By Carly Bergenholtz
Fueling a runner’s body is no easy task. One needs to remember how crucial vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates are in sustaining a fit and well fueled body. Iron is one of those minerals that needs to be present in any diet, but is particularly important for endurance athletes. It helps in sending oxygen from the lungs into other areas in the body, and, with sufficient amounts, it mitigates muscle weakness and overall body fatigue.
Animal proteins help us get the iron we need, but for runners who are vegan, vegetarians, or simply careful about heart health, meat is not an option. We now know there are great iron alternatives: Just think green! Dark leafy green vegetables are an excellent source of iron, and kale just happens to be the healthiest and most nutritious. According to Jill Ettinger from the Organic Authority, “Per calorie, kale has more iron than beef.” Kale will also supply health conscious runners with calcium, fiber, and omega fatty acids.
So what does it taste like? Kale is very mild in flavor, so it can keep a low profile in soups and stir-fries without overpowering your dish. I make a morning smoothie for the kids with raw kale and they can’t even detect its presence! Kale is also meaty in texture. It is not as delicate as spinach or some other traditional lettuces, so eating it raw for the first time may take some getting used to.
If you are looking for consistency in your iron intake, my suggestion is to put kale into your foods anyway you can. If you need some help finding ways to work kale into your diet, here are some suggestions that are popular in my house:
- Shred it into eggs
- Add a handful to smoothies
- Stir into soup and stir fry
- Kale chips
It’s no secret that my runner husband has an ongoing love affair with tortilla chips. No matter the brand as long as corn, oil, and salt are the main ingredients, he’s going to devour the whole bag. A few months back, I introduced him to kale chips and it was an instant romance. Check out this simple recipe:
1 bunch curly kale
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt to taste
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Rinse and dry the kale well. Remove the stems, and cut into large pieces. Toss in a large bowl with olive oil and salt. Once coated arrange leaves on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes until crispy. Cool and enjoy!
Carly Bergenholz is a Connecticut based health counselor. You can contact her at [email protected]. This article originally appeared in the May/Jun 2014 issue of Level Renner. Get your free subscription today (box in upper right portion of screen). Since it’s all free, the little things like getting on our subscriber list go a long way in helping us grow!