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Nutrition Basics

Q. Are there any particular foods useful for healing injuries?
A. Unfortunately, there are no magical foods. There are substances present in foods such as antioxidants, fatty acids and vitamins which assist in various functions such as cellular repair, inflammatory response and tissue growth. However, these substances are present in a number of foods and interact in complex ways. The best thing to do to speed up recovery is consume a mixed diet with a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, wholegrain cereals, fish, nuts, legumes, dairy products, meat and plant oils. Avoid restricting your intake excessively in order to minimise weight gain while you are injured.  The body will take longer to recover when total energy intake is inadequate. Focus on foods which provide a wide variety of nutrients and avoid an excessive intake of poor quality foods such as lollies, cakes, biscuits, deep fried foods, alcohol and soft drink.

Q. I am unable to drink milk. How can I get enough calcium in my diet?
A. Dairy foods are the best source of calcium and eating 3-4 serves (200ml milk, 200 g tub of yoghurt, 30 g slice of cheese) each day will meet most people's requirements. If you don't like milk, consume more cheese and yoghurt.  Alternatively, you could try a soy beverage or soy yoghurt - just make sure it has calcium added. Other good sources of calcium include tinned fish such as salmon, herring and sardines where the bones are eaten, or oysters, dried fruit, almonds, muesli, and legumes such as kidney beans, tahini and tofu.

Q. How can I boost my iron intake?
A. There are two types of iron found in food. Haem iron is found in animal-derived foods and is well absorbed by the body.  Non-haem iron is found in plant foods and is absorbed poorly. The absorption of non-haem iron can be improved by combining non-haem foods with sources of haem iron.  Good sources of haem iron are lean red meat, chicken, fish and liver or liver pate. The largest amounts of non-haem iron are found in eggs, fortified breakfast cereal, wholemeal bread, spinach, legumes, dried fruit and nuts. You can improve your iron intake and absorption by:

Q. Should my family avoid desserts or is there a sensible way to include them in our diets?
A. Traditionally, desserts are high in fat and sugar and low in nutrients. However, there are plenty of nutritious options available. Desserts based on fruit or low-fat dairy products can be a good source of vitamins, minerals, fibre and carbohydrate. Baked apple, fruit crumble, rice pudding and low fat custard are good examples. Many desserts can be modified to make them more nutritious. Take your favourite recipe and replace any full-fat dairy products with low-fat versions, reduce the amount of butter, margarine or oil and cut back on the amount of sugar.  In most cases, you won't notice the difference. Also make use of the many quick, nutritious options available. Low-fat smoothies, low-fat chocolate milkshakes, ready-made custard, yoghurt, fruit salad and low-fat muffins are a nutritious, sweet end to a meal. People with lower energy needs may need to reduce the size of the main meal or cut back on snacks during the day to allow room for dessert.

Q. What supplements do athletes at the AIS use? How can I tell if a supplement has any banned substances?
A. The Supplement section of our website provides details on supplements used at the AIS. The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) provides information on banned substances in products. See the ASADA website for details.

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