Let’s start with the good news – if you love things “green,” this is your season! Greens like asparagus, collards, broccoli, herbs, and mushrooms are all in season right now in North Carolina. But we also know that “eating a rainbow” means you want reds, oranges, and purples to fill out your plate and max your locally-sourced fruits and veggies, right?
Well then, here’s more good news, runners and friends – farmers markets are opening up across North Carolina, and they’re full of the best in-season fruits and vegetables North Carolina has to offer.
“Coming into spring, we have a lot of berries,” says Ashley Muschiatti, Registered Dietician and Performance Specialist for Novant Health. “Look for your reds, pinks, and oranges – like strawberries, radishes, and citrus.” Citrus is full of Vitamin C for your immune system, and has a high water content, too. “So it helps with hydration,” she adds. That makes it a perfect snack for the hot summer months.
We’re lucky in the Carolinas to have a lot of agriculture to provide local farmers’ markets with tasty, ripe goodies. Kings Drive, Atherton Mill, and Yorkmont Road are home to some of the better known markets, but there are at least a dozen around Mecklenburg County to choose from. We even have a few strawberry farms to pick your own baskets, and peaches are abundant just when strawberries near the end of their season.
In fact, there’s plenty to get you through those summer months here. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture has a whole chart, but Muschiatti is happy to suggest some highlights for you.
For May, the parade of greens continues. Bokchoy, cabbage, and peas join the lineup, along with turnips, radishes, and beets. Beets are full of fiber, nitrates, and B Vitamins, as well as having anti-inflammatory properties. You can’t “beet” that!
In June and July, look for blackberries and blueberries, which are packed with potassium, fiber, and Vitamin C. In July and August, you’ll find cherry tomatoes and an abundance of melons like watermelon and cantaloupe, which are full of carotenoids for antioxidants and eye health, and anti-inflammatory properties to help your recovery.
“The stuff found in fruits helps other vitamins and minerals absorb,” adds Muschiatti. But who wants to crack open a watermelon before a 5 a.m. run? Generally, no one. Muschiatti says that shouldn’t stop you.
“When you get your fruits at the beginning of the week, cut them up and prepare them so they’re easy to eat,” she suggests. Those watermelon chunks look very tasty after a run – and restore fluids – when you don’t have the strength to cut open the whole melon! Or try making some yummy, refreshing fruit pops that are perfect for after those hot, energy-depleting runs.
June and July are also a great time to find starchy vegetables that will fill you up and hold off hunger a little longer, like cucumbers and eggplant. Zucchini and squash are also abundant in the mid-summer months, and are great for baking in meals. (Try Muschiatti’s favorite: zucchini fries in an air fryer, or grilled!) And sweet potatoes? They’re great! And also grown year-round here in NC, so they’re plentiful.
So how do you fit it all into your running diet so it packs the right punch? Know what to eat pre- and post-run for the best benefit, says Muschiatti.
“Before you run you want low protein and low fat, but you want carbs,” she says, “so put your fruit on toast with peanut butter.” You can also try yogurt and granola with fruit, if your stomach can tolerate it – “But that’s better for post-workout,” she says.
Hungry yet? Local farmers are ready for you. Check the hours and head out to fresh fruit and veggie heaven. You’ll feel better and run better for it.