Eight Simple Superfoods That All Teenage Athletes Should Eat
Teenage athletes have unique nutritional needs which are many different from those of adults as their bodies are still developing. Regardless of their sport, young athletes must always balance the number of calories they consume with the number of calories they burn during training to ensure that all nutritional needs are met. This is sometimes difficult for athletes as they are constantly on the go. Here are eight quick and convenient nutrient-rich foods that greatly optimize physical growth, development, and athletic performance in teenage athletes.
Edamame is an incredibly nutritious, whole soy food source of high-quality protein and many other nutrients. Protein is needed to build and maintain strong bones, muscles, and joints. This is especially critical for teenagers participating in sports because they are at increased risk of injury. Protein also helps in the repair of muscle damage during training, thus promoting efficient recovery. For the convenience of an athlete on the go, edamame can be purchased in convenient, snack-sized packs for easy snacking.
Teenage athletes need adequate amounts of calcium and potassium every day and yogurt houses a rich supply of both. Collectively these minerals are essential for heart, bone and muscle health. In young athletes, a sufficient intake of potassium and calcium rich foods like yogurt is necessary for preventing sports-related injuries and muscle cramps. In addition to its high content of calcium and potassium, yogurt also contains substantial amounts of high-quality protein, vitamin B12, and phosphorous.
Tuna is a potent natural source of vitamin D, which is critical for suitable absorption of dietary calcium and general bone health. This is extremely important for teenagers in general but athletes especially as deficiencies in this vitamin can increase the risk of bone fracture, disease, or deformities. In addition to vitamin D, tuna is also an excellent source of protein, healthy fats, and the antioxidant mineral selenium. For a quick meal, tuna can be consumed right out of a can or spread on whole grain crackers or bread.
4. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate (made from pure cocoa powder) is a valuable source of essential nutrients like magnesium and iron. Iron consumption is especially crucial for teenage athletes as they are at increased risk of deficiency (anemia). Dark chocolate is also a great source of probiotics, antioxidants, and l-arginine, a non-essential amino acid that helps to reduce free radical production and damage associated with exercise training. In pure form dark chocolate is quite bitter, but teenagers can enjoy it in the form of chocolate milk made by simply adding pure cocoa powder to milk.
Fat is an extremely important component of an athlete’s diet. Due to its unique blend of chickpeas, tahini (ground sesame seeds), and olive oil, a single serving of hummus delivers a rich supply of healthy monounsaturated fat along with substantial doses of protein and fiber. It’s also a good source of many vitamins and minerals including vitamin B6, folate, vitamin C, and iron, each of which is essential for growing athletes. Hummus is great as a dip for celery or carrot sticks.
6. Plain popcorn
Given the widespread consumption of overly processed, nutrient devoid junk food and fast food among teenagers, popcorn is an incredibly nutritious snacking option for athletes. It’s one of the only snack foods that are 100 percent whole grain, providing a large amount of fiber with trace amounts of numerous vitamins and minerals. Plain or lightly salted air-popped popcorn is best, as it’s completely void of empty calories from added sugars, starches, or fats.
7. Nut butter
Nut butters, such as peanut, almond and walnut butter are a valuable source of protein, healthy fats, and other key nutrients like magnesium. Magnesium is an important mineral needed by athletes, as it enhances oxygen delivery to contracting muscles. The healthiest nut butters are minimally processed, organic, natural and low in sugar. For a quick and delicious meal, nut butter can be spread on whole grain crackers or bread. It also makes a great dip for apple wedges or vegetable sticks.
Spinach contains a rich supply of essential nutrients that promote optimal performance and overall good health among teenage athletes. It contains substantial amounts of B-complex vitamins (riboflavin and folate) and antioxidants (beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E), which collectively play key roles in energy production, immunity, and muscle recovery after exercise. Spinach is also a valuable source of other nutrients needed by teenage athletes including calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron.
Good nutrition is crucial for healthy weight management, normal growth, and proper development of teenagers, but it’s especially critical for teenage athletes. Collectively, these foods house large quantities of key nutrients and antioxidants that encourage peak athletic performance and recovery after training.