2. Consider What Your Meat Eats
Stanford’s men’s basketball team wasn’t ready to give up burgers so the Performance Dining team found a healthy solution: grass-fed burgers.
“Grass-fed beef tends to be lower in fat than grain-fed beef, as well as lower in calories and higher in omega-3 fatty acids that are essential for brain and heart health,” says Brandon Marcello, director of sports performance at Stanford Athletics and one of the originators of Performance Dining. Cows that graze on grass produce meat richer in antioxidant vitamins, particularly vitamin E, and conjugated linoleic acid, a type of fat thought to reduce heart disease and cancer risks.
For students, a little nutrition education goes a long way. “Nobody went to Stanford to achieve mediocrity in any aspect,” Marcello says. “If changing the way you eat a burger can give you an advantage, especially if it tastes good, nobody’s going to give you an argument. Our students want to live life the best and healthiest way they can.” '
3. For Brainpower, Remember Tyrosine, Lima Beans, and Dentyne
Come midterms and finals, Stanford students will do just about anything for extra memory power. During crunch times, they turn to Elaine Magee, Stanford’s Wellness and Performance Dining nutritionist, who knows exactly which foods to recommend. One piece of advice: “Load up on tyrosine,” she says.
L-Tyrosine is an amino acid that seems to stimulate alertness, concentration, and reaction times. “It may not work for every student, but there’s good evidence that tyrosine-rich foods can improve short-term memory, which is what every student wants before an exam,” Magee says.
Lean proteins like chicken, fish, and turkey are high on the tyrosine list. So are cage-free eggs, yogurt, and milk. Lima beans are especially rich in tyrosine, Magee says. “Students can be a little resistant to limas at first, but once they hear that tyrosine improves mental clarity, improves endurance, increases energy, and may even increase libido and lessen PMS symptoms, our students say, ‘Give me the beans.’”
And what about Dentyne? Recent research by British scientists suggests that chewing mint gum may boost alertness in college students. Says Magee, “We’re not sure if it’s the mint or the chewing, but, hey, if it works, why not try it?”
4. Get a Juice Boost
It took some tinkering to convince the football team, but Magee finally concocted the perfect breakfast cocktail for flavor and health benefits. It’s a 70/30 blend of orange juice and carrot juice with a dash of ground flaxseed.
“Sometimes it’s easier to drink something that’s good for you rather than to eat it,” Magee says. And boy, is this drink healthy. Pulpy orange juice contains the compounds herperitin and hesperidin that may have antiviral properties, as well as antihistamine properties, and, of course, vitamin C. Carrots deliver antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E — all of which bolster the immune system and may reduce the intensity of colds. Together, they also taste good. “It’s got enough orange juice for sweetness and comfort,” Magee says, “and just enough carrot juice for a ‘Hey, what’s this?’ kick of deliciousness.”