Superfoods for Runners

What is a superfood? The term is thought to have been coined by Aaron Moss in the August, 1998 edition of the journal Nature Nutrition.   He mentions that we have many options for fueling the body, but the benefits of some foods are so nutritious that they might be labeled superfoods.  These foods are chock-full of phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other goodies.  They are the foods that we should be flocking to in grocery stores, but many seldom do.  Runners especially profit from loading up on these wholesome wonders.  Superfoods propel our running and even protect us from injury.   Some of these foods have been right underneath our noses.  And some of them, you wouldn’t want underneath your noses.  I’ll explain shortly.   Let’s take a look at some of this super sustenance from a runner’s perspective.

Kale – This one tops my list.  It also tops the ANDI scale with a score of 1000.  Kale has been associated with many health benefits.  Many of these are especially desirable to a runner.  It is easily added to any food and can be prepared in many ways.  Google “kale recipes” and you will be amazed at the ways people have incorporated this superfood into their diet.

  • Anti-inflammatory properties – With its high level of Vitamin C, it allows your body to combat joint pain.  Over time, a runner may experience discomfort in joints around the hip or leg areas.  I experienced this discomfort before I met Kale.  With a kale smoothiea day, I am now pain-free.

 

  • Vision support –  Superfood with a vision? Keeping your retina healthy with Vitamin A.  There’s no doubt that every runner needs to be aware of his or her surroundings.  Never know what you’ll step in, without a keen eye.  Roadrunners (people, not the bird) also need to be fully aware of cars, potholes, and other obstacles in their path.

 

  • Bone Support –  With loads of Calcium and Vitamin K, Kale builds strong bones to support your strenuous long runs.  Let’s be honest.  We put a lot of stress on our bones.  We should feed our bones so they will provide us with a lifetime of running.

 

Almonds – Oh, how I love almonds.  I put them in everything, from green smoothies to homemade snack mix.  I often mix them with organic raisins, taking them with me on runs.  I sometimes use my Vitamix to make my own homemade almond milk.  Almonds are easy to find, but are best in their rawest form.  Try and use raw organic almonds.  It is tough finding true “raw” almonds in the U.S.  but I am starting to see companies using alternative methods of washing almonds where they aren’t being pasteurized.  Here’s what this superfood can provide you, the runner.

  • Healthy Fat – Everyone needs healthy fats in their diet.  Almonds contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.  If you are running more than a few miles at a time, you are probably tapping into your fat stores.  Remember… We burn sugar and carbs, then fat.  [For more information on the target zone for fat burning click here]  I won’t get into the details of targeting the specific time when your body begins burning fat.  The point is, we need to replace this fat because it is a source of energy for us.  It’s best to do this with a healthy choice such as almonds.
  • Bone Strength – The phosphorous found in almonds strengthens our bones and teeth.  It also contains high calcium content.  No need for explanation here.  We need strong bones.  The beautiful smile is just an added bonus.
  • Alkalization – Acidity in the body has been shown to cause pain, weakness, and loss of energy.  Almonds neutralize the body’s acidity with its calcium and high magnesium levels.  Fats from animals do quite the opposite.
  • Protein – We need protein.  It’s becoming more well-known that animal protein is not the best solution for repairing the body.  For better options, take a look at the protein content of different nuts.  An ounce of almonds will provide you with about 6 grams of protein.

Broccoli – This green superfood is an excellent option to promote numerous health improvements.  Momma wasn’t telling you wrong when she said that you’d better eat your broccoli.  Broccoli mixes with about any dish and is readily available.  It offers you the nutrition needed to get your feet moving.

  • Blood Pressure – With its potassium, magnesium, and calcium, broccoli regulates blood pressure.
  • Bone Health – Once again, this is very important to the longevity of a runner’s career.   Under immense wear and tear, adding more and more mileage, we can begin to cause minor fractures in our legs and feet.  The Vitamin K and calcium provided by broccoli helps to rebuild and keep these bones strong.
  • Sun Damage – We runners spend a lot of time outside.  That is, unless you are one of those people who enjoy the hamster wheel approach, looking out the window of a gym from your treadmill.  If you are the outdoor-type runner, you spend a lot of time in the sun.  This can cause cell damage and make your skin age prematurely.   Broccoli contains glucoraphanin which helps the skin to detoxify and repair itself.
Maca – This root plant has been touted to give runners an added edge.  It comes in many different varieties.  You can find many sites online which sell the root in a pill, powder, or liquid.  This superfood can be added to almost anything.  I will warn you that it has a bit of a tart taste and may alter the taste of some dishes.  I add a little into a smoothie in the morning.  If you read my Vegan Pizza Recipe, you’ll notice I added maca to the crust.  Here’s what maca can offer you.

  • Energy – Maca has been linked to an increase in energy.  If you are looking for an energy enhancement without the caffeine, this should be your go-to superfood.  The energy it provides has also been linked to other increases in performance – nothing to do with running, but worth mentioning.
  • Hormone Balance – Runners can become stressed due to time management, speed goals, or just getting out there and putting your body through the wringer.   Our bodies can become out of whack in a short amount of time.  Maca root helps balance these hormones.   It achieves this by stimulating and nourishing the hypothalamus and pituitary glands.  These glands actually regulate the other glands, so when in balance they can bring balance to the adrenal, thyroid, and pancreas glands.  Maca is an adaptogen, meaning that it responds to different bodies’ needs individually.  It is uniquely beneficial to each person.
Spirulina – This green powder turns heads very quickly when people smell it coming from your kitchen.  Spirulina is a natural algae that is touted as the most potent nutrient source available.  It does smell a little… I don’t know… fishy, but it’s benefits far outweigh its rancid aroma.

  • Protein – The biggest reason to start ingesting this pond creation is because it is 65% protein and amino acid GLA (Gamma Linolenic Acid).  Spirulina houses all essential aminos, including Omega 3, 6, and 9.  The protein in Spirulina is highly usable and has a net protein utilization rate of between 50-61%.  Put the chicken aside, and throw some of this in your next meal.
  • Anti-inflammatory – Another superfood with anti-inflammatory properties.  Its GLA has been getting a lot of attention for these properties, especially when taken with other quality Omega-3 supplements.
  • Bone Health – Would you believe that spirulina has 26 times the calcium of milk?  Well, it does, and will keep those vertical limbs beneath you healthy.  The average runner takes 2,000 steps in one mile.  In 10 miles, that’s 20,000 steps.  If it weren’t for calcium and strong bones, our legs would splinter from all of the abuse.

Spirulina has many other benefits.  It has a high amount of chlorophyll, which removes toxins from the blood and advances the immune system.  It has an abundant amount of iron that is completely bio-available.  The list of nutritional qualities goes on and on.

This has just been an overview of some of the superfoods that I use as tools to improve my running.  Chia Seeds are another great one for runners.  You can read more about chia here.  There are literally hundreds of foods deemed good enough to be called superfoods.  Do a little research.  You may already be eating  many of these natural power sources.  It is my belief that we can control the quality of our minds, bodies, and spirits through the choices we make in diet.  What we put on our forks, goes into our mouths.  What goes into our mouths, fuels our thoughts and actions.  What are you putting on your fork?  And where are your feet leading you?

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