Fit 5: Dining Hall Superfoods

Fit Five is a column by health science major and USF cross-country runner Shannon Gordon. Drawing from her education and experience, Gordon lists five ways to improve health and fitness.

With pizza and sweets on the menu daily, campus dining halls are full of unhealthy temptations.

However, if you know what to look for, every dining hall on campus is also home to nutritional treasures. What you put in your body can have serious long-term and short-term effects on your well-being, and eating healthy can be easy and accessible. Next time you’re about to grab a slice of meat-lover’s pizza or creamy linguine, stop and think about how this could be affecting your body and instead search for these five superfoods offered in all of USF’s dining halls.

1. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a major source of an antioxidant called lycopene, which has been proven to provide long-term protection against UV-radiation, according to the BBC.

They also lower cancer rates and protect against free radicals, or molecules that damage tissue and cause aging. Lutein is another antioxidant found in tomatoes that helps protect muscle tissue in the eyes. The fruit also contains many water-soluble vitamins that produce collagen and strengthen tendons, according to

Tomatoes are offered in all dining halls at the salad bars, but are also included in many soups and pasta sauces.

2. Peanuts

Nuts are essential to any diet because they include the healthy types of fat — monounsaturated and polyunsaturated — that reduce the risk of heart disease, help repair muscles and increase cell turnover for healthy skin, according to Men’s Health magazine.

Peanuts are so nutrient-dense that they keep you full longer and decrease your overall caloric intake. They’re digested slowly and help maintain a balanced blood-sugar level, according to Women’s Health magazine. They not only contain both high levels of protein and magnesium, but also contain resveratrol — a component also found in red wine thought to protect against heart disease, according to Science News.

Every dining hall offers peanut butter by the sandwich stations, and Champion’s Choice offers an amazing, freshly made honey-roasted peanut butter.

3. Spinach

Spinach is a great source of iron, which not only strengthens nails, but also increases the amount of oxygen blood can transport to your muscles, according to

This allows your body to handle a stronger, longer workout. It also contains high levels of Vitamin K and

manganese, which help with cartilage and bone formation, and high levels of Vitamin A, which helps boost immunity. Every dining hall offers spinach daily at the salad bar, so next time opt for spinach over iceburg lettuce in your salad.

4. Apples

Apples are extremely low in calories and very fiber rich, so they are a great food to aid in weight loss. One single apple contains about 20 percent of your daily fiber intake, according to

Diets high in fiber have been related to a significant reduction in the risk of developing heart disease. Apple skin is full of antioxidant power and the darker the color, the better. The skin of Red Delicious apples contains many antioxidants proven to block or kill cancer cells.

5. Broccoli 

Broccoli is an important food for developing and maintaining strong bones. Surprisingly, according to, broccoli contains more calcium per 100 calories than whole milk.

It is also high in vitamin K, which is needed to keep bones full of calcium. Broccoli aids weight loss because it is very high in fiber and contains a flavonoid called quercetin, which suppresses the growth of fat cells, according to