Denman W18 Masthead 2

Eat Well Wednesday: 8 must eat foods for an active lifestyle

Kate Freeman

What you put into your body is what you’ll get out of it. Regular exercise is good for you but a high training load places extra demands on your body. It’s really important that physical activity goes hand-in-hand with a healthy balanced diet.

Here are eight foods that, if you eat them regularly, will ensure your diet is nutrient dense, rich in particular vitamins and minerals and offers plenty of energy to fuel your training.



A by-product of metabolism is the production of free-radicals. These are dangerous chemicals that damage cell membranes and DNA. The job of the antioxidant is to neutralise these free radicals so they can’t damage your cells. High levels of exercise can increase free-radical production which may affect your performance.

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and of all the fruits and vegetables broccoli is one of the best sources. In fact just 100g of broccoli contains 100% of our body’s daily vitamin C needs. Don’t boil broccoli as you’ll lose a significant amount of it’s health promoting chemicals – it’ll also taste awful. The best way to eat it is raw, steamed, microwaved or stir-fried. Other good source of vitamin C are berries, citrus fruits (oranges, mandarins, lemons), kiwi fruit, spinach, kale and capsicum.

Quick recipe to try:

Heat 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan over med-high heat, add 2-3 cups of broccoli florets with 1-2 cloves of crushed garlic. Toss over the heat for 2-3 minutes. Serve as a delicious side dish.


During high intensity exercise the body’s primary source of energy comes from carbohydrates. Adequate carbohydrate intake is vital if you live an active lifestyle, you just need to learn which are the best ones to choose.

Lentils, part of the legume family, are a great source of low GI (glycemic index) carbohydrates. This means that it slowly releases the sugar into bloodstream during digestion giving you better control over your blood sugar levels and more sustained energy throughout the day. They’re also a fab source of dietary fibre and promote digestive health. Add lentil to salads, curries, soups and stews. I love this lamb and vegetable soup recipe.



There is a significant amount of research available now on the benefits of omega 3 fatty acids. These fats can improve both our cardiovascular and joint health. High levels of weight lifting or high impact exercise can place strain on our joints. Regular omega 3 intake has benefits in keeping joints healthy and reducing joint pain.

Wild salmon is one of the best natural sources of omega 3 and I reckon it’s the absolute yummiest way to eat it! Try this sesame crusted salmon recipe, it’s delicious.


When your muscles have been pushed to their limits, they need to recover afterwards. This is how they become stronger.

In order for active muscle recovery to take place both carbohydrate and protein must be eaten within an hour (even better 30 mins) after the session. This ensures that there is both amino acids and glucose available for your muscles to use. The best protein sources are the ones that come from whole, unprocessed foods, not protein powders or bars. Eggs provide a fantastic source of high quality protein (meaning it contains a large range of different amino acids) as well as large amounts of nutrients as well such as selenium, vitamin B12, iodine, vitamins A and E and so much more.

Try this egg and bean recipe I wrote for the CBR100 Challenge.



For most athletes, women in particular, the body has an increased need for iron. Iron is vital for transporting oxygen around the body and insufficient intake can lead to symptoms of low energy or fatigue. To ensure an adequate intake of iron, eating red meat 2-3 times per week is beneficial.

If you’re a vegetarian or not a big meat eater try foods such as nuts and seeds, whole grains and green leafy vegetables. There are other dietary strategies to help your body absorb more iron. Check out this article: 3 ways to decrease your risk of iron deficiency

Natural Yoghurt

Regular weight lifting or resistance exercise has very positive long term effects on bone health. The very act of muscles pulling on bones with high resistance causes our bones to become stronger and more dense. Good bone mineral density is vital for decreasing your risk of osteoporosis (the biggest risk factor of falls amongst the elderly) later on in life.

In order for our bones to increase in density they need calcium. One of the best sources of calcium in natural yoghurt. 200g a day will offer almost half of your daily calcium needs as well as provide you with protein, beneficial bacteria, vitamin B12 and magnesium. Country Valley Milk, make the best yoghurt around if you’re a Canberra local. If you can’t eat dairy here are some non-dairy sources of calcium.

Raw Nuts

There’s nothing worse than illness interrupting your active lifestyle. An adequate intake of zinc is necessary for good immune cell production and can help you ward off those pesky colds and flus.

A good source of zinc are nuts. Raw nuts are the best choice and make very handy on-the-go snacks. They are great pre and post workout, with breakfast or thrown into a salad or curry. Nuts are also a fantastic source of dietary fibre, healthy fats and a large range of vitamins and minerals. 

Sweet Potato

sweet potato

Sweet potato is an excellent source of beta-carotene, a chemical converted to vitamin A by the body. Vitamin A has a large range of important functions within the body from maintaining a healthy retina to healthy skin and good immune function just to name a few.

Sweet potato is also a great source of low GI carbohydrate and is perfect for recovering after an exhaustive exercise session. Try making oven baked chips tossed in extra-virgin olive oil, salt and paprika. Yum! Beta-carotene is also found in carrots, pumpkin, kale and apricots.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock.


Kate Freeman

Kate Freeman is a Registered Nutritionist and the founder and managing director of The Healthy Eating Hub. Kate’s healthy eating philosophy is all about whole, fresh foods, being realistic about life and creating long term healthy eating habits. She doesn’t believe in detoxes, fad diets or quick fixes. Once you’ve finished working with Kate, you’ll be empowered to feed yourself well for the rest of you life! More about the Author

  • Melita

    Another great article Kate – I am kind of addicted to them!
    Inspires me to cook better and eat well 🙂

  • I was very please to see that most of these are part of my regular diet. Lovely to learn a bit more about the health benefits.