Active women need fat for hormone development, energy production and brain function. University of Buffalo researchers followed 86 female runners for a year and determined that those with the most injuries consumed significantly fewer calories from fat. Focus on healthy fats like olive oil. According to a study in the journal Nature, olive oil contains a natural anti-inflammatory, oleocanthal, which can help speed recovery post-exercise.
Chew on this: Choose flavorful extra-virgin olive oil. It contains oleocanthal as well as antioxidants.
What to try: Sonoma Farm Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (sonomafarm.com)
Quick dish: Mix a quarter-cup olive oil with 1 tablespoon each Dijon mustard and orange juice and drizzle onto salad.
To combat the effects of training, eat plenty of protein to assist in muscle repair. Unlike other cheeses, ricotta protein comes largely from whey, a high-quality protein. Canadian scientists found that whey protein improved the ratio of muscle to body fat in women who consumed it daily for six weeks while taking part in a resistance-training program.
Chew on this: To sidestep saturated fat, choose reduced-fat ricotta cheese.
What to try: Sargento Light Ricotta Cheese (sargento.com)
Quick dish: Spread ricotta on toasted English muffins, and dust with cinnamon. Or combine a half-cup each of ricotta and low-fat milk with frozen berries in a blender for a muscle-building shake.
Loaded with fiber, vitamin K, beta-carotene, vitamin C and manganese--which helps produce energy from protein and carbohydrates--kale is a flavorful option for your salad. Carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin in kale protect eyes against UV damage. Plus, it has some of the highest amounts of potassium--necessary for proper brain, nerve and muscle function--in the veggie world.
Chew on this: The USDA recommends that women consume at least three cups of dark greens such as kale, broccoli and spinach weekly.
What to try: Dinosaur kale has a slightly sweeter, more delicate flavor than curly kale. Find it in specialty food markets.
Quick dish: To temper kale's bitterness, gently sauté it with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chopped garlic, dried cranberries and pine nuts.
"Runners who train regularly should aim for 2.5 to 4 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight to ensure that this important energy source is being continually replenished," says sports nutritionist Monique Ryan. Consider quinoa (pronounced "keen-wa"), a whole grain chock-full of complex carbohydrates, zinc, B vitamins, iron, fiber and magnesium.
Chew on this: Penn State University researchers found that whole-grain eaters dropped two times the abdominal fat compared to dieters who consumed refined grains.
What to try: Eden Foods Organic Quinoa (edenfoods.com)
Quick dish: Add one part quinoa to two parts boiling water, reduce heat and simmer until the water is absorbed. Stir in chopped red pepper for a side dish.
Salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids for fending off maladies ranging from heart disease to depression. Acting as an anti-inflammatory, omega- 3s may help soothe post-run achy joints. Japanese scientists reported recently that an antioxidant in salmon improved exercise endurance by preserving carbohydrate stores.
Chew on this: Wild salmon contains fewer toxins and creates less environmental degradation than farmed Atlantic.
What to try: Wild Planet canned wild sockeye salmon (1wildplanet.com)
Quick dish: Mix one can of wild salmon with an egg, a quarter-cup breadcrumbs, one chopped onion and half a tablespoon cumin powder. Form into patties, and cook for two to three minutes on each side.