You guys…I’m seriously SO excited about this week’s Tuesday Tidbit!! The plant based movement is HUGE but I feel it’s even larger in the athletic community as a way to reduce inflammation and increase performance. Over the last few years of working with athletes, in particular plant based athletes and runners, I continually highlight some nutritional ‘go-tos’. While we all have different nutritional needs, I find there are specific nutrients athletes and runners (or even if you’re working out regularly) need. The tricky part is that you may or may not be consuming enough of them. Of course, variety is key, so know that this list is not comprehensive by any means and that all foods fit!

Sweet Potatoes – Whether you’re carbohydrate loading for a marathon or casually hitting the gym, sweet potatoes provide complex carbohydrates to give your body sustained nutrition. These orange gems are loaded with Vitamin A (beta carotene) that protects cells from free radical formation but is also responsible for assisting in white blood cell formation. So if you have a heavy training schedule coming up with the potential to overtrain (no beuno), you need a healthy immunity. You need sweet potatoes! J One 5” sweet potato has 250% of your daily dose of Vitamin A plus we can’t forget about all the other vitamins and minerals like calcium, magnesium, copper, etc.

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Chia Seeds – Chia seeds are one of the most nutrient dense foods out there. In only 2 tablespoons, these tiny morsels have 4.9g of total omega-3 fatty acids while 3oz of salmon only has 1-2g of omega 3s (ALA in the plant foods vs DHA/EPA in the fish but still an omega 3 fatty acid). That means you’re getting one big anti-inflammation boost – perfect to consume around those long runs. That’s not all, in that same 2 tablespoon amount, you’ll find 12% of the iron and 16% of the calcium needed by most adults. That’s huge! Top it off with 8g of fiber and 6g of protein and chia seeds will help keep you satisfied. The mild taste allows them to be added into smoothies, cereal, salads without even noticing. Swap out eggs for chia to act as a binder in baked goods or let soak in water/milk for another way to sneak in hydration.

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Almonds – Almonds are the perfect snack to keep in the car or at the office because they don’t require refrigeration or preparation and are truly some of nature’s best fast foods. In 1 oz (about 24 or that’s roughly the size of a post-it note), you’ll find a hefty dose of calcium, iron, vitamin E, fiber and protein to repair muscles, strengthen bones, and keep your body properly fueled!

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Lentils – All legumes could really go here, but I find lentils to be the fastest cooking legume (unless you don’t cook them at all and opt for canned varieties! : ). Lentils like other legumes are a complex carbohydrate, low on the GI index to provide sustained energy. Lentils offer 9g of protein and 37% of the iron needs for most adults in only ½ cup – helping athletes fuel appropriately and recover smarter. The high fiber content promotes healthy gut flora aka microbiome which is responsible for assisting in your immunes system and your running performance, although the later is still being understood!

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Strawberries – Strawberries are high in vitamin C that helps absorb non-heme sources of iron (think plant based sources like spinach). I cup of whole strawberries only has 47 calories while containing 141% if your vitamin C for the day! Combine that with the smidge of potassium (6%), fiber, and polyphenol antioxidants and you’re doing a marvelous thing to help reduce inflammation – who knows, if you eat enough of them, maybe you won’t be sore. 😉 Keep in mind as we move towards “not strawberry season,” stock up and freeze them now with the tops cut off or buy frozen which are just as nutritious. Having the fruit frozen makes for an extra refreshing post run smoothie/smoothie bowl!

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Until next time, which PS I’m thinking could be about plant based food musts for plant based newbies! What do you think?? …well, until next time, hugs, love, and yumminess.

5 Must Eat Foods for Plant Based Athletes
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