Q: I've been reading about phytonutrients- what are they and why do I need them?
A: Simply put, phytonutrients are chemical compounds in plants that protect it from germs, pests, and environmental toxins. They have discovered up to 40,000 different ones and are still finding more.
When you eat food, it is disassembled and the nutrients are utilized to perform different jobs within the body. I'm often asked why I place such a huge importance on plants (vegetables, fruits, greens, herbs and spices) in my meal plans over something like meat and carbohydrates. The one sentence answer is, because plants are the lifeblood that keeps athletes going and the magic potion for
longevity. The macronutrients are important but there's an obsession with fats, carbs and proteins which leads people to miss the bigger picture.
Phytochemicals give fruits and vegetables their beautiful array of colors and some of their taste qualities. Examples of phytochemicals include lycopene in tomatoes, beta-carotene in carrots, ellagic acid in raspberries.
So why are these phytochemicals important to you? They perform a variety of functions in your body when consumed. Studies indicate that they may prevent or delay the onset of chronic disease such as cancer and heart disease. Some decrease inflammation, others act as antioxidants to protect DNA and cell membranes from damage. While some phytochemicals in blueberries and cherries may aid in recovery from workouts.
So what is the best plan for optimal health for endurance athletes? Use what nature provided to heal your body quickly and effectively. Eat nutrient dense, minimally processed plant foods and lots of them! Phytochemicals work in a synergistic manner, meaning their combined effects are greater than their individual effects. This means you need to eat a variety of whole, nutrient rich plant foods daily.
And for my meat loving peeps... I do believe in the power of meat, fish and plant based sources of protein but that's coming in next months newsletter so stay tuned. One bite of the "apple" at a time.
Person to follow:
Tina is a friend, running inspiration, and someone I think deserves a cheer (she's doing almost back to back races- Half Marathon World Championships and the London Marathon). She is a Saucony sponsored elite runner and the host of the Runners Connect podcast.
Tina recently achieved her lifetime goal of representing Great Britain at the World Championship. You can read her race recap on her blog HERE.
I admire her courage to chase a dream in such a competitive field. Her mantra is Be Brave, Be Strong, Be You - something I think we can all get behind!
You can find her at the links above, or at:
Squash, pomegranate and kale salad:
1 butternut squash, peeled and sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 tsp poppy seeds
1/4 c pumpkin seeds
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1c pomegranate seeds
1 head of kale, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
½ red onion, sliced
¼ cup maple syrup
½ cup rice wine vinegar
Juice of one orange
½ cup coconut oil (or other cold pressed oil)
Preheat oven to 375 °F.
Coat sliced squash with olive oil and poppy seeds, bake for 30 minutes
or until soft. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Combine kale, cooled squash, pomegranate seeds,
and red onion in a
large salad bowl.
Whisk together maple syrup, rice wine vinegar, orange juice, and coconut oil.
Dress salad immediately before serving.