We all know grapes taste great and are a healthy snack; it only makes sense that they can be the perfect little pick-me-up in a running nutrition plan. While there is a growing contingent of people trying to avoid carbohydrates all together, foods that provide both simple and complex carbs are needed to optimize athletic performance and recovery. Most (but not all) carbs in your diet should be “complex” to provide a steady state of energy. Basically, because of the starchy cell structure in complex carbs (like whole grains and potatoes), your body takes longer to break them down and, therefore, sends the glucose through your bloodstream at a slower pace – less chance of a sugar high and subsequent crash. But sometimes you need a quick source of energy, especially if you’re a runner, athlete or need some quick brain power – this is where the simple carbohydrates come in. Simple carbohydrates can be refined (like table sugars, candy, syrups and processed foods) or natural – always go for the natural because you also get the added benefit of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients found in the food!
Grapes are all-natural, simple carbohydrates that are easy for runners to consume for quick energy. Eat a handful before you go out for a run or recover from your workout with a smoothie made with grapes and a little protein powder. One thing I love about using grapes in my running diet is that they can be frozen and packed in a zip-top bag for a mid-workout snack on long run days or marathon races – so much healthier that a refined sugar goo! And, when you consider that grapes are about 80 percent water, they’re a good food source for hydration. How very thoughtful of Mother Nature to have individually “wrapped” each grape for less mess – you couldn’t take slices of banana along like this!
There is a “bunch” of health research that athletes will appreciate knowing about grapes. For example, a study published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research found that compounds in red grapes (and blueberries) may boost the immune system when combined with vitamin D. Also, according to the California Table Grape Commission, all grapes (whether green, red, purple or black) are an abundant source of antioxidants and other polyphenols that can help neutralize harmful free radicals responsible for cell inflammation but also helps lessen the chance of being afflicted with one of many harmful health conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers.
I also love to use grapes as an ingredient in my recipes – that is if I can keep them away from my kids who have been known to devour five pounds in a single day. I recently developed this fall fruit salad recipe for the Litehouse Food’s Living Litehouse Blog – Grape Walnut & Blue Cheese Salad Recipe! Oh, the combination of sweet grapes with the pungent cheese and crunchy nuts is divine!
Grape Walnut & Blue Cheese Salad Recipe
- 2 lbs grapes (any variety or assorted)
- 6 oz. crumbled blue cheese
- 1 cup raw walnut halves
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Wash grapes and pat dry. Add to bowl, sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles and walnut halves. Drizzle on olive and and vinegar; toss. May be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator. Serves 8.
Another favorite way to creatively use grapes is to skewer them up like little tomatoes when grilling, like I did in the recipe from the summer – Lemon Lime Chicken with Grilled Grapes Recipe! If it’s already too chilly to grill outdoors, you can still grill grapes (which are at their peak in the fall season) inside on an indoor grill or stove top grill pan.
And, check out my makeover on an all-time, all-generation pleaser – the Purple Cow! But, instead of ice cream, I’ve turned this purple treat into a healthy smoothie made with a Core Power High Protein Shake! Or, you could substitute your favorite type of milk instead in this recipe for Purple Cow Protein Smoothie.
Purple Cow Protein Smoothie: Blend together 6 ounces Concord grape juice, 6 ounces Vanilla Core Power (or milk of your choice) and 3/4 cup frozen grapes. Top with whipped cream and acai berry powder, if desired. Serves 1.
What is your favorite way to eat grapes (wine doesn’t count)?
What is your go-to snack to pack for a long run?