An Unexpected Source of Protein

Pop Quiz - What are the building blocks of protein?
A) Fatty Acids
B) Glucose
C) Amino Acids
D) Fiber
E) Starches

Choice C is correct. Amino acids are the starting point of more complex protein molecules. There are 22 amino acids and 9 of them are known as essential amino acids, because your body does not produce them and you must get them from your food. If you do not eat them, then your body and its performance and health suffers.

We need proteins to create muscles, tendons, organs, glands, nails, and hair. Growth, repair and maintenance of all cells are dependent upon them. Protein aids in muscle recovery after workout sessions. As the volume and intensity of your runs increases, there is a greater need for protein.

Which of the following foods is a source of amino acids?
A) Chicken
B) Eggs
C) Green leafy vegetables
D) A and B 
E) All of the above

The correct answer is E. Green leafy vegetables are in fact a good source of essential amino acids. These leaves come in various of shades of green and in a variety of sizes. Some examples include spinach, arugula, kale, cabbage, chard and beet greens. Certain green leafys like arugula and watercress taste great raw in a salad or sandwich. Others like broccoli rabe and collards are best blanched in boiling water for about three to four minutes, before they are sauteed.

There is not one green that provides the complete spectrum of essential amino acids. So it is important to eat a variety of greens to fill the body’s need for amino acids. These building blocks of protein bind themselves together to make a perfect molecules of protein. When you eat a chicken breast the amino acids must first be broken down into their simplest parts and then reformed into the specific protein the body requires. It is easier to utilize the individual amino acids from greens than the complex proteins from a chunk of animal protein.

Try adding more greens to your diet. Each week buy a different type of green leafy and eat it. Select the most vibrant, healthiest looking greens. A brief Internet search will produce a variety of recipes. Use the recipe as a guide and have fun experimenting with new foods and flavors. Even familiar recipes will benefit with the addition of a new green leafy. Kale pairs well with white foods like potatoes, white beans and pasta. Add greens to soups for a nutritional boost. Enhance your standard salad with arugula or watercress. A 50/50 blend of your common lettuce leaves and arugula is a good balance.

Runners have an increased need for protein. Each foot strike induces a certain amount of strain on the body. To accelerate muscle growth and repair, an adequate amount of protein is needed. Adding greens to your diet, along with other sources of protein, is beneficial to keeping your body in good form.