When I think of summer, I inevitably think of the fresh fruits and vegetables that come with it! Cold, juicy watermelon after a long run. Picking giant bowls of blackberries, and snipping my home-grown spinach & kale are some of my strongest “summertime” memories!
Eating seasonally is a great way to increase nutritional variety into your diet throughout the year. It will also help you save money and contribute to sustainable food systems. The concept of eating seasonally is one that may feel foreign to us in this day and age where we have a large variety of produce available to us 24/7. You can go to the grocery store and get whatever you like. That being said, eating seasonally is something we can all improve on.
Here are 5 of my favorite summertime foods. I recommend endurance runners incorporate them into their summertime meals and snacks.
Eating Seasonally – Five Foods To Incorporate This Summer
Beets are naturally rich in nitrates, a compound that can improve oxygen efficiency and blood flow in the body. Athletes who drink beetroot juice daily for about a week before a key race or event have been able to hold higher intensities for longer periods of time, then they otherwise would be able to. In order to see a significant performance benefit, you will likely need to juice your beets to get enough nitrates in your system. However, if you’re not in the mood for juice, I highly recommend roasting the beets and adding them to an arugula salad with goat cheese.
Tart cherries are anti-inflammatory, help with muscle soreness, and increase melatonin production which can in turn improve your sleep quality. As with beets, these benefits are most likely to be seen when drinking tart cherry juice, but eating whole cherries or adding dried tart cherries to your morning oatmeal can’t hurt!
Berries are a great source of antioxidants – a nutrient that may prove to be extremely beneficial for endurance athletes. Antioxidants help prevent the build-up of unwanted free radicals that may be more prominent in endurance athletes due to the nature of the oxygen stress we put on our bodies. Make a berry crumble, a cold smoothie, or top your morning yogurt with some fresh berries from the garden.
I know this isn’t necessarily a “seasonal” food in the sense of the growing season, but I know I have significantly more opportunities to eat red meat during summertime barbeques than I do throughout the rest of the year! Red meat is a great source of heme iron, the type of iron our bodies absorb best. As endurance athletes, we have higher iron demands during exercise and are at a greater risk of iron deficiency because of the exercise we do. Ironic, right? As a rule of thumb, I recommend athletes incorporate an iron-rich meal at least 1-2 times a week, and a hot grilled hamburger definitely fits that ticket.
Bell peppers are an amazing source of vitamin C. In fact, 1⁄2 cup of red bell pepper has more vitamin C than 3⁄4 cup of orange juice! Vitamin C has a number of benefits for endurance athletes including absorbing iron. Consider adding bell peppers to your vegetable kabobs that you can have on the side with your hamburger. Bell peppers helps protect endurance athletes from upper respiratory infections. And lastly, it acts as an antioxidant which carries many benefits as previously mentioned.
Which food are you going to try to incorporate more often this summer? Any variety you add is going to be beneficial to your health and your performance. Enjoy!
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