In the United States, just one in 10 people consume the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables in their diet. Eating a healthy diet, filled with fruits and veggies, can help with sustaining energy, exercising efficiently, and may even help you live a little longer. Vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables provide specific micronutrients called phytonutrients that help your body function at an optimal level. Phytonutrients play an important role in maintaining overall health, optimizing exercise performance and recovery, and can also help us age gracefully. We’ve highlighted some nutritious and delicious fruits and vegetables that help support energy, fitness and longevity.
- Oranges are a great source of vitamin C, but strawberries may be a better option. Strawberries provide vitamin C, manganese, folic acid and potassium. Research has shown that vitamin C helps reduce fatigue. Vitamin C also plays a role in carnitine biosynthesis; carnitine is a critical player in energy production in the mitochondria, the machinery in the cell that is responsible for making adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy molecule of the cell. Manganese and folic acid (vitamin B8) help facilitate the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats and proteins for energy in the body. Strawberries also contain the phytochemicals, anthocyanins and ellagitanins, which are instrumental in supporting immune health.
- Sweet Potatoes are naturally sweet and provide a nutritious source of energy. Rich in fiber, sweet potatoes are considered a complex carbohydrate, which means they are digested at a slower rate and help provide a steady source of energy. They are also an excellent source of manganese which helps the body breakdown protein and amino acids, and aids in the metabolism of cholesterol and carbohydrates. Sweet potatoes are also an excellent source of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene which can help improve performance during exercise.
- Avocados seems to be great for almost everything. They are rich in healthy fats and contain a considerable amount of fiber. Avocados are a good source of B vitamins, which are vital to metabolism and mitochondrial function.
- Bananas are an excellent source of carbohydrates, potassium and B vitamins. Several studies have shown the benefits of eating bananas before exercise. In one study, eating a banana before a workout was as efficient as a carbohydrate drink for improving the performance of endurance athletes.
- Cherries have been shown in scientific literature to help with recovery after a rigorous workout. In fact, a study showed that ingesting tart cherry juice for seven days prior to and during a strenuous running event can minimize post-run muscle soreness. Scientists attribute this relief to high levels of antioxidants and other soreness relieving compounds. More research is on the horizon, but cherries may be a great natural choice to help with soreness associated with a great workout.
- Edamame are a great snack. Packed with protein, good carbohydrates and fiber, they also have folic acid which works in conjunction with iron to help promote energy and combat fatigue.
Longevity and Immune Health
- Carrots contain high levels of carotenoids, which are naturally occurring yellow and red pigments found in plants. Carotenoids are also antioxidants, which improve the ability to combat oxidative stress and strengthen the immune system. Interestingly, researchers have shown that eating more carotenoids can support (or contribute to) cellular health that can lead to greater longevity.
- Broccoli and other green leafy vegetables also help promote longevity. Broccoli is a good source of fiber, selenium, calcium, magnesium and vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as some B vitamins including folic acid (B8). Scientists have also shown broccoli has special phytochemicals that are precursors to the pathways that help with slowing the aging process. Although the research is preliminary, it yields promise, adding even more benefits from the cruciferous vegetable.
- Goji Berries are full of antioxidants that help protect your cells against free radicals which can cause damage, but are also packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Fiber helps absorb bad cholesterol and promote heart healthy living. Research has also shown that Goji berries support cognitive health and promote energy.
Produce provides a powerful source of nutrients, vitamins and minerals that can help you stay energized, boost your immunity and improve your workout. Which fruits and vegetables do you plan to incorporate into your daily diet to help reach your energy and fitness goals?
For tips on being better to your heart, visit 6 Keys to Heart Healthy Living.
Dr. Lauren Horton is a senior manager in Research and Development at AdvoCare. She has used her expertise to successfully develop protocols, clinical designs and test strategies to help AdvoCare achieve research and product development goals. Before joining AdvoCare International, she was a clinical researcher at a leading clinical research organization. Dr. Horton loves to help improve the quality of life of those around her. She has helped men and women from all over the country discover how small steps each day can lead to huge strides towards living a healthier lifestyle. Dr. Horton holds a BS in biology from Rust College and a PhD in biomedical science from Morehouse School of Medicine and completed her post-doctoral studies at the University of Pennsylvania.