Best Healthy-Eating Plan (Preview)

A healthy, whole-foods eating plan (Non-subscriber preview)


Posted: 7 January 2008
by Liz Applegate

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Forget energy bars, nutrient-enhanced drinks and other fortified foods. When it comes to fuel, ‘real’ foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats, are a far better option. Within the body, vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients work together with thousands of other compounds, such as colour pigments in fruits and vegetables, special starches and fibres in whole grains, and unique fats in seeds, nuts and dairy. And it’s the whole package, working together, that promotes good health and peak athletic performance. Getting the 50-plus nutrients every runner needs daily, from real food, is easy. Follow these six rules every day, and your body will get everything it needs for better health and better running.

Basque grilled vegetable skewers with lime chimichurri sauce

Rule 1: Eat five different-coloured fruits and vegetables daily

To get the most from your fruit and veg, think in terms of colour – yellow, red, orange, green, blue, purple and every shade in between. A plethora of pigments lights up the fruit and veg aisle, each offering unique health benefits. The deep red in tomatoes comes from lycopene, while the bright orange in sweet potatoes comes from beta-carotene. These, and other pigments, have been shown to lower risk of cancer and heart disease, and improve memory. And since most pigments act as anti-oxidants, they can help reduce inflammation caused by heavy exercise. For maximum benefit, these pigments need to interact with different colour compounds in other fruits or vegetables.

Plate it
Aim for nine daily servings of colourful fruits and vegetables (increase by one or two servings daily if you run over 35 miles per week). Of these, try to eat five unique colours. A serving equals a medium-sized piece of fruit, such as an apple; 60g of dried fruit; 160g of raw vegetables; 90g of cooked vegetables; or a bowl of green salad.

Kota Kapama (Cinnamon chicken)

Rule 2: Eat meat, poultry or eggs from free-range or grass-fed animals

By eating lean meats, poultry and eggs, along with dairy products, runners can easily meet their increased protein needs and take in crucial minerals that can be hard to get elsewhere. Meats are a great source of iron and zinc, which support healthy red blood cells and a strong immune system. Studies suggest that diets balanced with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean cuts of meat, including beef and skinless poultry, help to lower blood-cholesterol levels, blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. Consider organic (free-range and grass-fed) animals, which are supposed to contain the most omega-3 fats (the ‘good’ fats) and the fewest artery-clogging saturated fats.

Plate it
Aim for around 140-200g of lean meat, or the equivalent (one egg equals 30g of meat, protein-wise) a day. Having 85g of meat supplies 20-25g of protein (25 to 30 per cent of your daily needs). Trim away any visible fat, and grill or bake rather than fry. Select organic meats, eggs and poultry when possible.

Spicy salmon lettuce parcels

Rule 3: Eat foods that come from cold water

Fish and other seafood provide a unique combination of nutrients important to runners. Seafood is an excellent source of protein (runners need about 50 per cent more protein than non-runners) and also contains zinc, copper and chromium – minerals that are often low in a runner’s diet. But the omega-3 fats are what make seafood such an essential part of anyone’s diet. Over the past decade, researchers have discovered that people who eat fish and other seafood a few times per week have a lower risk of sudden heart attack, vascular disease and stroke. Fish intake has also been linked to lower rates of depression. Runners should also note that the omega-3s in fish have anti-inflammatory capabilities, giving them the potential to counter exercise-induced muscle soreness.

Plate it
Eat one or two seafood dishes a week. Fish from colder waters, such as Scotland, have the greatest amount of omega-3 fats. Swordfish, shark and king mackerel tend to be the most contaminated fish, so instead choose salmon, prawns and scallops.

Curried lentils with butternut squash

Rule 4: Eat plant foods with their skins intact

Lose the peeler. The outer skins of plants protect them from UV light, parasites and other invaders. As a result, those skins are bursting with a wide range of phytochemicals that also protect your health. Grape skins, for example, are high in resveratrol, and onion skins contain quercetin, both of which can help lower your risk of heart disease and colon and prostate cancer, and boost your immunity.

Skins are also rich in resistant starches and various types of fibre, which promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the intestines. Studies show that this fibre actually blocks absorption of three to four per cent of total calories consumed when eaten as part of a high-fibre diet. This is why people who follow a high-fibre diet (over 35g daily) consisting mainly of fruits and vegetables, tend to have lower body-fat levels and smaller waist sizes than low-fibre eaters.

Plate it
The less you fuss with fruits and veggies, the better. Wash them, but leave the peels and skins on. When using high heat, wrap veggies in foil to protect their skins.

Walnut and blueberry bran pancakes

Rule 5: Eat seeds, or foods made from seeds

Seeds, including whole grains, many beans and even tree nuts (such as cashews, almonds, pecans and walnuts), contain the crucial mix of nutrients necessary to grow a new plant, which means that they are packed with health-boosting compounds. In addition to traditional nutrients, such as protein and essential fats, seeds contain bioactive compounds, which act as antioxidants. Eating a diet with an ample amount of these seeds has been shown to improve health and help maintain a healthier body weight. People who eat whole grains and beans have a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and certain cancers, and they tend to have lower cholesterol levels than people who don’t eat nuts and seeds.

Plate it
Eat four to five servings of whole grains daily (one serving is equal to 100g of brown rice or one slice of 100 per cent whole-grain bread), a 130g serving of beans most days of the week, and a 30g serving of nuts or seeds five days a week.

Seasonal fruit smoothie

Rule 6: Drink milk and eat milk products that come from animals

Whether from a cow, a goat or even a reindeer, mammal milk (as opposed to soya milk) and other dairy products, such as cheese and yoghurt, should be a part of every runner’s diet. As you know, milk supplies calcium for strong bones, which is great for your running, but animal milk, in particular, offers much more. Dairy food and drink supplies a runner’s hard-working muscles with an ample amount of protein to help speed recovery. But whey protein, the specific type of protein found in dairy foods, may also help to strengthen the immune system. Ample research also suggests that regular dairy consumption can lower your blood pressure and your risk of heart disease. Studies have also shown that dieters who include dairy in their low-calorie plans lose more fat than those who simply cut calories.

Fermented dairy products, such as yoghurt, cultured sour cream, dips and cream cheese, contain live bacteria, which also bolster immune health. These bacteria, as well as a special fat in dairy called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), can also help improve intestine function.

Plate it
Include two or three servings of dairy each day, with one being a fermented dairy product. One serving of dairy equals 240ml of milk, a yoghurt or 40g of cheese. Select low-fat produce. Also, if you are lactose intolerant, you may find fermented dairy products are easier on your stomach.


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nutrition running, health general, nutrition recovery, fat, nutrition running, nutrition pre-run, nutrition general, weight
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