The Performance Dining program is offered at several key stations in the dining hall, including a made-to-order station with a variety of global cuisines cooked just in time and within the guidelines of Performance Dining. Members of Stanfords football team, as well as other teams, have access to these performance meals, though the dining room is open to the student population.

5. Max Your Flax 
One day, Magee was at her post in the Dining Commons when an offensive guard from the football team called her out. “I hear, ‘Hey, Mrs. Magee,’ and see this huge athlete coming toward me with a smile.” There was an awkward pause and then he told her, “That flaxseed. It’s really working out for me.”

Magee shouldn’t have been surprised. Ground flaxseed has worked like gangbusters with the Stanford crowd. It may look like sawdust and taste a little nutty but “it’s hard to beat ground flaxseed for across-the-board health benefits,” Magee says. Stanford students can’t get enough — sprinkling it on cereal; adding it to yogurt, eggs, sandwiches, and salads; and even eating it raw.

“More than 15 years of research shows that flaxseed really is a wonder food,” adds Montell, explaining why ground flax — as opposed to flaxseed oil, which doesn’t have the same properties — automatically gets added to every smoothie order and sits out in bowls at training tables where Stanford athletes sit.

Studies have found that flaxseed can lower cholesterol, ease inflammation, and even fight certain types of cancer. Each tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains about 1.8 grams of plant omega-3s; it’s loaded with antioxidant lignan compounds, and is among the best sources of fiber, which keeps digestion on track. Which may or may not explain why the offensive guard spoke up. “It’s just doing it for me,” is how he put it.

6. Chill Out With Chocolate 
College is stressful, so the Performance Dining team looks for ways to help students decompress and find security and comfort in healthy ways. Designated “de-stress zones” in the Dining Commons give students space to kick back and enjoy treats like Zen trail mix to soothe overworked, sleep-deprived minds.

But all the flaxseed in the world can’t do what a little square of chocolate sometimes can, which is why the Dining team recently handed out 400 Ghiradelli milk chocolate squares with caramel filling along with a card which featured a mindful eating exercise that focused on simple pleasure rather than nutritional value.

“It’s important to eat well, but it’s just as important to get maximum enjoyment from what you’re eating,” Montell says. “We want our students to know that, yes, kale is healthy and legumes are good but we also want them to appreciate what it means to let a square of chocolate melt in their mouth, and to just savor life for a moment.”  

Stanford Reports: Three Foods With Surprising Health Benefits

Chocolate Milk: “It has an ideal 3-to-1 ratio of carb to protein grams, which studies say helps replenish muscles after a workout,” says Stanford nutritionist Elaine Magee. Whey protein is thought to build strength and the protein casein has been shown to boost immunity.

Tart Cherries: High in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, tart cherries can “help protect against exercise-induced muscle or nerve damage, according to a new study of athletes in training,” Magee says.

Garlic: Rich in antioxidants that help battle inflammation and disease, garlic is as good for you as it is stinky. As long as you eat it right. “Stanford Dining lets chopped garlic sit for 20 minutes before cooking,” Magee says, “allowing its antioxidant properties time to activate.”