It’s no surprise that a healthy diet plays an important role in chronic disease prevention, but it turns out some foods may also protect against acute injuries. While nothing can replace proper steps to prevent injury in the first place, such as protective equipment when playing sports or well fitting running shoes, adding a few key ingredients to your diet may be just the thing you need for an extra line of defense. Here’s a rundown of the top foods that can protect your body from injury.
Calcium may be the most well-known nutrient when it comes to preventing injuries because of its role in building strong bones. A study published in The Lancet found that calcium supplements reduced the risk of all types of fracture by 12 percent in people aged 50 years and older, making it a key nutrient for injury prevention. Men and women under fifty need 1000 mg of calcium per day, while people over fifty need 1200 mg per day. Osteoporosis Canada recommends eating foods that contain calcium that is easily absorbed, including dairy products. Ricotta cheese gets two thumbs up for its calcium content; just half a cup provides a whopping 356 mg of calcium. Try adding it to lasagna, or tossing it with fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey.
The lesser-known piece of the healthy bone puzzle belongs to vitamin K, which is quickly making its mark as a contributor to bone health. In a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine researchers found that vitamin K supplements resulted in a 77 percent reduction in hip fractures among the elderly. While the jury is still out on who should take a vitamin K supplement, food sources remain an excellent way to meet the daily requirement, which is 90 micrograms for women, and 120 micrograms for men. Kale is a top choice when it comes to vitamin K; one cup provides over 1100 micrograms of the bone-building vitamin. Add kale to soups, or grill it on the barbecue for a tasty variation of the leafy green.
A study from the University of Buffalo found fat intake to be the single best dietary predictor of injury among competitive female runners. Women with a low fat intake were 2.5 times more likely to sustain an injury, compared to women who received at least 30 percent of their calories from fat. Your best bet is to replace saturated and trans fat in your diet with healthier unsaturated fat. Walnuts, an excellent source of monounsaturated fat, are a tasty way to up your healthy fat intake. A 1/4 cup (60 ml) serving of walnuts dishes up 166 calories and 16 grams of fat (14 of which are unsaturated).
Perhaps one of the most common acute injuries for athletes is muscle cramping. According to Vancouver-based dietitian Patricia Chuey, “potassium helps generate the electrical potential” that “allows muscles to contract and the heart to beat.” Too little potassium in the diet can play a role in muscle cramping. While bananas are often touted for their potassium content, there’s another less popular food that gets top marks for its outstanding potassium content – beet greens. In fact, just 1 cup of cooked beet greens provides over 1300 mg of potassium, that’s four bananas worth of potassium! Adding beet greens to salads and stir-frys is an easy way to meet the daily potassium requirement of 4700 mg per day.
Red bell peppers
Vitamin C plays a role in collagen formation, an important structural element of tendons, ligaments and bone, making it a key nutrient for injury prevention. The body isn’t able to store vitamin C because it’s water soluble, so that means you need a continuous supply in the diet to meet your daily needs. Red peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C. In fact, half a large red pepper provides 150 mg of vitamin C, almost twice the daily requirement for women. Women need 75 mg of vitamin C everyday, while men need 90 mg. Munch on raw peppers, or roast them in the oven and add them to pizza, pasta and sandwiches.