Top 20 Superfoods Essential To Your Diet

If you were going to build the ultimate human performance and nutrition coach, what ingredients would you need? Extensive athletic experience? Rigorous academic training? Years of coaching experience? A combination of the three would be ideal, wouldn’t it?

Well, I found that combination in Dr. John Berardi, former national level bodybuilder, professor at the University of Texas at Austin, president of Science Link, Inc – Translating Research Into Results, and author of 3 books: Gourmet Nutrition, From Scrawny to Brawny (, and Rev It Up (Dec 2005).

With such an impressive resume, I just had to talk to Dr Berardi about what is arguably the most important part of the performance equation – nutrition.

Missed part 1?  Go back and learn the nutritional philosophy that covers ALL 3 important elements to fat loss.

Next question: do you suggest any SUPERFOODS that you think absolutely must be in everyone’s diet for health and wellness purposes?

In my book (Rev It Up – Rodale), I outline 20 “superfoods” that I think are ESSENTIAL in every nutrition plan.  Here are the 20:

1) Lean Red Meat (93% lean, top round, or sirloin)
2) Salmon
3) Omega 3 Eggs
4) Lowfat, plain yogurt (lactose free if you can find it)
5) Supplemental protein (milk protein isolates or rice protein concentrate if you have a milk protein intolerance/allergy)
6) Spinach
7) Tomatoes
8) Cruciferous Vegetables
9) Mixed Berries
10) Oranges
11) Mixed Beans
12) Quinoa
13) Whole Oats
14) Mixed Nuts
15) Avocados
16) Olive Oil
17) Fish Oil
18) Flax Seeds (ground)
19) Green Tea
20) Liquid Recovery drinks (like Biotest Surge)

In the book, a book about how to rev back up your metabolism – regardless of your age, I describe all the benefits of these foods.  I won’t “spill the beans” now, before the book comes out, but trust me on this one.  If you get a few servings of each of these foods every week, you’ll be pretty close to that intersection I keep talking about.

I can’t wait to check out that new book!

Speaking of metabolism: what ratio of carbs, fat and protein is best for fat loss or is this something that must be approached individually?

It really must be approached individually.

You see, after working with thousands of clients, I’ve discovered that there is NO “one size fits all” approach to muscle gain or fat loss.  There are different body types and each type requires a different prescription.

For the sake of simplicity here, I’ll break individuals up into 3 types:

*Body Type #1 – The Skinny Bastard – The skinny bastard is often characterized as having a “fast metabolism.”

*Body Type #2 – The Fat Bastard – The fat bastard is often characterized as having a “slow metabolism.”

*Body Type #3 – The Plain Ol’ Bastard – The envy of all. He’s the guy that puts on muscle easily while staying lean.  He grows and shrinks in proportion.

Okay, so these definitions maybe won’t find their way into Webster’s but they create a nice distinction between individuals.  Now, you might be thinking that these distinctions aren’t always evident. And you’d be right. In most trainees these distinctions are quite clear. However, with proper training and nutrition, drug use, or surgery, the line can sometimes be blurred.

Drug use and surgery aside, if you don’t know which type an individual is you’ve got to find out what that person would look like with the removal of the training stimulus.

If the person would end up really thin, not appearing as if they even bothered to work out, then they’re a skinny bastard. If the would end up really fat, appearing thick but very chubby/chunky, then they’re a fat bastard. And if the person would still look like they work out, albeit a little worse than presently, then they’re a plain ol’ bastard.

You see it’s NOT how you look today that’s most important – it’s how you’d look if you didn’t train.

So what does each type require?

I usually hesitate to prescribe macronutrient percentages and grams to clients – after all, isn’t it my job to make it easy on them?  So rather than put them in the middle of a macronutrient minefield, I make it simple by translating all that calorie and macronutrient stuff into food that they can eat.

As an old prof of mine used to say: “We don’t eat calories, we don’t eat protein, we don’t eat carbs, and we don’t eat fat.  People eat food; apples and chicken breasts!”

So my nutrition prescriptions involve recommending different food choices at different times of the day.  It makes it really simple for the client.  No calculator or advanced math skills required.

What about for the nutritionists reading this?  How would you recommend they coach their clients with the 3 different body types?

Body Type #1 – The Skinny Bastard

Usually requires a higher calorie, higher carbohydrate diet (vs. the other types) when trying to lose fat.  Crash diets, in this group, lead to lots of lean mass lost.  These individuals can get lean by simply increasing their energy expenditure (usually through lower intensity cardio work – so as not to stress their already hyperactive sympathetic nervous systems) and by cleaning up their diets.

Usually these body types can get lean from a diet that’s 50% carbohydrate, 20% protein, and 30% fat.  That’s around what a self-selected nutrition intake would be anyway.  That’s why it’s pretty easy for these individuals to get lean.

Body Type #2 – The Fat Bastard

Usually requires a lower calorie diet that prioritizes protein and fat intake while keeping carbohydrate relatively low.  When combined with more high intensity exercise (perhaps 5 weight training, 3 interval, and 2 low intensity cardio) sessions per week, a 30% carbohydrate, 35% protein, 35% fat diet works pretty well in this group – as long as they pay ATTENTION to nutrient timing.

Body Type #3 – The Plain Ol’ Bastard

Usually doesn’t have to lose fat – bastards!  However, when they do, they usually can do so with a combination of the two approaches above – the exercise prescription of the fat bastard and the nutritional prescription of the skinny bastard.

What about this nutrient timing concept you mentioned?

Good nutrient timing strategies are based on the fact that the body best handles different types of food at different times of the day.

One of the most important nutrient timing strategies dictates that you should eat most of your non-fruit and veggie carbs during and after exercise.  This rule is especially important to our fat bastards above.  If you haven’t just exercised, put down the pasta, the breads, the rice, etc and step away from the table.

For more, on nutrient timing, check out the Nutrient Timing book here:

Also, my Gourmet Nutrition book, which contains over 100 recipes (in addition to all the cooking tips and strategies), has all the meals labeled with the right time of day to eat them.  This makes it very easy to pay attention to nutrient timing.

This has been very interesting.  Thanks so much for taking the time to share your insight on nutrition, really appreciate it….I know I learned a thing or two!