Massaged Kale Salad with Beets: Is a Diet Rich in Nitrates Key to Endurance Performance?

Could the nitrates in this massaged kale salad with beets help you shave a couple minutes off your next race? I’ll share a secret with you. Even though it’s been 7 years since my last marathon and over 10 years since I ran a sub 3:40 marathon pace, deep down, Boston is on my mind.  I signed up for the California International Marathon in December as part of my “this is 40” years old goals. But as the training ensured, I began thinking, could I qualify for Boston? At the time, the cut-off for my 40-year-old age group was 3:45. Then, my bubble got bursted. The Boston qualifying team raised the bar, and recently set a lower time goal at 3:40. #sadface

How Hard Do You Push?

While a 3:45 marathon pace would be NO walk in the park, the new goal feels out of reach. If I’m truly honest with myself, that push would mean a lot less joyful training. Over the years I’ve learned, the joy lies in the training, not the actual race.  Maybe, as an older, wiser 40-year-old, I’ve learned to push less and enjoy more? I’m over halfway through training, enjoying it and running injury-free due to the following:

  1. Listen to my body and back off if something doesn’t feel right
  2. Strive for 8 hours of sleep a night
  3. Do yoga 2-3 times a week
  4. Eat meals that include high-quality carbs offering energy, immune support and “foods-with-benefits” such as this massaged kale salad with beets and brown rice

Nitrates: Nature’s Ergogenic Aid

Kale and beets contain a compound called nitrates which actually help improve oxygen efficiency and improve performance in long-term endurance training.  If you aren’t a kale or beet fan, try other nitrate-rich foods such as arugula, basil, cilantro, lettuce, spinach and beet greens. Hey, even if there is no amount of nitrates that will get me to a 3:40, at least I’ll enjoy a delicious marathon diet accompanied by a more relaxed marathon mindset.

large black bowl holding finely chopped kale, beets, rice and a fork on the right hand side

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massaged kale salad with brown rice and beets

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  • Author: Jennifer McDaniel
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Cook Time: 10
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x


  • 1 head of kale (we love Dinosaur), finely chopped
  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. cracked black pepper
  • 2 beets, roasted
  • 2 c. cooked brown rice
  • 2 oz. goat cheese


  1. In a large bowl, add chopped kale, olive oil, lemon juice, honey salt and pepper. With your hands, massage the kale until it is tender.
  2. Chop cooked beets into a small dice.
  3. Combine and gently mix beets, kale, and brown rice.
  4. Crumble 1/2 oz. of goat cheese on top of each salad.


How to roast beets: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Wash beets with a vegetable scrubber. Remove the greens and root end with a knife. Sprinkle beets with kosher salt and wrap whole beets in aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet. Roast in the hot oven until the beets are fork tender, 10-15 minutes. Let beets cool, and with your hands, peel away the roasted skins under running cool water.

We used our instant pot to cook the rice. Instant Pot Brown Rice: Add 1 T. olive oil to instant pot. On “saute” mode, warm oil and add 1 cup rinsed, uncooked brown rice. Stir until all oil has coated rice. Add 1.5 cups vegetable broth OR water + 1 t. salt to rice. Cancel saute. Seal the lid of the instant pot and cook on manual mode for 15 minutes. Allow instant pot to naturally release. Fluff with fork.


  • Serving Size: 2 bowls
  • Calories: 270
  • Sugar: 8.5 g
  • Sodium: 407.2 mg
  • Fat: 11.4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 36.9 g
  • Protein: 7.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 6.5 mg