You’ve probably noticed that the produce section of your grocery store looks different depending on the season. Some foods may not be available or may cost more at certain times of year—and that’s because different fruits and vegetables harvest during different seasons. As runners, we’ve grown to love eating with the seasons—not only for the variety but for the health benefits.
Why runners may benefit from eating seasonally
Seasonal eating may be beneficial for everyone*, including runners. Seasonal foods tend to be higher in micronutrients and can taste fresher. Additionally, seasonal foods are more sustainable, since they do not need to be shipped from far distances.
Good news: eating seasonal foods doesn’t take much work. If you shop at farmers’ markets or co-ops, then a majority of the produce is already seasonal. At grocery stores, seasonal foods will typically be marked as local and often cost less than imported produce.
While it would be impractical to live off only seasonal foods, you’ll reap the benefits when you deliberately choose to include them into meals. Seasonally adjusting your diet makes your eating choices more exciting, since you change them often. This can make it easier to stick to a healthy training meal plan—you won’t tire of it as quickly. By shopping for seasonal foods, you will also expose yourself to a wider variety of fruits and vegetables. You may find a favorite food that you would have otherwise skipped over!
Our favorite winter foods for runners
While many foods may be out of season in winter, the northern hemisphere has many foods coming into harvest during the winter months. Additionally, many fall harvest foods can be safely stored for consumption in winter, with minimal loss of micronutrients.
Apples: Apples are a fall favorite—and they continue to be in season in winter. Apples offer ample fiber, phytochemicals (a type of antioxidant), and vitamin C. Combined, these nutrients can help lower your cholesterol levels and inflammation levels. Athletes often require higher amounts of antioxidants and vitamin C to help combat the free radicals that may be formed during strenuous exercise.
Potatoes: Potatoes are high in carbohydrates, which are a key energy source for runners. Additionally, potatoes contain vitamin C and B-vitamins, which play a key role in metabolic function. Potatoes are also rich in potassium, which is one of the minerals that aid in muscle contraction during exercise.*
Brussels Sprouts: In addition to high levels of fiber, brussels sprouts provide vitamin K, vitamin C, folate, and beta-carotene. Folate promotes red blood cell function and cell growth, both of which are vital for runners.
Oranges: Oranges are extremely high in vitamin C—which is good news for runners. Vitamin C aids with connective tissue development and iron absorption, both of which help prevent injuries in runners. Oranges are also high in antioxidants, which can reduce your risk of cancer. When eating oranges, try opting for a whole orange instead of juice, since the pith contains heart-healthy fiber.
Winter Squash: Winter squash varieties include acorn squash, butternut squash, and kabocha squash. These brightly-colored vegetables provide magnesium, potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin C. Magnesium is essential for muscle function. Eating enough magnesium may help prevent muscle cramps and fatigue. Vitamin A plays a key role in bone health and immune function, which means it can promote recovery and prevent injury in runners.
A well-rounded diet includes seasonal foods and some non-seasonal foods. Stay curious, consider trying new things and enjoy exploring!
Please note: This blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.