5 Unexpected Foods Female Athletes Should Be Eating

By Kim McDevitt, MPH RD on March 25, 2015 , categorized in Plant-based Nutrition

female athletes

How many articles have you read about “the best foods for runners”? And, how many times have you opened the article only to see the same list of usual suspects: oatmeal, bananas, sweet potatoes, etc.?? While those foods definitely play a role in helping us to fuel our runs and nourish our body, I wanted to give you some less common foods to freshen up your weekly eats and provide nutrition so that you can continue to power through your runs, and crush your training goals.

While all nutrients are significant to the body, there are certain nutrients that are really important for the female runner.  Four to consider are: calcium, magnesium, iron and selenium. Below are five foods that not only have these essential nutrients for us girls, but are also delicious and worthy of a spot in your weekly meal planning and prep:

1. Molasses

A sweetener that has more than just sugar! Did you know that molasses has manganese, magnesium, iron and potassium 1https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/6293?fgcd=&man=&lfacet=&count=&max=&sort=&qlookup=&offset=&format=Full&new=&measureby=? Try swapping out sugar in a recipe for molasses next time you’re backing.

Favorite way to eat: Make a winter smoothie using 1 cup almond milk, 1 scoop Vega Sport® Protein Vanilla, 1 tablespoon molasses, 1 banana, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon allspice, 1 inch piece fresh ginger.

2. Dark Chocolate

Not only is dark chocolate a decadent treat, but it can also be a way to get some of your daily iron needs. 1 oz of dark chocolate (70-85% cocoa) has 18%DV for iron. Iron2https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/6453?manu=&fgcd=&ds=Standard%20Reference is important to female athletes because iron is what helps give the red blood cells oxygen, specifically carrying oxygen from your lungs to your muscles.

Favorite way to eat: An ounce of an delicious, vegan bar of dark chocolate that is at least 70% cocoa as an after dinner treat.

3. Pumpkin seeds

While we frequently hear the benefits of snacking on almonds and walnuts, it’s time to start swapping in some pumpkin seeds. The number one reason: magnesium. Just one ounce delivers over 1/3 of your DV, and are a good source of protein.

Favorite way to eat: Sprinkle ¼ cup of raw pumpkin seeds over a salad of massaged kale (massage with lemon juice and oil), avocado, and hemp seeds.

4. Brazil Nuts

Brazil nuts are another nut that often get passed over. But did you know that Brazil nuts are actually one of the richest sources of selenium? Just one Brazil nut contains over 100% of your daily value of the antioxidant selenium3United States Department of Agriculture. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Brazil Nuts. Accessed on 2/20/15https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3641?fgcd=&manu=&lfacet=&format=&count=&max=50&offset=&sort=default&order=asc&qlookup=brazil+nuts&ds=Standard+Reference&qt=&qp=&qa=&qn=&q=&ing= . Selenium is a mineral with antioxidant compounds, allowing it to play a role in supporting the immune system and thyroid function4National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. (2013). Selenium Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet. Accessed on 2/19/2015 from http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Selenium-HealthProfessional/.

Favorite way to eat: Keep a jar of raw Brazil nuts in your refrigerator and reach for it as part of a snack at any point in your day.

5. Black Rice

Most runners have it down that carbohydrates are an integral part of their daily diet. While carbohydrates come from a variety of foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains) it’s important for women to ensure they are incorporating at high-quality, whole grains into their daily eating. Whole grains (unrefined) give the body not only carbohydrates, but also fiber and some B vitamins5http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/what-are-health-benefits/whole-grains-important-source-essential-nutrients, including B6 and folic acid.  Instead of loading up on spaghetti or white rice try a new grain, like my new favorite: black rice.

Favorite way to eat: Try making a simple one bowl meal with black rice, grilled tempeh, sautéed kale, topped with kimchi and avocado. Save time by cooking multiple servings of rice and storing in the refrigerator or in freezer until your next meal.

Remember that your nutrition is an extension of your training plan. What you eat affects your runs, for better or worse.

What foods do you make sure to incorporate into your daily training plan?

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Kim McDevitt, MPH RD

Kim McDevitt works at Vega as a National Educator. A runner, cooking enthusiast, plant-focused flexitarian, Kim has passionately built her career in nutrition. Noticing that her running performances were closely tied to what she was eating, Kim decided to study nutrition and pursue advanced degrees in Dietetics and Public Health, to better understand the power of food in performance. Today, Kim specializes in sports nutrition to enhance athletic performance and focuses on realistic and approachable ways for improving health through educated dietary choices within an active lifestyle.