Staying fit and healthy is a key priority for any runner. While moderate exercise is known to increase the function of your immune system, overtraining can make you more susceptible to picking up an injury or illness. Believe it or not, the humble apple can help to boost your health, reduce your injury risk and optimise your running potential. Here’s why you should add a bag to your shopping basket:
Quercetin, a plant compound found in apples, is well known for it’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which support the immune system and recovery. Research on Quercetin has demonstrated its ability to reduce respiratory infections, post-exercise inflammation and exercise-induced muscle damage. Enjoy post run as a light and refreshing recovery booster.
Results of a study, published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism, suggests that quercetin may improve endurance and VO2 max (maximum oxygen update or aerobic capacity) in healthy, untrained individuals. So you don’t have to be an elite athlete to reap the benefits!
Apples contain an array of beneficial phytonutrients and these plant chemicals, known collectively as polyphenols, include naringin, catechins and chlorogenic acid. All of these compounds are powerful antioxidants that have anti-cancer properties and support the immune system.
Apples are a rich source of pectin, a soluble fire known to support digestive health, lower cholesterol and regulate bowel movements. Due to high levels of polyphenols combined with this soluble fibre, apples are an excellent choice for stabilising blood sugar levels. Together, these plant compounds act to inhibit carbohydrate-digesting enzymes, which means carbohydrates are broken down more slowly into simple sugars. Polyphenols have also been shown to lessen absorption of glucose; stimulate specialised cells of the pancreas to secrete insulin; and increase uptake of glucose from the blood. All of this helps you to regulate your blood sugar, which will help you to avoid energy dips and therefore keep you fuelled for longer. Ditch the office biscuits for an apple to prevent those mid-afternoon sugar cravings.
For runners prone to respiratory tract infections or asthma, a study in the American Journal of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine found that adults who ate at least two apples a week reduced their asthma risk by up to a third. This is likely to be due to the anti-inflammatory properties of the polyphenols found in apples, together with their vitamin C content.
The trace nutrient, boron, is present in apples and has been shown to have many beneficial effects, including enhanced bone health by assisting the utilisation of calcium in the bones. Boron may also benefit joint health and reduce aches and pains associated with arthritis.
Apples are ideal as a portable, healthy snack. One medium apple contains around 95 calories and 25g carbohydrates. Accompany with a little pot of cottage cheese (rich in protein) to make an ideal post-exercise snack. And, if you don’t like the taste of raw apples, why not stew them in water until soft, before adding some cinnamon for a sweet, guilt-free treat?