How are you celebrating Earth Day this year? Spring is one of my favorite times to run and enjoy the outdoors. The earth is coming alive with new growth, and so should your meals and snacks. Boost your health and your running performance by loading up on green fruits and vegetables.
Most fruits and veggies contain phytonutrients. These are substances that plants produce naturally to protect themselves. They provide the plant's color, aroma, texture, and flavor.
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This chemical family also has nutritive health benefits. For instance, lutein, which is present in green vegetables such as kale, spinach, and broccoli, may aid in maintaining healthy vision.
Kale, spinach and broccoli are also rich in the antioxidants, beta carotene and vitamin C. Antioxidants are natural defenders present in the body and in certain foods, particularly fruits and vegetables. Adequate antioxidant intake is vital for runners because these compounds play a vital role in protecting cells from oxidative damage which is increased during physical activity.
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For this reason, the American Dietetic Association recommends that individuals who participate in regular prolonged, strenuous exercise (such as long-distance running), should consume 100 to 1,000 mg of vitamin C daily (preferably from whole foods). You can easily consume the minimum amount of vitamin C by enjoying ½ cup of raw red peppers or a medium orange plus ½ cup of raw broccoli.
Antioxidants also help protect the body against harmful, unstable molecules called free radicals. Free radicals can lead to various diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, cataracts, lowered immune function, and neurodegenerative diseases.
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Antioxidants can prevent or decrease the damage created by free radicals. Strengthen your body’s ability to fight free radicals by consuming antioxidant-rich foods like kale, spinach, broccoli and avocados. Furthermore, eating greens can help regulate digestion by introducing natural fibre in your diet. Regular digestions means more time on your feet and a lower chance of suffering from stomach issues during exercise.
Not only is eating green healthy for your body, but you will also be doing your part to help the earth. This can be accomplished through:
- Buying local
- Shopping at farmer's markets
- Getting to know the farmers in your area
- Joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)
- Growing some of your own veggies
- Starting or participating in a community garden
Celebrate spring by increasing your intake of green fruits and vegetables. Your body will thank you as it reaps the myriad of health and physical benefits they provide, and the planet will thank you for making eco-friendly choices.
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