In a sports nutrition class I teach at the University of Illinois Springfield, the role of nutrition in helping athletes perform better goes undisputed. Nutrition is an important part of any top athlete’s training program.
A new study by researchers at the University of Georgia looked at how supplementing the diet of athletes with colorful fruits and vegetables could improve their visual range.
Their paper was published in Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews. It examined how a group of plant compounds that build up the retina of the eye work to improve eye health and functional vision.
Previously, researchers showed that eating foods such as dark, leafy greens or yellow and orange vegetables, which contain high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, improved eye and brain health.
This new study, led by neuroscience doctoral student Jack Harth of the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health, looked at higher concentrations of the plant pigment’s ability to improve vision in the far visual range.
Visual range, or how well a person can see a target clearly over distance, is critical for top athletes in almost any sport, but especially baseball. Objects get harder to see and appear fuzzier the farther they are from our eyes because of blue light.
“From a center fielder’s perspective, if that ball’s coming up in the air, it will be seen against a background of bright blue sky, or against a gray background if it’s a cloudy day,” Harth wrote in the paper.
“Either way, the target is obscured by atmospheric interference coming into that path of the light.”
Although lots of athletes wear sunglasses to make it easier, “eating more foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin can improve the eye’s natural ability to handle blue light exposure,” Harth said.
Lutein and zeaxanthin add yellow pigment to the retina, reducing the amount of blue light that enters the eye. Research in the 1980s showed that eating more lutein and zeaxanthin improved the visual range of pilots.
But it’s not just for athletes or pilots. Many of us would benefit from adding more color to our diet through fruits and vegetables to improve our eyesight.
The authors concluded that small improvements in visual ability can produce significant performance advantages in athletic competitions; increasing amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin through dietary changes can produce significant improvements in visual range, among other abilities relevant to sports.
Q: What is Himalayan salt?
A: Himalayan salt is a pink-hued variety of salt that is sourced near the Himalayas of South Asia. The origins of the salt date back millions of years when the salt was deposited in a prehistoric lagoon.
Until recently the Himalayan salt market was fairly small. Now, exports have grown to 400,000 tons of salt each year.
While Himalayan salt has no calories, protein or fat, it does have sodium and trace minerals of calcium, potassium and magnesium, which give the salt its pink tint.
Himalayan salt carries the same risks as other types of salt — getting too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure and raises the risk for heart disease.
Treat Himalayan salt like another other type of salt — use it sparingly.
Eat the Rainbow Chopped Salad
Chopped salads have become popular. The main difference between a regular salad and a chopped salad is the preparation of ingredients.
In a chopped salad, the ingredients are chopped into smaller, uniform pieces instead of layered, giving them a more consistent texture.
This chopped salad, from EatingWell, is low in calories and is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals.
- ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
- 2 large carrots, diced
- 1 large yellow bell pepper, diced
- 2 cups chopped kale
- 1¼ cups chopped red cabbage
- 1 cup quartered grape tomatoes
- 1 cup mozzarella pearls
- ½ cup thinly sliced fresh basil
- 2 scallions, sliced
In large bowl, whisk vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Add carrots, bell pepper, kale, cabbage, tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and scallions. Toss to coat.
Per serving: 140 calories, 5 grams protein, 8 grams carbohydrate, 10 grams fat, 11 mg cholesterol, 2 grams fiber, 4 grams sugar (0 added), 276 milligrams sodium.
(Recipe from Eating Well