VEGGING OUT: BEST VEGETABLES FOR YOUNG ATHLETES
The young soccer player, regrettably, has no memory of how much he loved mashed peas or strained sweet potatoes or pureed green beans as a baby. So much so, that he liked to wear it all over his face and clothes too! Then, he grew up and decided vegetables were gross. But these best vegetables for young athletes can make a big difference to their play on the pitch.
“Food is like [gas]. If you put the wrong one in your car, it’s not as quick as it should be.” — Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Popeye’s biceps weren’t entirely made up. Spinach is a superfood rich in iron, which means it has many positive effects on the blood. Plus, this leafy green has a significant effect on restoring energy levels and increasing vitality.
Spinach and other leafy greens also help to decelerate mental deterioration and improve mental focus. Additionally, the high levels of iron and vitamins A and K in spinach can help reduce inflammation and improve bone health.
In the same family as spinach above, Broccoli is also a standout veg. It earns its standalone status on this list from the added vitamins it offers such as Vitamin Ca and folate, Vitamins A, K, calcium, fiber, and choline. Choline helps mental concentration and helps counter the energy-sapping pressures of playing top-notch soccer.
Now, your young athlete is excited! “Oh, I just love my beetroot! Thanks Mom and Dad.” Yet this small ruby red vegetable packs several benefits:
• Reduced inflammation
• Improved recovery
• Enhanced energy, speed, mental focus, and stamina
Why? Beets are rich in nitrates, a natural chemical that changes into nitric oxide in the body, reducing the oxygen loss from exercise.
Peppers are low in calories and loaded with vitamins A and C, potassium, folic acid, and fiber. Some are spicy, others are sweet. The red ones, which have been on the vine the longest, pack the most nutritional punch. According to WebMD, “compared to green bell peppers, the red ones have almost 11 times more beta-carotene and 1.5 times more vitamin C.”
This one is botanically speaking a fruit, but it’s widely considered a vegetable. So, let’s just move on shall we?
#5 Sweet Potato
OK, technically this one can be considered a starch, but we’re not going to write a top starches for soccer players blog. And, anyway, The American Diabetes Association lists sweet potatoes as one of its 10 “superfoods.” Linda Antinoro, a registered dietitian at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, suggests that by “replacing your white potato, rice, pasta, or bread with a sweet potato, you’re adding a whopping dose of beta-carotene, as well as vitamin C, potassium, and other vitamins and minerals.”
U.S. Soccer suggests “eat a rainbow often.” And that’s not encouraging you to binge on Skittles. Instead, it encourages athletes to “eat fruits or vegetables with each meal. Choose a wide variety of colors for the biggest benefit.” We hope this blog helps you make better nutrition choices. You’ll see the difference (and so will we) on the field!