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From antioxidants and anti-inflammatory produce to heart-healthy and metabolism-boosting foods, a plate full of colors is one of the best ways to pack in as many nutrients as you can during mealtime. It’s a simple rule: The more color on your plate the healthier the meal. However, do you truly understand what you’re eating?
For runners, the constant pounding on the pavement and long workouts puts a great deal of strain and fatigue on your body. So understanding what foods to nosh on can help you recover quickly and actually perform stronger.
Jennifer Christman, RDN, LDN, corporate dietitian at Medifast, explains, “When your body is filled with good, vitamin-rich foods it performs at its best. Therefore, when training for a race or maintaining your base, it is important to fuel the body with a rainbow of foods to help combat those stressors.”
Christman makes it easy to help you remember what each color on your plate means with this simple cheat sheet:
- Red: Improved immune function and heart health
- Orange/yellow: Great for eye health and immune function
- Green: great sources of vitamin K
- Blue/Purple: rich heart-healthy antioxidants and may reduce the risk for cancer, stroke and heart disease
- White: supports heart health and helps fight disease
Christman shares the health benefits of each color and suggests the best fruits and vegetables to add into your diet to Maintain optimal running health when training for your next race.
These antioxidants help to support the immune system with their anti-inflammatory properties. After a long run the immune system is severely compromised and red vegetables help to support immunity.
Foods to eat: Radishes, red peppers and tomatoes, all contain vitamins like C and A.
ORANGE AND YELLOW
These nutrients support your immune system and vision. They also help keep your bones strong, which is especially important for long-distance runners and women as they age.
Foods to eat: Vegetables like spaghetti squash, summer squash, carrots and orange and yellow peppers are full of vitamins C, A, and beta-carotene.
Green vegetables help with digestion as well as eye, bone and cardiovascular health. Running is a great aerobic exercise that strengthens the heart and lungs. The nutrients in green vegetables coupled with a healthy dose of running offer a powerful way to protect and strengthen your cardiovascular system.
Foods to eat: Vegetables include lettuces, peppers, cucumbers and broccoli. They are rich in vitamins A, C, and E along with dietary fiber.
BLUE AND PURPLE
These vitamins are essential for optimal blood pressure, brain function and blood flow. Proper blood flow ensures oxygen is reaching the muscles for efficient running and performance.
Foods to eat: Vegetables like eggplants, purple cabbage and purple potatoes are loaded with vitamins K and C.
Don’t count these vegetables out; they provide nutrients, such as potassium, magnesium and fiber that keep bones strong, immune system healthy, and metabolism working properly.
Foods to eat: Vegetables include parsnips, cauliflower, mushrooms and onions.
“Eating a diet that is colorful promotes effective and healthy running by combating inflammation and fueling the body with nutrition and energy. A variety of vegetables also contribute to women’s health by providing essential vitamins and minerals to support cardiovascular and bone health,” says Christman.