Healthy Running Foods: for Fuel and Healing
From everyday fruits and vegetables such as apples, bananas, oranges, lemons, greens, beans and grains, you can stock up on antioxidants for cancer prevention, high levels of minerals including potassium for cardiovascular function and electrolyte balance, magnesium and calcium for strong bones, pectin for healthy cholesterol levels and bowel function, amino acids, B vitamins, vitamins A, C, E, K, P and many more healing powers all inside the humble fruit and veg in our kitchens. Fruits are great for before a run, as they are an easily digested source of fuel for the body, they can also be used post-run to help recover lost energy, bananas are particularly great, but they also have some other benefits, for example:
Apples contain flavonoid-anrtioxidants which help keep your heart healthy, by preventing plaque build up which can clog arteries. Flavonoids are 20 times more potent than vitamin C and 50 times more potent than vitamin E. Apples also contain ellagic acid, a phytochemical compound which fights cancer and heart disease.
Bananas are richer in the minerals than other soft fruits: calcium and phosphorus for skin, teeth and bones, potassium for blood pressure, chromium for glucose metabolism, CQ-10 and pectin for constipation and blood cholesterol. Bananas help prevent and replenish nutrient deficiencies of potassium, B complex and vitamin C.
Lemons are also one of nature's top sources of potassium, a mineral which promotes clear thinking and helps regulate blood pressure. It is also a prime source of citric acid - lemons and limes contain 5-6%, making them good germicides. They are also tonics and good cleansers for liver, kidneys, bowels, lungs and skin. Lemons work with sodium to regulate the body's water balance. They loosen catarrh, treat a fever and ease digestion. They contain calcium, magnesium, enzymes, iron, phosphorus, copper, bioflavonoids. They are high in vitamin C, with its antiviral and anti-inflammatory action for fighting colds and flu, and supporting the immune system in general. For some juicy recipes using lemons, see my post Winter Warmer Drinks.
Oranges contain antioxidant phenolic acids, which prevent free radical damage and neutralise carcinogens, coumarin, monoterpene, and selenium, which improve circulation and oxygen distribution to cells, which helps prevent cancer. Their vitamin C and bioflavonoid content inhibit blood clotting, helping to prevent heart attacks. They help prevent asthma, viral infections, heart disease and also stabilise blood cholesterol.
Greens are anti-aging and a super healing source of vitamin A-Carotene, B-complex, folate, vitamins A,C,E,K and potassium. The darker the leaf, the higher the vitamin A content. Mustard greens, turnip and collards are richer in vitamin C than citrus fruits. Dandelion greens have 40% more vitamin C than tomatoes, 6x more iron and 4x more B2 than iceberg lettuce. Spinach, sorrel, beet greens and swiss chard contain oxalates which can interfere with the body's iron and calcium absorption, so are best taken with vitamin C rich fruits or vegetables. Greens contain insoluble fibres cellulose and lignin which help relieve constipation and diverticulosis, and reduce the risk of colon cancer. They help prevent fatigue and anaemia due to folate levels which build red blood cells, help treat insomnia (which can be due to iron and copper deficiencies), and high glycoside and inulin levels stimulate all the glands in the body. For some green goodness recipes, see my post Natural Energy Drinks for Runners.
Potatoes. As well as being a traditional source of carbohydrates for stocking up on energy before a run, potatoes also contain surprising health benefits. Obviously best eaten baked or boiled rather than fried, but better still, try sweet potatoes for more complex carbs with a longer lasting fuel supply. You can substitute sweet potato in my recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Soup. Potatoes contain protease-inhibiting compounds that neutralise viruses and carcinogens. They are considered the best source of these phytochemicals. The skins contain chlorogenic polyphenol, which help prevent pre-cancerous cell mutation. Potatoes are rich in potassium, vitamin C, B1 and B2, complex carbohydrates, fibre for blood sugar and blood pressure control, hypertension, and blood sugar disorders. Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, and can substantially reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamin A, for normal nerve function, and potassium for controlling blood pressure levels.
Grains, such as rice are another good source of complex carbohydrates, and can also protect us from degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. The high fibre content in whole grains binds to carcinogens and toxins, removing them from the colon, and aids symptoms such as constipation and IBS. Grains also contain B vitamins and the antioxidants Vitamin E and octacosan. The minerals copper and iron found in grains can help aid sleep. Grains such as barley, amaranth and quinoa are also an excellent source of protein.
Beans are a high quality protein source, matching meat and cheese in their protein content, but with relatively low fat, cholesterol or calorie content. When combined with rice, they are digested as a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids, and make an exceptional staple for the vegetarian or vegan diet. They also contain iron, magnesium and calcium - for cardiovascular health and osteoporosis prevention. The soluble fibre in beans helps cardiovascular and digestive function, treating haemorrhoids and constipation. Beans help to regulate insulin levels, which can be useful for diabetics, as the complex carbohydrates are digested slowly, which also can suppress the appetite. They are high in the anti stress B-vitamin complex, heart protecting potassium, anti-aging CQ-10, and stamina building dimethylglycine.
Soybeans are another great source of complete protein for vegetarians and vegans. They also contain the antioxidant vitamins A and E, and when sprouted contain high sources of vitamin C. They also contain the amino acid D-phenylalanine, a natural appetite suppressant and antidepressant, and lecithin for a healthy nervous system. A source of zinc, potassium, iron, and calcium, soybeans provide protection from cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, stress, diabetes, and bowel disorders. You can use soybean products such as tofu or soy milk, for a post-run protein source or protein shakes containing soy protein powder, such as SIS REGO Recovery
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