Nutrition is not only crucial to good health, but also to your running performance. If improving your nutrition is one of your main goals for the new year, try adding these foods to your shopping cart to boost your immune system, lower inflammation and support your cardiovascular health to make 2022 your healthiest, best year yet.
Beans (like chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, etc.) are a good source of plant-based protein, which aids in muscle recovery after runs and workouts. They’re also high in fibre and magnesium, which helps control your blood pressure and blood sugar levels, improve your gut health and provide disease-fighting phytonutrients and antioxidants.
If you’re not used to eating beans, start small and increase your portions gradually over time, since their high fibre content can also cause some unwanted side effects (you know what they say…beans, beans, they’re good for your heart…). Try adding just a 1/4 cup to your salad at lunch, or throw a can of beans into some soup or stew. Also remember, if you’re buying beans from a can, make sure you rinse them well to avoid tummy troubles.
Bone broth (otherwise known as stock) is made by simmering bones (like chicken, cow or fish) in water and a bit of vinegar, which releases the nutrients in the bone marrow to create a flavourful, nutritious broth. It is rich in vitamins like calcium, magnesium and phosphorous, as well as gelatin, which the body can break down into collagen. According to this 2017 study, consuming gelatin can help protect your joints from unnecessary stress.
Fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi improve your gut health by introducing healthy bacteria into your gut microbiome. This will improve your digestion and support your immune system to keep colds and flus at bay so you can train uninterrupted by illness.
You’ve been told a million times that you should eat plenty of dark, leafy greens. That advice still stands, but this year, consider making some room in your diet for sea greens, like kelp and seaweed. These green veggies are packed with micronutrients and minerals like vitamins K and A, iodine, magnesium, folate, calcium, and more. Try making your own sushi, adding them to soup or even a salad.
The health benefits of nuts are well-documented, but their “cousin”, seeds, tends to get stuck in their shadow. Pumpkin, chia and flax seeds all offer amazing health benefits (and tend to be less expensive than nuts), but sunflower seeds should be at the top of your grocery list. They offer a good source of protein along with plenty of fibre and antioxidants and as a bonus, they’re allergy-friendly. Toss them on a salad, mix them into granola or try spreading some sunflower seed butter onto your morning toast.
If you’re not afraid of a little heat in your meals, consider adding chili peppers to your dishes more often. Not only are chili peppers high in antioxidants, they’ve also been shown to improve endurance performance thanks to their capsaicinoid content, which is the compound that gives the peppers their spicy kick.
Fish and seafood
Fish and seafood are excellent sources of protein, as well as other important nutrients like vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium and potassium. Fatty fish, like salmon or sardines, also provide a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids, which according to new research, could help to prevent injuries. Looking to be a stronger, healthier runner this year? Try swapping out meat for fish or seafood a couple of times per week.