A Fresh Perspective on Fruit
Fruits are one of the first foods added to a child’s diet. Up there with vegetables on the top of the food priority list (but the bottom of the actual food pyramid since we are meant to have several servings daily), fruits are foundational to a healthy diet. Fruit is even more important to young athletes training and playing hard. Here’s help for developing soccer players looking to make smart food choices.
Healthy Fruit Consumption
Fruit juice sounds like a good idea, but really only the freshly squeezed kind has the full nutritional value. Read the labels and you’ll see that many so-called fruit juices are made with less than 50% actual fruit — often even less than 30%. The not-so-fruit juice drinks are also typically crazy high in sugar.
Consider this comparison: A 12-ounce portion of Coca Cola nets 140 calories and 40 grams of sugar (10 teaspoons) while the same amount of apple juice is 165 calories and 39 grams of sugar (9.8 teaspoons).
When you do drink fresh fruit juice, if you’re making your own, a Mayo Clinic registered dietician recommends making “only as much juice as you can drink at one time because fresh squeezed juice can quickly develop harmful bacteria.”
Eating whole fruit is still going to be more nutritionally helpful than just the juice. Especially if you eat the fruit on an empty stomach. When you eat fruit with other foods, or as dessert, or cooked, the fruit can’t do its detoxifying job in the same way. Eating fresh fruits on their own helps you digest the nutrients more effectively.
Getting organic fruit or avoiding fruits that have travelled large distances to be served up out of season in the grocer’s produce aisle can also make a difference. After all, a lot of fruit is picked before ripe, which can negatively impact its nutritional value.
Know Your Fruits
So, that apple? Its vitamin C content is actually on the lower side, but it’s still good for you. That’s because it has flavonoids, which help enhance the activity of Vitamin C in your body.
Strawberries can help promote blood sugar control and provide lasting energy since they are so fiber-rich. They also have the greatest amount of antioxidant power among the major fruits.
Oranges are the so-called “sweetest medicine.” Brimming with Vitamin C, these also lower cholesterol and can prevent and dissolve kidney stones. Their Vitamin C also may help reduce inflammation and help the body absorb iron from plant-based foods, like beans and lentils. Providing plenty of carbohydrates and water, they can lower your risk for fatigue and dehydration after intense exercise.
Kiwis actually, though, have twice the Vitamin C of the better-known orange. These tiny but mighty fruits are also a good source of potassium, magnesium, Vitamin E and fiber.
Watermelon is a good fruit for hydration and to fill you up. It’s composed of 92% water and packed with glutathione, which helps boost your immunity, as well as Vitamin C and potassium.
Guava and Papaya are great for Vitamin C. Plus, the guava is rich in fiber and helps prevent constipation. Meanwhile, papaya is rich in carotene, which is good for your eyes.
Raisins, too, have been proven to be a good source of glucose before exercise. Comparing a sports gel to raisin consumption 45-minutes before activity, a 2007 study found the raisins provided the same performance benefits while providing the nutritional value of fiber, iron, and potassium.
Bananas are a good post-game option as they help replenish your electrolytes after physical exercise while also helping maintain low blood sugar and regulating digestion.
If you want to shake up your vitamin dosage with some of the lesser-known fruits you might try passion fruit, the Central American pitaya fruit, persimmons and, because they aren’t all brought to you by the letter P, jack fruits.
Ultimately, eating healthy takes work. Athletes face the added challenge of making the right choices when hurrying to practice after school or spending all day at the tournament sidelines. Don’t overlook the importance of eating right, though. You might also check out our blog on strategies to eat healthier options.
Why Vitamin C?
Vitamin C helps your body:
• Reduce inflammation
• Fend off infections
• Produce collagen to hold muscles, bones together
• Prevent bruising
• Enhance iron and folate absorption