A nutrition expert has listed the key ingredients to include in your muscle-building meal prep this Autumn, according to recipe reviews – and it turns out garlic is essential.
The fitness experts at Total Shape analysed over 200 autumn recipes rated four stars and above on the nation’s leading recipe site, to identify which ingredients appeared most frequently and reveal how their health benefits can help you navigate the season.
It turns out these are the top five ingredients you need to include in your meal prep this season are:
- Garlic – Garlic proved the most popular ingredient, as it’s essential to virtually every autumn dish analysed. Known for its antibacterial properties, garlic offers protection against the common cold – which is great news for the autumn season – and is also a good source of potassium to support normal blood pressure.
- Onion – The backbone to plenty of dishes and proving among the most popular ingredients in the study, onions are a source of organic sulfur compounds which work to reduce cholesterol. They’re also a great source of B and C vitamins, which help different enzymes function and strengthen our immune system.
- Olive oil – Olive oil also appeared frequently across the top-rated recipes. Not only is it a great source of healthy monosaturated fats, but olive oil has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and be an excellent source of antioxidants, helping your body neutralise free radicals that cause diseases.
- Tomato – Tomatoes make a solid base for many meals and they make a great source of fibre. Additionally, they’re a good source of vitamin B9 (folate) which aids tissue growth and normal functioning, as well as vitamin K1 (phylloquinone), which is important for bone health. Like onions, they’re also a great source of vitamin C.
- Nuts – A variety of nuts can be great for the diet as they’re packed with plenty of dietary fibre, healthy fats and magnesium – particularly almonds, cashews and brazil nuts. This helps to regulate biochemical reactions such as blood pressure, sugar levels and muscle function.
Other ingredients that frequently appear in popular seasonal recipes include pumpkin and butternut squash. Both are high in beta-carotene which converts into vitamin A and helps to maintain a healthy immune system, as well as maintain good skin and eye health.
Some surprising ingredients also included spinach, high in iron – which many people don’t get enough of in the autumn months – and mustard, which is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as calcium, iron and zinc.
Fish also appeared frequently in the top-rated recipes, which can be a source of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids during those months when the day gets shorter. This is particularly helpful as we have a reduced ability to make vitamin D outside during the cold months.
Speaking on the findings, health optimisation coach James Cunningham, from Total Shape said: “It can be difficult getting all the essential nutrients we need during autumn, especially as the days get longer, as we’re combatting shorter days and colder weather alongside our usual commitments.
“In order to make sure you’re eating healthily and still prioritising your workout goals, meal prepping is a great way to save time during the week when you might not feel like cooking. It also makes it easier to avoid indulging in a takeaway or processed foods for convenience.
“Including these ingredients in your meal prep ideas can help boost immunity during the colder months and ensure you’re getting a varied diet full of protein and vegetables.”
The current British Nutrition Association guidelines suggest the average person requires 0.75g per kg of body weight of protein a day, and with chicken, chickpeas and lentils occurring in the top 20 ingredients, these are key to a balanced autumnal meal for those focusing on building muscle.