Whether you’re looking to start running or whether you’re a runner who eats right most of the time, there’s a simple way to boost your normal diet by transforming your dietary stalwarts into uncommonly healthy foods.
“By making some easy additions to foods you already eat every day, you can provide your body with a greater variety of nutrients,” says sports dietitian Molly Kimball. “Plus, you’ll add new flavors to your same old diet.”
Here’s how to upgrade your usual fare with nutrient-packed ingredients.
Boost Smoothies – Add Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
Cocoa powder is rich in flavonoids – antioxidants that reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. They also protect skin against sun damage and lower blood levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation.
Unlike dark chocolate cocoa powder contains no added sugar and less saturated fat.
EAT SMART: Avoid Dutch processed cocoa. It’s treated with alkali (to give it a mild flavour) and contains fewer flavonoids.
Boost Oats – Add Blueberries
One cup of fresh blueberries will give you 19g of carbs for recovery fuel. It also contains antioxidants called anthocyanidins. Studies show these compounds half oxidative damage due to ageing, helps fight disease nd may stave off muscle soreness and inflammation.
EAT SMART: More options include strawberries, acai or gogi berries.
Boost Yogurt – Add Linseeds
Linseed has up to seven times the amount of omega-3 fatty acids as other seeds. Omega-3′s are polyunsaturated fats that boost heart health, and new research now links the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3s to the relief of join pain associated with arthritis or exercise.
EAT SMART: Grind the seeds to absorb the omega-3s. Alternatively, soak the linseeds in water overnight and sprinkle in your yoghurt or cereal.
Boost Salmon – Add Oreganum
Oreganum doesn’t just complement the flavor of grilled salmon. Now research has found it has up to 20 times more antioxidants than other herbs. “Antioxidants help minimize soreness and improve recovery,” says Kimball. “And punching up the flavor with herbs means you can cut back on salt and fat.”
EAT SMART: Buy fresh oregano for higher levels of antioxidants than dried – or grow your own fresh supply on a sunny kitchen window sill!
Boost Rice – Add Turmeric
This spice gets its yellow hue from cur-cumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory phytochemical. Studies show this compound may reduce risk for cancer and diabetes, and help maintain mental health. What’s more, researchers discovered curcumin halts fat cell expansion, which may fight weight gain.
EAT SMART: While cooking rice, add a few dashes of turmeric to the water. Sprinkle the spice into soups and chili, too.
Boost Salad – Add Green Beans
They’re high in fibre and have more protein than many other vegetables. This will make your salad more substantial and keep you full for longer. Instead of just having lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes, add steamed broccoli, raw grated carrot, raw (or pickled) beetroot, mielies, rocket or spinach to add bulk – and colour! – to your salad.
EAT SMART: Buy frozen edamame shelled or in the pod. To cook, boil the beans in salted water for a few minutes.
Boost Pasta Sauce – Add Ostrich Mince
Ostrich is high in muscle-building protein and low in unhealthy saturated fat. It also provides highly absorbably iron, which runners need for endurance. “If your iron levels are low,” says Kleiner, “your muscles won’t get enough oxygen, leaving you low on energy.”
EAT SMART: For digestive purposes, ostrich is best consumed after training, or several hours before a workout or race – such as lunch or dinner for a next morning race.
Boost Salad Dressing – Add Hemp Oil
This oil has more of the omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid than olive oil. Researchers found this acid reduces heart-attack risk. The oil also contains gamma-linolenic acid, an omega-6 that quells inflammation.
EAT SMART: Store the nutty-tasting oil in the fridge to keep it fresh
Boost Sandwiches – Add Broccoli Sprouts
Research has shown that broccoli sprouts contain up to 100 times more sulforaphane than full-grown broccoli. This compound triggers production of enzymes that may neutralize carcinogens.
EAT SMART: Find broccoli sprouts next to alfalfa sprouts in the supermarket.