By Liz Applegate, Ph.D. • Runner’s World
Most supermarkets stock more than 30,000 items, yet every time we race up and down the aisles of the grocery store, we toss into our carts the same 10 to 15 foods. Which isn't such a bad thing, as long as you're taking home the right foods--ones that will keep you healthy and fuel your workouts. These 15 foods fit the bill--add them to your must-buy list:
These are an excellent source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that many of us fall short on because there are so few good food sources of it. And the form of vitamin E found in the nuts, called gamma-tocopherol (a form not typically found in supplements), may also help protect against cancer.
One egg fulfills about 10 percent of your daily protein needs. Egg protein is the most complete food protein short of human breast milk, which means the protein in eggs contains all the crucial amino acids your hard-working muscles need to promote recovery.
Just a single 100-calorie sweet potato supplies over 250 percent of the DV for vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, the powerful antioxidant. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamin C, potassium, iron, and the two trace minerals manganese and copper.
Whole-Grain Cereal with Protein
Look for whole-grain cereals that offer at least five grams of fiber and at least eight grams of protein. If you pour on a cup of milk or soymilk, you'll get 30 to 40 percent of your protein needs in one bowl.
Oranges supply over 100 percent of the DV for the antioxidant vitamin C, and a recent study from the University of North Carolina Greensboro showed that taking vitamin C supplements for two weeks prior to challenging arm exercises helped alleviate muscle soreness.
Canned Black Beans
One cup of these beauties provides 30 percent of the DV for protein, almost 60 percent of the DV for fiber (much of it as the cholesterol-lowering soluble type), and 60 percent of the DV for folate, a B vitamin that plays a key role in heart health and circulation.
Mixed Salad Greens
Rather than selecting one type of lettuce for your salad, choose mixed greens, which typically offer five or more colorful delicate greens such as radicchio, butter leaf, curly endive, and mache. Each variety offers a unique blend of phytonutrients that research suggests may fend off age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer's, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
Besides being an excellent source of high-quality protein (you get about 30 grams in a four-ounce serving), salmon is one of the best food sources of omega-3 fats. These essential fats help balance the body's inflammation response, a bodily function that when disturbed appears to be linked to many diseases including asthma.
Whole-grain bread may help the weight-conscious. One study showed that women who eat whole-grain bread weigh less than those who eat refined white bread and other grains.
Frozen Stir-Fry Vegetables
Research shows that eating a combination of antioxidants, such as beta-carotene and vitamin C, may lessen muscle soreness after hard workouts by reducing the inflammation caused by free-radical damage.
Whole-grain versions are a must over refined pastas because they contain more fiber to fill you up, additional B vitamins that are crucial to energy metabolism, and disease-fighting compounds such as lignans.
Along with protein, chicken contains selenium, a trace element that helps protect muscles from the free-radical damage that can occur during exercise, and niacin, a B vitamin that helps regulate fat burning during exercise.
Frozen Mixed Berries
The colorful compounds that make blueberries blue, blackberries deep purple, and raspberries a rich shade of red are called anthocyanins--a powerful group of antioxidants that may help stave off Alzheimer's disease and some cancers.
Chocolate contains potent antioxidants called flavonols that can boost heart health. In one study, a group of soccer players had lower blood pressure and total cholesterol levels, and less artery-clogging LDL cholesterol after just two weeks of eating chocolate daily. Other research suggests that the chocolate flavonols ease inflammation and help prevent blood substances from becoming sticky, which lowers the risk of potential blood clots.
Besides being a good source of protein and calcium (one cup provides 13 grams of protein and 40 percent of the DV for calcium), low-fat yogurt with live cultures provides the healthy bacteria your digestive tract needs to function optimally.