Coaching Association of Canada

The Power of Veggies!

The high training demands of athletes can place added stress on the body increasing the need for certain nutrients and calories. Athletes need to eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet including a variety of vegetables in order to fuel their bodies. Vegetables can help:

  • Support immune function. Vegetables contain a variety of different vitamins such as vitamin A, C, and E, and minerals such as magnesium. A diet that includes a variety of vegetables and fruit may help decrease the risk of illness and infection often caused by busy training and travel schedules as well as insufficient rest.
  • Fight oxidative stress: Phytonutrients such as carotenoids have antioxidant properties that may help prevent cell damage throughout the body including combating the stress and damage from destructive free radicals produced during strenuous exercise.
  • Meet energy needs: Starchy vegetables like potatoes, yams, carrots, turnips, and squash are great sources of carbohydrates for energy.Follow these quick and easy ways to help you get a variety of vegetables daily:

Follow these quick and easy ways to help you get a variety of vegetables daily:

Fresh, frozen, or canned – they are all great options when looking to add more vegetable servings into your diet.

  • Spice up your salads! The veggie possibilities are endless. Try a dark green leafy base like romaine, spinach or bok choy and top with your veggies of choice. Add some lean meat or alternatives (such as chickpeas, red kidney beans) and a whole grain roll for a balanced meal.
  • Add a variety of fresh veggies to your sandwiches (see the Super Veggie Wrap recipe below).
  • Add grated veggies to pasta sauces, lasagnas, shepherd’s pie, and omelets for an extra vitamin boost.
  • Replace up to ¾ of the butter, margarine, or oil in your favourite recipes with a vegetable puree.
  • For a quick and convenient option, think of soup. 

What kinds of vegetables should you eat?

Go for colour. Each colour group of vegetables contains unique components that are essential to our health. Choosing a variety of coloured veggies each day will help you get the best all-around health benefits they provide!

Aim to get at least one dark green and one orange vegetable each day.

The Reds - Contain nutrients such as vitamins A and C. Vegetables like tomatoes also contain lycopene, which is one of the phytonutrients responsible for the colour red. Vitamins A and C are important for building strong bones. Go for: Tomatoes, red bell peppers, beets, radishes, red onions, red/purple cabbage, etc.
The Greens - Contain lutein, zeaxanthin, folate, Vitamin A and potassium. Lutein, xeaxanthin, and Vitamin A help protect the eyes and promote good vision. Potassium plays a key role in muscle contraction. Go for: Dark leafy greens such as romaine lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, arugula, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, peas, brussel sprouts, green peppers, etc.
The Oranges - Contain potassium and are rich in carotenoids such as beta carotene. Beta carotene is converted into Vitamin A in the body and helps support immune function. Go for: Carrots, pumpkin, orange-coloured squash, sweet potatoes, etc.
The Purples - Contain nutrients like anthocyanins which may have antioxidant properties that support heart, eye and brain health. Go for: Eggplant, purple potatoes, purple cabbage, etc.
The Whites - Contain allicin and indoles, which have antioxidant properties. Go for: Onions, garlic, potatoes, cauliflower, mushrooms, turnips, parsnips, artichokes, etc.