Sports nutrition: a bean salad recipe suitable for all athletes

This bean salad recipe packs a delicious nutritional punch

By Andrew Hamilton BSc Hons MRSC ACSM

If the ‘S’ word conjures up visions of a bowl of limp lettuce, garnished with cucumber and tomatoes, it’s time to think again. Done right, salads can pack a nutritional punch to meet the demands of the most active sportsmen and women. Even better, they can be quick to prepare and delicious, too…

As someone who’s training hard, you’re rightly concerned with packing in enough carbohydrate to fuel those training sessions and consuming ample protein for muscle growth and repair. However, fuelling day-to-day training is one thing, but ensuring your body has all the nutrients it needs to stay optimally healthy in the longer term is another. If you refuel yourself only with next week’s training in mind, you could be laying yourself open to illness and burnout next month or year, because you forgot about the nutritional fundamentals for good health.

Nourishment

A sure-fire way to nourish your body with protective nutrients for long-term health is to increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables; there’s already a mountain of evidence that the protective and health-giving antioxidant ‘phytochemicals’ in these foods can boost immunity, protect against degenerative diseases such as heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s and even reduce post-exercise muscle soreness! However, there’s another bonus: fruits and (especially) vegetables are rich in nutrients that support training, such as B-vitamins, magnesium (a mineral) for energy production and carbohydrates such as fructose and starches that can aid recovery.

Salad secrets

Making a good fruit salad is something we considered earlier in this series; in short, almost any combination of fruits will make a delicious snack. When it comes to vegetable salads, the same is true, but with the important caveat that you need to add a decent salad dressing. The good news is that it takes just seconds to throw together a delicious salad dressing and toss the salad in it. A second secret to making a great salad that stimulates the tastebuds is to add something more substantial to make it into a mini-meal. Examples include Feta, egg, and prawns, to mention but a few. For this article however, we’re going to consider a bean salad – or, more specifically, a three-bean salad!

Nutritional virtues of the bean

What makes a bean salad such a great fitness snack? Well, beans are a superb source of slow-releasing carbohydrate, ideal for both pre-exercise snacking (slow-releasing carbohydrates won’t upset the blood sugar balance) and replenishing lost energy from muscles after training. Moreover, they also contain significant amounts of protein, are virtually fat-free and are rich in B-vitamins and the minerals iron and magnesium, all of which play an essential role in energy production.

Ingredients

Salad

  • One can of red kidney beans
  • One can of haricot (or aduki) beans
  • One can of cut green beans
  • One small onion (or 3-4 spring onions)
  • One red pepper
  • 200g of cherry tomatoes

Dressing

  • Quarter teaspoon of salt
  • Quarter teaspoon of black pepper
  • Dessertspoon of balsamic vinegar
  • Two dessertspoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • Half a teaspoon of wholegrain mustard

Method

  • Drain and wash the beans and add to a large salad bowl
  • Chop the onions finely, slice the pepper and then half the tomatoes – add these to the beans
  • Whisk all the dressing ingredients together then add to the beans and vegetables and toss – that’s it!

Options

If you don’t have the exact ingredients to hand, fear not. Pretty much any kind of bean can be used in the salad; chickpeas work well, too. Likewise, if you want to experiment with additional/alternative vegetables in the salad, that’s fine; try adding chopped beetroot, grated carrots, shredded red cabbage or any combination of the above. So long as you add the dressing, it’ll taste fine!
Andrew Hamilton BSc Hons MRSC ACSM

Nutrition information: A 200g serving of 3-bean salad typically provides the following:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 205
Protein (g) 9
Fat (g) 0.6
Carbohydrate (g) 29
Fibre (g) 8
Calcium (mg) 62
Magnesium (mg) 60
Iron (mg) 3
Sodium (mg) 250
Potassium (mg) 500
Vitamin A (IU) 2000
Vitamin C (mg) 68
Vitamin B1 (mg) 0.2
Vitamin B2 (mg) 0.2
Niacin (B3) (mg) 1.3

Source: USDA Nutrient Data Information 2008

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