Recipe: Kale Tempeh and Lentil Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing 

What it does

As an enzyme activator, manganese (not to be confused with magnesium) helps the body use other nutrients efficiently. Additionally, this mineral helps synthesize fatty acids and cholesterol, and encourages optimal metabolism of protein and carbohydrates. Important for bone strength, regulating blood sugar and free radical protection, manganese helps in the making of sex hormones and thyroxine (thyroid hormone). Manganese also receives attention for its possible effectiveness to help with osteoporosis, anemia, and PMS. The good news is, manganese deficiencies are rare, so it’s likely you’re meeting Tolerable Upper Intake Levels of 11 milligrams a day.

Where to get it

Top sources of manganese include:

Spelt: 4 oz = 2.12 mg
Brown rice: 1 cup = 1.76 mg
Garbanzo beans: 1 cup cooked = 1.69 mg
Spinach: 1 cup cooked = 1.68 mg
Pineapple: 1 cup = 1.53 mg
Pumpkin seeds: ¼ cup = 1.47 mg
Tempeh: 4 oz cooked = 1.46 mg
Oats: 1 cup cooked = 1.36 mg
Cloves: 2 tsp = 1.26 mg
Lentils: 1 cup cooked = .98 mg
Cinnamon: 2 tsp = .91mg
Walnuts: ¼ cup = .85 mg
Grapes: 1 cup = .66 mg
Kale: 1 cup cooked = .54 mg

A plant-strong diet is still the best insurance

It can be difficult sometimes to eat a plant-strong diet in the winter months, especially after a chilly morning workout. But there’s a significant of manganese-rich comfort food out there, including kale, chard, spinach, garlic, eggplant, brown rice, molasses, maple syrup, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, turmeric, spelt, garbanzo beans, pumpkin seeds, tempeh, and oats. (Summer sources like pineapple, strawberries and raspberries can be found year round in the frozen section and are just as nutritious as your fresh options.)

Regardless of whether you’re a power athlete, building functional strength, or working on your endurance, in order to sustain a given effort for a specific period of time, we athletes place a tremendous amount of repeated stress our bodies in order to reap fitness gains. Voluntarily overloading your energy systems for three separate sports can present several opportunities for inflammation and tissue damage, making you more susceptible to illness and injury.

Too much training stress creates oxidative stress, which then creates chaos among extremely destructive free radicals. Although we all need a healthy amount of stress to physically adapt, a nutritionally inadequate diet paired with intense exercise may threaten the athlete who seeks training consistency and a healthy immune system. Although most bodies are naturally equipped to defend from oxidative stress, an unbalanced diet and intense structured training can leave your system weak. It’s easy to turn to pills to replace what we’re unable to receive from food, but scientifically, there’s little support for antioxidant supplementation among athletes keeping the immune system in working order. (Recent research has suggested, however, that beet or cherry juice may carry antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and act as a safe ergogenic aid.)

You may feel as if your body is strong enough to adapt to both metabolic and environmental stressors because you exercise daily. Unfortunately, exercise alone cannot protect the immune system. To keep your body in optimal health all year long, consider spending a similar amount of energy on the planning of your diet as you do with your training plan.

Recipe: Kale Tempeh and Lentil Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing


The World’s Healthiest Foods: Manganese. Retrieved 11/12/2012 from
Cermak, N.M., Gibala, M.J. and van Loon, L.J. (2012) Nitrate supplementation’s improvement of 10-km time-trial performance in trained cyclists. Int J. Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 22(1): 64-71.
Kuehl, K.S. (2013) Cherry juice targets antioxidant potential and pain relief. Med Sport Sci. 59: 86-93.
Cermak, N.M. et al. (2012). No improvement in endurance performance following a single dose of beetroot juice. Int J. Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 22 (6): 470-478.


Marni Sumbal, MS, RD, CISSN is a Registered Dietitian with a Masters in Exercise Physiology. She is the owner of Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition  and is a USAT Level-1 coach. Marni is a two-time Ironman World Championship finisher, and enjoys spending time in her kitchen coming up with vegetarian creations. If you can’t find her writing this monthly column, cooking or training, she is likely outside running with her furry best friend, Campy.