The energy you get from food helps your body to reduce inflammation, fight disease, and continue to develop power and speed through physical activity.
Many supplements exist on the market to help improve athletic performance, but none of these products may be as effective as the nutrients provided from whole foods.
Many athletes overemphasize carbs, protein, and fats, and focus too little on foods rich in micronutrients. Some micronutrients can greatly impact performance and recovery. The following four food groups provide essential vitamins and minerals. They’re also packed with healthy fats, proteins, and enzymes that regulate bodily functions and keep our cells healthy:
When eaten raw and uncooked, the following five foods will help keep you performing at your peak.
Eating raw fruits and vegetables is one way to ensure you are getting the most vitamins, minerals, and amino acids from the foods you eat. Raw foods contain the highest amount of nutrients and enzymes that fuel each of your body’s functions.
Sprouts like radish, clover, broccoli, and alfalfa are excellent sources of the protein and enzymes necessary to maintain good health. Sprouts are easy to prepare and digest. Plus, they can help your body neutralize free radicals to create a more alkaline environment for proper cell functioning.
Chronic inflammation in the body can lead to serious illness if left untreated. Inflammation can lead to:
- cardiovascular disease
- certain cancers
- autoimmune disorders
Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce this inflammation and support many processes that contribute to cellular healing.
Flaxseed is high in omega-3s and dietary fiber. According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s commonly used to improve digestive health. It may also help lower cholesterol levels. Other great omega-3 sources are chia seeds and walnuts.
Beets are high in carbohydrates needed for sustained energy and contain many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. The high nitrate content of beets may also help dilate blood vessels. This can help lower blood pressure and increase the amount of oxygen delivered to the cells.
Drinking a cup of beetroot juice a day may help lower blood pressure and aid blood flow, according to a study reported by the American Heart Association.
If you are in good general health, but often find yourself out of breath or having difficulty controlling your heart rate during exercise, your body may be running low on iron. Iron is essential in the production of healthy red blood cells that deliver oxygen to tissues in the body.
Without enough iron in the blood, you become fatigued faster. The lack of oxygenation can affect your heart rate and immune function. Squash and pumpkin seeds are a great source of plant-based iron. They’re also packed with fiber, healthy fats, and protein.
Intense exercise can be hard on your body. Proper recovery is essential to improving your strength. Healthy fats and foods rich in essential vitamins and minerals can help improve immune and thyroid function. They can also protect and repair bones and connective tissue. Brazil nuts are an excellent source of proteins, fats, and other essential nutrients.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Brazil nuts are high in nutrients that help control blood pressure, such as:
Eating just a few Brazil nuts each day can stimulate your natural recovery processes and help you build and maintain strong bones and muscles.
A healthy and varied diet containing whole-food carbohydrates, proteins and fats, and abundant plant sources rich in micronutrients and antioxidants will provide the best balance of nutrition for optimal performance.