World Vegetarian Day falls on October 1, and as it turns out, veggies can make you look and feel great in many ways. Studies suggest that eating vegetarian may lower the risk of some chronic diseases. Additionally, vegetables and fruits provide many nutrients including dietary fiber; folate; potassium; and Vitamins A, C, and E. A vegetarian diet is also rich in many phytochemicals that protect us from various diseases.

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Building Muscles

Most people turn to animal protein when they want to build muscle. However, vegetables provide many of the nutrients needed to improve fitness and strength. Here are just a few of the vegetables that can benefit physical fitness:

  • Beets – Consuming beets, either in juice form or cooked, may improve athletic performance by increasing blood flow to the muscles. These gains can be attributed to beets’ rich nitrates which may help lower blood pressure and increase endurance.
  • Spinach –Iron can be found in abundance in spinach. Iron is very important in building muscle and strength. The USDA estimates that a person can get as much as 6.43 mg. of iron from 180 grams of boiled spinach, the same amount of iron that a 6-oz. hamburger patty provides. Spinach is also rich in magnesium which is essential to energy production and muscle development.
  • Sweet Potato – This tuber is high in fiber and carbohydrates but with a low glycemic index. This means that it provides a long-term source of energy that will power up workouts. Sweet potatoes also contains a lot of vitamin A that is needed to synthesize protein.
  • Mushrooms – Mushrooms are very rich in vitamin D, which is important in muscle building. Studies have shown that athletes who consume vitamin D supplements are stronger than those who do not take the supplement. The shitake variety is the best type of mushroom for this purpose.
  • Peppers – Regardless of color – green, red, or yellow –peppers are very rich in vitamin C which aids in burning fat and turning carbohydrates into fuel. Vitamin C helps process the fatty acid carnitine that is essential to muscle growth. A cup of peppers supplies more than 300% of the recommended daily value of Vitamin C.
  • Soybeans – Consumed either as edamame or tofu, soybeans should be taken seriously by body builders because of their high protein content. A cup of tofu has 52 grams of protein, making it a great meat substitute.

Focus on the healthy muscle-building powers of vegetables and fruits, and you’ll be leaner and healthier in no time!