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Written by: Jim Gourley
With all the demands in our daily lives, many of us treat a trip to the grocery store like it’s training for the transition area—we put the premium on speed. Get in, get your list checked off, get out. Your nutrition and athletic performance shouldn’t have to suffer for your time-starved lifestyle. We know you don’t have the time to read every packaging label and research the latest studies in diet and nutrition, so we did the footwork and created this shopping list of the five ingredients that should be stocked in every triathlete’s kitchen—and some good substitutes for nutritionally weaker foods.
Protein, riboflavin, thiamin, iron–it’s all here, and in abundance. Between your morning bowl of cereal and afternoon yogurt snack, a 100-gram sprinkling of this topping will give you more than a third of your daily iron requirement, 23 grams of protein and push you over the halfway mark in satisfying your needs for folate, B6 and zinc—all key ingredients for recovery and red blood cell development.
Bell peppers (green, yellow and red)
Getting your vitamin C from an orange? You can get up to five times more if you sauté these and add them to your pre-race pasta meal. You’ll also get your complete daily requirement of vitamin A and a healthy dose of B vitamins. At less than 100 calories per cup when chopped, these are a nutritional no-brainer that get overlooked far too often.
Life is hard as an apricot. It looks like a wimpy peach or an unripe plum. Either way, it’s easy to pass it over in the produce section, but you do so at a loss. In addition to being a great source of lactic acid-fighting potassium, apricots are high in antioxidants and a great plant source of omega-6 acids. More than just a nice flavoring to trail mix, this is a must-have in the endurance athlete diet.
You rarely hear about oysters amid all that talk about tuna and salmon, unless the discussion turns to performance in … other areas. But those little oysters pack a big nutritional punch and have lower mercury content. They also have more than twice the recommended dosage of B12, a quarter of your iron needs, and lots of zinc, selenium and manganese—all in three ounces and 50 calories.
While an extra slice of holiday pie isn’t the preferred source, other recipes are worth a look. Pumpkin is high in antioxidants and potassium. And if you’re looking for a more natural energy source during workouts, look into the seeds–they’re even higher in potassium and contain high levels of protein and iron. Just watch the fat content.
In contrast, here are some “healthy” foods with questionable nutritional value. In fact, other than popularity, they’re not really high in much else. Here’s how they break down, and replacements that will better serve you.
They’re high in vitamin K, but with enough exposure to sunlight your body ought to make all it needs on its own. Also, the vitamin C, A and iron content isn’t substantial. A good replacement is broccoli. It’s higher in C and A, and has a substantial dose of folate.
Green beans have fiber, but other beans offer much more. Swap these with kidney or black beans—they’ll give you a ton more iron and protein, and they pack a mighty mineral wallop. Name an essential element in your physical makeup, and you’ll find it in large quantities in these substitutes.
We’re not saying to forgo salads, but why eat only lettuce when you can combine it with other high-octane options? Spinach is exceptionally high in vitamins A and C and folate. Kale finishes a close second, and even cabbage has more vitamin and mineral content. Mix things up in your next salad and get more bang for your green-leaf buck.