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Articles - A Healthy Diet:

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Steer clear of too much protein

At the 2012 Olympics, star athletes like Usain Bolt turned in great perfomances on the track, demonstrating what impressive results can be achieved by dedicated sportsmen and women after years of hard training. But even the sprint stars in London had to start somewhere; they weren’t always the winners. A star performance takes more than just talent.

There’s iron discipline, rigorous training and perfect technique – and, naturally, the right nutrition. Because the human body can only be pushed to its limits and turn in peak performance if all the important nutrients and the necessary energy reserves are available. Although this might seem obvious, recent research has shown that even high-performance athletes often show up with nutritional deficits of one sort or another, for example:

Too much...

  • alcohol (male ball players)
  • protein (bodybuilders)

Not enough...

  • carbohydrates
  • vitamin A, C, E and B6
  • magnesium, calcium, zinc
  • iron (young female athletes)
  • Bodyweight too low (female gymnastics performers and ballet dancers, but also in combat sports participants just before their competitions)

In fact, a balanced diet for anyone – whether they’re amateur or professional athletes and sports people or total couch potatoes – consists of the same proportions of the main constituents. 17% of your total daily intake should be protein, 30% fat and 53% carbohydrates:

 

 

Many athletes tend to consume far too much protein. They should bear in mind that the recommended 17% protein in daily food intake can be covered even with a mainly vegetarian diet. The recommendation for people who go in for endurance sports is 1.6 grams of protein for every kilogram of bodyweight. People intent on building up muscle, don’t need more than 1.2g/kg protein per day. Important is to combine different foodstuffs intelligently.


Ideal combinations are...

  • Cereal with dairy products (eg, wholegrain pasta with cheese, muesli with yoghurt/milk, wholegrain bread with cheese)
  • Cereal products with pulses (eg, bean soup with sweetcorn, millet with chick peas, pea soup with wholegrain rolls)
  • Cereal products with eggs (eg, scrambled eggs with wholegrain bread, buckwheat pancakes)
  • Potatoes with eggs or dairy products (eg, potatoes with quark, fried potatoes with fried eggs, potato gratin)

 

Just before the competition...

Athletes taking part in endurance sports are recommended to increase the share of carbohydrates they eat to 60% just before they actually compete. To make sure that their intake of fat is not too high and to make sure that they are getting enough of critical vitamins and minerals, these athletes are recommended to eat mainly plant-based food with a high nutritional density. Ideal are fruit, vegetables, wholegrain products, potatoes and pulses. You only need one or two meat or fish meals a week. The optimal way of compensating for the very high fluid losses is to drink isotonic beverages or fruit juices mixed with water in a ratio of 1 part juice to two parts water during the competition and to switch to a 1:1 ratio immediately after the competition.

 


Authors: Rebecca Ginser & Hendrik Jürgens

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