Why Green Vegetables are so Important for Athletes

Why Green Vegetables are so Important for Athletes

What green vegetables bring to the dining room table.

Athletes face a multi-layered challenge centered around maintaining the body in optimal condition and performing at their peak, and for high-performance athletes, the game begins well before the competition itself. Green vegetables, such as those found in SaladPower, are a valuable teammate, supporting athletes as a key source of nutrients.

The Big Picture

Athleticism can perhaps best be understood as an ongoing process. While many athletes focus on performing well in the specific activity, there are also important, inter-related elements before and after the activity itself that cannot be overlooked, such as recovery, injury prevention, and longevity. Nutrition is a cornerstone in this process—an athlete’s diet can have a drastic influence on both game-day performance and the long-term physical characteristics that enable one to excel as an athlete.

While the adequacy of a diet depends on the particular individual, the general goal is to find a diet that has the proper blend of macronutrients, micronutrients, and fluids.[1]

Macronutrients include fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy at the outset of physical activity, because they contain glucose that is stored as readily-available glycogen in the muscles and liver. As carbohydrate levels deplete, the body turns to proteins and then fats to maintain the fuel necessary to finish the competition. While starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes are carb-rich, green vegetables, like broccoli, can also supply moderate levels of carbohydrates.[2]

Micronutrients are the minerals, phytochemicals, and vitamins that play vital roles in athletic performance and good health in general. Athletes will want to pay particular attention to their intake of calcium, vitamin D, and iron. Calcium contributes to healthy patterns in enzyme activity, bone strength, and muscle contraction. Vitamin D works hand-in-hand with calcium, aiding in the absorption and regulation of this critical mineral.[3]

Iron is used by the body to make hemoglobin, which is a protein that distributes oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.[4] The body also uses iron to produce myoglobin, which delivers oxygen to muscle tissue. Due to the fact that high-performance athletes often pour their blood, sweat, and tears into their training, iron can quickly become depleted, making it crucial to maintain an appropriate level of iron in one’s diet.

Green vegetables can be instrumental in supplying the micronutrients athletes need to thrive in their craft.[5] Low levels of micronutrients can cause “excessive production of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species that induce tissue damage, a higher frequency of inflammatory processes, decreased immunity, increased susceptibility to injury, and prolonged recovery.”[6]

What green vegetables bring to the dining room table

Depending on an athlete’s specific dietary needs, green vegetables can be used to ensure a proper balance of macronutrients, micronutrients, and fluids, but green vegetables also carry other health benefits.

Leafy green vegetables are a primary source of the bioactive phytochemical nitrate. Nitrate is known to reduce a range of chronic diseases due to its pivotal role in cardiovascular and metabolic regulation. In a 2021 study of 3,759 subjects, researchers found that those who consumed nitrate-rich diets, usually from leafy green vegetables, showed more strength in their leg muscles and superior walking speeds when compared to subjects who ate half the amount of nitrate-rich foods.[7]

Dr. Marc Sim, the lead researcher in that study, emphasized that green vegetables like spinach and kale are instrumental in physical performance.

"We should be eating a variety of vegetables every day, with at least one of those serves being leafy greens to gain a range of positive health benefits for the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular system," recommended Dr. Sim. “Green leafy vegetables provide a whole range of essential vitamins and minerals critical for health."[8]

A 2023 study correlated consumption of green vegetables with better “visual range ability and subsequent athletic performance.”[9] That study noted that the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are pigments found in green vegetables, and when consumed, accumulate in the retina, providing for an enhanced sense of visual contrast sensitivity. Given the value of hand-eye coordination and an acute sense of vision in most athletics, this study underscores the integral nature of green vegetables in the diet of high-performance athletes.

Many nutrition resources touting the role of green vegetables in athletes’ diets also point out the temporal sensitivity of when you consume food and how you train, prepare, play, and recover.[10] [11] Competitions, in particular, can raise challenges for athletes. Maintaining the proper diet at the appropriate intervals becomes more difficult when forced to do so on-the-go, at irregular times, and in new places.

This is one of the reasons we strongly endorse SaladPower as the perfect source of key nutrients with a range of health benefits. As the best and most convenient organic smoothie on the market, SaladPower is packed with organic green vegetables, which are in turn packed with the vitamins, nutrients, and phytochemicals that athletes need for peak performance. They are easy to order, store, and bring on the road with you to consume when and where works best for your athletic routine. Shop here and order your supply today, so the next time you have a game on the go, you’re more prepared to perform at your peak.


[1] Purcell, L. K., & Canadian Paediatric Society, Paediatric Sports and Exercise Medicine Section (2013). Sport nutrition for young athletes. Paediatrics & child health, 18(4), 200–205. https://doi.org/10.1093/pch/18.4.200

[2] USDA. (2020). FoodData Central. Usda.gov. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170379/nutrients

[3] Khazai, N., Judd, S. E., & Tangpricha, V. (2008). Calcium and vitamin D: skeletal and extraskeletal health. Current rheumatology reports, 10(2), 110–117. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11926-008-0020-y

[4] National Institutes of Health. (2023, August 17). Office of Dietary Supplements - Iron. National Institutes of Health; National Institutes of Health. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-Consumer/#:~:text=Iron%20is%20a%20mineral%20that

[5] JWU. (2021, May 18). 18 Foods to Improve Athletic Performance | JWU CPS. JWU College of Professional Studies. https://online.jwu.edu/blog/18-foods-improve-athletic-performance/

[6] Lamprecht M. (2012). Supplementation with mixed fruit and vegetable concentrates in relation to athlete's health and performance: scientific insight and practical relevance. Medicine and sport science, 59, 70–85. https://doi.org/10.1159/000341960

[7] Sim, M., Blekkenhorst, L. C., Bondonno, N. P., Radavelli-Bagatini, S., Peeling, P., Bondonno, C. P., Magliano, D. J., Shaw, J. E., Woodman, R., Murray, K., Lewis, J. R., Daly, R. M., & Hodgson, J. M. (2021). Dietary Nitrate Intake Is Positively Associated with Muscle Function in Men and Women Independent of Physical Activity Levels. The Journal of Nutrition, 151(5), 1222–1230. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxaa415

[8] Green leafy vegetables essential for muscle strength. (n.d.). ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/03/210324132309.htm

[9] Harth, Jacob B.; Renzi-Hammond, Lisa M.; Hammond, Billy R. Jr. A Dietary Strategy for Optimizing the Visual Range of Athletes. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews 51(3):p 103-108, July 2023. | DOI: 10.1249/JES.0000000000000318

[10] UW Health. (2019, March 4). Eating for Peak Athletic Performance | News | UW Health. Www.uwhealth.org. https://www.uwhealth.org/news/eating-for-peak-athletic-performance

[11] Lamprecht M. (2012). Supplementation with mixed fruit and vegetable concentrates in relation to athlete's health and performance: scientific insight and practical relevance. Medicine and sport science, 59, 70–85. https://doi.org/10.1159/000341960

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