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Food and Its Impact on Your Health 

By Bob Seebohar

  Athletes are known for using food as fuel and while that may be suitable for certain times of the year, it is also important to remember that food has tremendous benefits to health. I often tell athletes, “if you are not healthy, you cannot perform.” Thus looking at the health promoting benefits of some foods is important if you want to maintain an active lifestyle.

grapes Below is a list of the foods that either have been linked to having positive health benefits or have been proven to benefit you more if you avoid them. 

1.  Trans fats: eating a diet high in trans fats increases the risk for depression, as much as 48 percent! Trans fats are normally found in snack type foods such as chips, cookies and cakes. Be sure to replace the trans fats in your diet with more healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats like salmon, avocados, olives and olive oil.

2.  Meats and sweets: following more of a traditional Westernized diet, high in red and processed meats, saturated fats and sweets can have a negative effect on the kidney function over time. Be sure to choose the leanest meats and stay away from the processed ones that contain a high amount of sodium and chemicals. Also try to reduce your sweet and sugar intake by eating more whole fruits and vegetables.

3.  Blueberries: yes, the benefits of eating blueberries keep pouring in! One research study followed 157,000 men and women over 14 years and they summarized that those who at least one serving of blueberries per week were 10 percent less likely to have high blood pressure. The health benefits seem to lie in the plant compounds called flavonoids that are present in blueberries. Serve them up as a side dish or add to a fruit smoothie but be sure to try for at least 1-2 servings per week.

4.  Sweets and teens: a very interesting research study found that teenagers who at more than 30 percent of their daily calories from added sugars had higher levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol and lower levels of the healthy, HDL cholesterol. It’s easy for our youth to eat without knowing what they put in their bodies, so be sure to encourage them to eat more fruits and vegetables and really take a good look at the sugar content on the nutrition facts label of food products.

5.  Fiber and mortality: yet another good reason to eat your fruits and vegetables — to prolong your health! Fiber has often been highlighted for lowering the risk of certain types of cancer, heart disease and diabetes but a recent research study also links a higher fiber diet to a 22 percent lower risk of death from all causes (specifically heart disease, infections and respiratory illnesses). Try foods that may be new to you that are high in fiber such as kale, acorn squash and flaxseed.

6.  Vegetables: not too exciting because for some reason, most athletes struggle to eat the required servings per day. Sometimes, the sheer fact of seeing the vegetables is a turn-off so next time, try blending up some veggies and adding them to an existing meal, sauce or soup. One of my favorites is mashed cauliflower. Looks like mashed potatoes and when the right spices are used, you can hardly tell the difference!

7.  Seafood: every time I present to a group of athletes, I ask how many times per week they eat seafood. The answer is usually between 1-2. Seafood is high in protein which will help balance blood sugar and it is high in Omega-3 fats, which helps with heart health and inflammation. Most people are concerned with the mercury content in some seafood and you should definitely keep this in mind as you try to introduce fish 2-3 times per week into your daily nutrition plan.

Remember, you cannot perform well if you are not healthy. The above tips will help you approach foods differently and hopefully make better choices that focus on improving your health first, which in turn, will assist in your performance improvements.

Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS is a Sport Dietitian, USAT Level III Elite Coach, USAT Youth and Junior Coach and an exercise physiologist. He was on the coaching team of Susan Williams, 2004 Olympic Triathlon bronze medalist, and was the head coach of Sarah Haskins, 2008 Olympic triathlete, and Jasmine Oeinck, 2009 Elite National Champion. Bob was previously a sport dietitian for the U.S. Olympic Committee and the 2008 Olympic triathlon team. Bob has worked with hundreds of age-group triathletes and professionals to help them lose weight and body fat while optimizing performance through nutrition periodization and metabolic efficiency. Bob recently published a Metabolic Efficiency Recipe book with over 100 recipes that provides athletes even more options to follow metabolic efficiency training. Visit www.fuel4mance.com for more information.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.

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