try this:

 When you’re not wearing pointe shoes (they jam your toes together, causing or worsening bunions!), wear roomy shoes that give all your toes space to move freely.

 Place a cold compress on the bunion after dancing to reduce pain and swelling.

 Anytime it’s comfortable, place padding (like Dr. Scholl’s Bunion Cushions) around the bunion to ease the pressure and discomfort.

Feeling flushed after class? Place an ice cube on your tongue and press it to the roof of your mouth for a few seconds. Doing so will trick your body into thinking it’s cooler than it is, and the redness in your face will start to go away.

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