By Ali Lopez
I love to eat! Most runners do. And as a chef, I love to create delicious dishes. But I also look to food as fuel and without it, I can’t do the things I love to do. There are certain foods that are “super” good for runners — packed with nutrients and all of the good stuff that we need as runners to keep us running long and strong. That’s why I like to call them “superfoods.” They don’t have to be weird or exotic or expensive. My favorites can be found wherever you buy your groceries and are easy to incorporate into delicious meals or snacks.
Here are a few of my favorites and a great recipe that incorporates all of them in one dish — that’s why I call it my Superfood Kale Salad.
Kale is packed with vitamins A, B6, C and K and is one of the most antioxidant rich foods you can eat. It’s got great anti-inflammatory properties as well. Kale is also is high in fiber and contains more iron per calorie than beef and more calcium per calorie than milk.
Avocados are a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamins C, K, folate and B6. They also provide a good dose of healthy monounsaturated fats. They even have more potassium than bananas for an electrolyte boost and cramp prevention. Avocados also pack powerful anti-inflammatory properties that can help your body recover after a hard workout.
Walnuts – you don’t need to eat a lot of them to tap into their power. Just a small handful a day will deliver a healthy dose of omega-3s, melatonin, copper, manganese, vitamin E and are a good source of protein.
Quinoa is one of the most protein-rich foods we can eat. It is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids. It contains almost twice as much fiber as most other grains. Quinoa also contains iron, magnesium, riboflavin (B2) and manganese.
Lemon is a great source of Vitamin C and is alkalizing for the body.
Cherries are rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants. They have been shown to be beneficial for performance and provide recovery benefits. And of course we LOVE them here in Michigan.
I have been making this salad for a few years now and it always is a big hit (even among those who “say” they don’t like kale. And the best part is that it is just as good — or even better — the next day…. Think easy do-ahead lunch!
Super Food Kale Salad:
1 bunch kale (lacinato kale is especially good), stalks removed and discarded, leaves thinly sliced
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons maple syrup
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 avocado, diced
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup dried cherries (or cranberries)
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
To cook quinoa: In a saucepan combine the 1/2 cup quinoa with 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cook until the quinoa absorbs the liquid. About 12-15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside covered for 5 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk lemon juice and maple syrup with the olive oil whisking until a dressing forms, and you like how it tastes. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Pour the dressing over the kale, massaging into the kale. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. Then add the avocado, cherries, quinoa and walnuts. Toss and serve.
*This salad is even better if you can let it sit for a half hour (or even more). It is also very versatile. Sometimes I add some pumpkin seeds (good source of iron), roasted beets (great for recovery), roasted sweet potato (vitamin and anti oxidant powerhouse) … the possibilities are endless!
Have a fueling question for Ali? Post it below in the comments section or email MRG with your healthy-eating questions at michiganrunnergirl [at] gmail [dot] com
Ali will answer your questions in upcoming columns here on MRG. You can read her first post, about the Power of Smoothies, here »
Ali Lopez is a northern Michigan runner, chef and health coach. You can learn more about her at her web site Healthy Chef Ali. She’s also on Facebook here »
You can listen to a conversation about running and eating between Ali and Heather on a recent MRG podcast episode here »