Welcome to the Dark Side

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.

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