Fruits and Vegetables
Kaylee Jacks MS, RD, LD
Do not let injury, illness and low energy keep you down this season. Stay healthy and at your best with fruits and vegetables. In addition to fruits and vegetables, eating adequate amounts of whole grains, lean protein, fat-free or low-fat dairy, healthy fats and fluids can boost your health and give you a competitive edge. Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals that can help keep you energized and healthy all season long.
Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables to maximize all the nutrients they offer and aim to get a minimum of five servings daily. Here are a few nutrients found in fruits and vegetables that can enhance your health and sport performance:
1. Water and Electrolytes. When you are dehydrated, you are more susceptible to injury and illness. Staying hydrated is even more challenging in the heat. Fruits and vegetables have a high water and electrolyte content that can help replace what is lost through sweat. Fruits such as watermelon, strawberries and grapefruit, and vegetables such as zucchini, radish and celery have a water content over 90 percent. In addition, these water-rich fruits and vegetables can help replace the sugar and electrolytes that are lost through sweat and play a role in muscle contraction. If you are training out in the sun, pack fruits and vegetables to have as a refreshing snack in addition to your water or sports drink.
2. Iron. Iron is a mineral that carries oxygen from the lungs to your body tissues and is essential for energy production. Iron is lost through sweat and strenuous training that destroys red blood cells. When athletes have low iron, they are likely to experience early-onset fatigue. Eating fruits and vegetables rich in iron, such as apricots, lentils, beans, and dark, leafy greens such as spinach and kale, can help oxygenate your cells and keep you energized! Try adding a handful of spinach into your smoothie, or add lentils and beans as a side to your favorite dish to pump up your iron!
3. Phytochemicals. Phytochemicals give fruits and vegetables their color, which is why it is important to eat a variety! Phytochemicals help keep you healthy all season long by working as antioxidants, supporting immune functions and repairing damaged cells. Select a variety of different fruits and vegetables and make your plate colorful!