"Fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants runners need to support training," says Tara Gidus, M.S., R.D., an Orlando-based sports dietitian and marathoner. "In general, the more color in your shopping cart, the more antioxidants and nutrients you're going to get."
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Nitrates found in beets can make your muscles work more efficiently during exercise by reducing the amount of oxygen they need.
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There are 8 grams of fiber in a single cup of raspberries. "Higher fiber foods help runners maintain a healthy body weight and digestive system," says Gidus.
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Kale is jam-packed with vitamin C, vitamin K, and vision-protecting beta-carotene. Add it to soups, sauté it for a side, or add to salads and sandwiches.
Nearly 70 percent of its fat is monounsaturated, "the same kind that makes olive oil heart-healthy," Gidus says. Half an avocado also delivers seven grams of fiber.
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One potato provides more than three times your daily need for immune-boosting vitamin A. "It's full of complex carbohydrates," Gidus says, "which helps keep your energy stores topped up."
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High vitamin C intake may reduce upper-respiratory-tract infections, as well as help lower your heart rate during exercise. One cup of mango delivers 75 percent of your daily need for C.
Eggplant, which has just 20 calories per cup, contains antioxidants with heart-protective qualities.
A study from Texas AgriLife Research found that plums contain as much antioxidant power as blueberries. "Consuming plenty of antioxidants," says Gidus, "may reduce postworkout muscle-tissue damage, speed recovery, and boost immune function."
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Bananas brim with potassium and quick-digesting carbs. "Potassium plays a key role in muscle contraction, with low levels linked to muscle cramping," Gidus says.
Usually located in the produce department, tofu is an inexpensive and low-fat protein source. Add it to stir-frys, chili, or even pasta sauce.
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