I’ve done quite a bit of running in the past few days: yesterday, I went with Sherif and an athletic couple we know to a Fleet Feet scheduled run in Chicago. The group that meets there – around 70 people – are all training for the Chicago Marathon on October 10, 2010. The group had awesome team-spirit, and stuck together till the end – high-fiving each other after the successful run. :-)
No, don’t get excited… I am a long way away from running a marathon! But I am so much closer to feeling comfortable with running a 5K. Yesterday I ran 3 miles at a pace of 11 minutes/mile, which was slow but very comfortable (i.e. I didn’t feel at all tired or out of breath in the end, and I could have gone for another mile). Today, I did some weightlifting in the morning and, in the evening, went for a nice run by the lake: I ran about 2.75 miles at a pace of 9.05 minutes/mile – a slight improvement from yesterday, but it’s also a shorter distance. Either way, I’m really excited to see this kind of progress happening over a shorter period of time than I had expected. I wish I owned one of these awesome Garmin watches to track my workout, but for now a simple heart rate monitor and stopwatch will do. Any ideas for a good one under $100?
One of my favorite things to eat before or after a run is a piece of fruit. Sherif and I have made it a habit to eat fruit before eating anything else in the morning in order to digest it easily on an empty stomach. Our fruits of choice in the morning are half a grapefruit each, and one or two small fruits split between us. We like to keep it interesting, so often we will buy “exotic” fruits to try them for a few days…
Here are examples of some of our favorite exotic fruits:
I had never heard of cherimoyas (called “eshta” in Arabic) until two weeks ago when Sherif introduced me to them at Wholefoods. He said he remembered picking them off his grandmother’s tree in Egypt. I decided to get just one, to give it a try. Oh boy – I should have definitely bought several more, because it was delicious!
Cherimoyas – as the name suggests – are native to South and Central America and the Caribbean. Only recently, they started cultivating them in California and Florida. In terms of taste, cherimoyas have a sweet, custard-like flesh, which earned them the name “custard apple” or sherbet fruit. They taste like a blend of mango, banana, papaya, and pineapple… with custard!
Nutritional profile: Cherimoyas are a rich source of Vitamin C, iron, riboflavin, thiamine, Vitamin B6 and manganese. Eating a cherimoya is perfect before a workout because it provides slowly released, sustained energy. Also, it has been known to increase the elasticity, firmness, and suppleness of the skin.
How to eat: “Cherimoyas are ripe to eat when they are slightly soft like a ripe avocado. Slice the fruit in wedges or in halves and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Some cherimoya aficionados add a few drops of lime to the flesh to embellish the sweetness. Do not eat the skin or the seeds” (Calimoya).
Figs are probably one of my favorite fruits – hands down! Figs have a special place in my heart … not only because they have an incredible flavor, but also because they are mentioned several times in the Bible. In Luke 21, Jesus tells this captivating parable:
Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
Black mission figs are grown in hotter climates. “They are lusciously sweet with a texture that combines the chewiness of their flesh, the smoothness of their skin, and the crunchiness of their seeds” (WH Foods).
Here’s a bit of interesting history about figs:
Figs can trace their history back to the earliest of times with mentions in the Bible and other ancient writings. They are thought to have been first cultivated in Egypt. They spread to ancient Crete and then subsequently, around the 9th century BC, to ancient Greece, where they became a staple foodstuff in the traditional diet. Figs were held in such esteem by the Greeks that they created laws forbidding the export of the best quality figs. Figs were also revered in ancient Rome where they were thought of as a sacred fruit (WH Foods).
Nutritional profile: Figs are high in dietary fiber, potassium, and manganese, and therefore help reduce high blood pressure, protect against cancer and macular degeneration.
How to eat: For the highest level of antioxidants, choose fully ripened figs. Some serving suggestions: add to oatmeal in the mornings, poach figs in red wine and serve over yogurt, add figs to an arugula salad, or stuff figs with goat cheese and almonds (WH Foods). Or, of course, you can always enjoy them just as they are!
Here’s another fruit that I hadn’t heard about until recently: lychee (or sometimes called litchi nuts). Sherif has seen them before on Chinese dessert menus. Lychees have nubby reddish-brown shells, that when peeled, reveal a whitish fleshy fruit.
Lychee is a medium-sized evergreen tree that produces tropical fruit that is native to China, but now is cultivated all over the world (Wikipedia). They have a flowery, sweet smell and their flavor is mild yet striking.
Nutritional profile: Wow, I just came across this fact: “Lychee is legendary among Ugur and Chinese cultures for the amount of nutrients that it gives to newborn babies. Starting at about the age of 4.5 months, Chinese parents use peeled lychee in place of a pacifier” (Wikipedia).
Lychee has a ton of Vitamin C – if a person consumes nine fruits, it would fulfill his daily value for Vitamin C! This fruit is also a good source of copper, phosphorus, and potassium.
How to eat: Wait until the lychee shells turn reddish, which indicates that they are now ripe. Eat one succulent lychee at a time, or peel a few and sprinkle with a few drops of lime to heighten the flavor.
Although not so much an exotic fruit per se, blackberries are usually lost within the large catergory of “berries.” Strawberries, blueberries, goji berries and raspberries usually take center stage, leaving blackberries behind. But as is the case with all vegetables and fruits, consuming a variety is of paramount importance, since different foods provide different nutrients. Like all other berries, blackberries should be bought organic, because conventionally grown blackberries are not ideal to eat (full of pesticides and artificial fertilizers).
Blackberries are tart and sweet, especially if they are dark in color. Their peak season is in June and July, so go buy some before they become out of season!
Nutritional profile: Blackberries are on the list of top ten foods that have high levels of antioxidants. Blackberries are also rich in manganese, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and folate. They can help alleviate diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and thrombosis (blood clotting).
How to eat: Fresh berries are very fragile and should be washed carefully only under cold running water. Serving suggestions: add blackberries to smoothies, shakes, breakfast cereals and oatmeal, yogurt, or healthy desserts.
I hope you enjoyed reading about some of our favorite exotic fruits. Now go out and buy some to try! What are your favorite exotic fruits?