Natural Foods Merchandiser

Produce is still the original sports food

Produce Perspectives

You better run for your life! That phrase used to evoke a sense of fear. But now, with the new U.S. dietary guidelines calling for more daily exercise to live a healthier life, and with research showing that good dietary and fitness habits are more important than genetics in determining one?s health and longevity, running may be the best way for customers to get to your produce department.

Yes, your produce department can play a critical role in keeping your customers around for a long time. In ?The Runner?s Diet,? a recent article on, Madelyn H. Fernstrom, Ph.D., CNS, insists that to lose weight without sacrificing energy or performance, people must eat the right foods at the right times. Here?s what she recommends for average people who use running to manage their weight, increase energy and lead a healthier life.

First, determine the number of calories needed to maintain or lose weight. Formulas exist on a number of Web sites, including

Fernstrom recommends a 50-25-25 eating plan, where 50 percent of calories come from carbohydrates, 25 percent from protein and 25 percent from fat. That?s where your produce department comes in.

Opt for fiber-rich, high-carb foods for energy.
Fernstrom and other nutritionists recommend eating high-carb foods just before and after a workout, since they provide energy to the muscles. ?When choosing which carbs to eat, opt for those that are fiber-rich and have a high water content to keep you feeling full,? Fernstrom says. Among her favorites are apples, pears, citrus fruits, pineapple, berries, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, green beans and asparagus. Sounds like a who?s who of the produce world, doesn?t it?

And we can help with more than just the carbs; the avocadoes we sell can go toward the 25 percent of calories from fat. According to the California Avocado Commission, the fruits are full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. They also act as ?nutrient boosters,? according to new research published in the March 1 issue of the Journal of Nutrition. Avocadoes, the report said, allow the body to absorb significantly more of the heart-healthy and cancer-fighting nutrients found in fruits and vegetables, such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene.

But we don?t stop there. Most Americans only get about 10 to 15 grams of fiber on a daily basis, and the recommendation is around 20 to 35 grams. Many produce items are loaded with soluble fiber. Apples, carrots and grapefruit are just a few examples found year-round in our department.

If your athletic customers are looking for fruits that provide good sources of magnesium (which is important for muscle contraction and helps promote better calcium absorption), point them to the avocadoes, bananas, kiwi, strawberries, cantaloupe, tangerines and pineapple.

Why not take the lead of Yum! Brands, which owns KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and Long John Silver?s, and offer to work with your local fitness outlet? The company offered its customers the opportunity to work out free for the next four weeks after making a purchase at a Yum! Brands restaurant. It seems a bit ironic considering the food Yum! sells, but you can?t knock the company for trying. Maybe you could provide a bowl of your produce on the desk of your local fitness center for snacking. Or offer to provide organic oranges to its juice bar. Or have the gym?s staff give out coupons for a free apple from your store when customers show their membership card.

With all the positive publicity fruits and vegetables have received lately, it?s time for us to reap the harvest.

Mark Mulcahy runs an organic education and produce consulting firm. He can be reached at 707.939.8355 or [email protected]

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVI/number 5/p. 34

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