An Introduction to Minerals and Other Amazing Nutrients in Fruits and Vegetables.
Whereas fruits are typically packed with vitamins, minerals tend to come moreso from our vegetables – though make no mistake, both fruits AND vegetables are packed with both.
So, a good question to start with might be: what is the difference between a vitamin and a mineral?
Whereas vitamins are organic and thereby are typically quite volatile (they can be broken down by the likes of heat, air, and acid), minerals are conversely inorganic. In fact, a mineral can actually be a metal or a rock – something you would never really think of as being a fundamental building block in what makes you you.
But indeed minerals are crucial to the healthy function of the human body. Iron for example is a crucial mineral that the body uses to make hemoglobin – the red blood cells that travel around the body carrying oxygen. Without this process, it would be impossible to provide energy around the body for the countless crucial functions that go on – including breathing, digesting, and more.
Typically, minerals tend to have a slightly more fundamental role in the structural elements of the human body – and the harder elements. For example, minerals form bones, tendons, and ligaments.
Minerals also play a role in conduction, however. The body is powered by electricity after all, and maintaining the correct charge is crucial for the healthy function of our muscles and brain. That’s why an incorrect balance of sodium and potassium can cause cramping, as the body is unable to send messages correctly to the muscles. Likewise, a lack of calcium can reduce strength as it is needed to handle the charge in the muscle cells.
Did you know? You can tell the difference between a fruit and vegetable based on the seed/stone. Vegetables don’t have them! Foods that have surprising categorizations include: tomatoes (fruit), coconut (fruit), avocado (fruit), and cucumber (fruit).
Other Essential Micronutrients
As well as being rich in vitamins and minerals, fruits and vegetables are also a rich source of the two other essential nutrients. The other essential nutrients are: essential fatty acids, and essential amino acids.
The term ‘essential’ means that these substances cannot be synthesized within the body, and so therefore must be obtained from our diet. And perhaps this should also be a clue as to how big a problem it is that 99% of us are not getting them that way!
So, what do these nutrients do?
Well, amino acids are essentially the building blocks of proteins. We get a lot of these from meat, and our bodies will then break down those constituent parts in order to rebuild our tissue. As we saw at the start of this book, we literally are what we eat!
This is why amino acids and proteins by extension are so important for bodybuilders and athletes trying to build muscle.
Research suggests that the optimum balance for athletes is 1 gram of protein for every 1lb of bodyweight. Protein also has other benefits – it is much harder to convert into fat for instance, and it has a thermogenic effect meaning that simply digesting it will actually burn calories!
Thus, many people will be hard at work trying to find sources of protein from meat and will eat large amounts of chicken to build bigger muscles. This can become hard work! But what they forget is that vegetables and even fruits also contain protein (though vegetables are slightly superior in this sense).
Don’t just count the protein you got from that protein shake and chicken, think about how much is in the broccoli on the side of the chicken.
Amino acids also play a host of other roles in the body and are used to produce digestive enzymes, neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) and much more. They can also do things such as creating
Finally, fruits and vegetables contain essential fatty acids. These are important fats that help us to better absorb other fruits and vegetables, and also serve a range of additional useful benefits – such as enhancing brain function (the brain is made of a large amount of fat!).
Omega 3 is one of the most powerful essential fatty acids there is and has a HUGE host of amazing benefits. Often, we think of omega 3 as being something we get from fish, but in fact it also exists in good amounts in seaweed, hemp seed, walnuts, kidney beans, soybean and more.
Fruits and Vegetables for Athletic Performance.
When you think of a diet for building muscle, your mind probably turns to the classic options. You likely will focus primarily on protein sources like chicken, tuna and eggs. An athlete’s diet should consist of nothing but meta and steamed rice, right?
But this is far from the only kind of food that’s going to be useful for building muscle and improving performance. In fact, for bodybuilding, sprinting, swimming, long-distance running, and any other kind of athletic pursuit it is highly important that you get a balanced diet that will incorporate a wide range of different food groups.
In particular, it is crucial you get your fruits and vegetables.
Interested in taking supplements to boost your athletic performance? What might interest you to learn is that consuming fruits and vegetables can actually be more effective while also costing much less and having a myriad of other amazing health benefits!
Here are some examples.
Top Fruits and Vegetables That Improve Athletic Performance
Beets are far and away among the very most important vegetables for building muscle and for athletes of all kinds.
That’s because beets are among the most effective foods in the world when it comes to raising nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a natural
‘vasodilator’. This means that it can cause the blood vessels (veins and arteries) to dilate (widen) thereby encouraging the flow of oxygen and nutrients around the body. The result is that the muscles get more oxygen and energy during training and more nutrients for enhancing recovery.
This can help you lift for more reps, run further distances and recover at a faster rate.
Carbohydrates are often made out to be the bad guys but in fact they are very important for building muscle and for physical training in general. Potatoes are a good choice of carbohydrate
because they’re also high in fiber, high in vitamin C (which enhances recovery) and low in calories. Consume after a workout and the energy will go straight to the muscles rather than the waist.
Spinach is a vegetable that is high in protein as well as being a
good source of phytoecdysteroids. These don’t have anything in common with anabolic steroids but they may have a similar effect – with some studies suggesting they are a good option for encouraging muscle building and testosterone production.
Kale is the vegetable highest in calcium. Calcium is actually very important for your workouts, not only does it help to strengthen the bones but it also reinforces your connective tissue and it helps to strengthen contractions for more explosive power during workouts.
Kale is very trendy right now being high in protein and low in calories. A shame it costs a fair bit though!
Mushrooms are technically not fruits or vegetables, but they are
found in the same aisle and they’re safe for vegans, so they’re fair game to include here. Mushrooms are not only another great source of protein but also come with a wide range of additional health benefits and advantages. They’re packed with minerals, they can encourage recovery from training and much more besides!
It’s surely only a matter of time until we start seeing mushroom protein shakes cropping up in health stores!
The other amazing benefit of mushrooms is that they contain
vitamin D. In fact, they’re one of the few dietary sources of vitamin D! (Another being oily fish).
This is important seeing as vitamin D is considered to be a master hormone regulator, and is responsible for encouraging the production of testosterone in particular – one of the main anabolic hormones for building muscle and burning fat.
What’s more, is that vitamin D has recently been shown to be much more potent than even vitamin C when it comes to supporting the immune system and preventing colds and flus. As any athlete knows, a cold can be enough to complete derail and athletes training plan, which in turn can be the difference between victory and failure!
Carrots are generally healthy and a great source of vitamin A, C
and K. What’s really exciting about them though is the lutein, which may help to increase energy levels and enhance the efficiency of your very mitochondria!
Your mitochondria are the energy factories of your cells which convert glucose into ATP (glucose being the sugar that comes from carbs, and ATP being the usable form of energy in your body). This in short means that with carrots and other sources of lutein, you can actually run faster and that you’ll actually burn more calories even when you’re resting!
In one study, rats were given lutein (which needs a source of fat to absorb such as milk) and it was found that they began running long distances voluntarily in their wheel, burning much more fat as they did.
Apples are rich in vitamin C, which is another crucial vitamin for enhancing the immune system and helping athletes train longer and harder without fail. Vitamin C also helps to encourage the repair of muscle tissue, increases serotonin to aid with mental recovery, and even increases the production of both testosterone and nitric oxide when paired with zinc.
On top of all this, apples are also very rich in fiber, which can help to improve bowel movements, the absorption of food, blood pressure, and more. Fiber is also key to supporting a healthy microbiome, which in turn can support a healthy immune system, better mood, weight loss, and much more.