For many, it’s around mid-July when fleeting thoughts of skiing start to seed. Must be the heat. Alas a lift ride is months out, but for those wondering how to maximize their cross-training efforts now, the answer is eating specific, in-season produce. A vitamin or mineral deficiency can harm athletic performance so stock up at your local farmers market on beets, cabbage, and collard greens—Olympians of the vegetable kingdom that are just coming into season.
The most common nutrient deficiencies in athletes are B-complex vitamins, the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E, and the mineral calcium. Antioxidants counteract potentially harmful side effects of the free radicals that are produced during high levels of activity. They can also reduce soreness after a workout, and support the adrenal glands, which are responsible for regulating your body’s stress response. Vitamin C in particular is involved in reactions that form the connective-tissue protein collagen, which can help injuries heal faster.
A 2006 study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism concluded that athletes who lack B-vitamins have reduced high-intensity exercise performance and are less able to repair damaged muscles or build muscle mass than those who eat a diet rich in B-vitamins.
Calcium is extremely important for skiers as it’s needed for both muscle contraction and bone health, and is so easily lost through perspiration. When dietary intake is too low, the body will draw upon calcium stores in the bones to maintain normal blood concentrations, which will weaken bones over time. Drinking phosphate-rich soda and diuretic coffee can also speed the depletion of calcium.
In-season, freshly harvested produce has better nutrient-content and flavor. Once a vegetable is picked it begins to loose its nutrient content, just think of flowers. When they are shipped long distances, and chilled they loose moisture, and no one wants to eat a jet-lagged vegetable. Make your local farmers market a stop on your next Saturday morning bike ride and pick these three vegetables up. They’re full of the vitamins and minerals that will keep you strong this winter, and they’re easier to cook with than you might think.
1. The Beet Is On.
Don’t be intimated by these crimson root balls—they are your liver’s best friends. The fiber in beets increases the activity of two antioxidant enzymes in the liver, which is probably why beets are such a popular ingredient in Russian cuisine (Borscht soup, anyone?). It doesn’t stop there: the beetroot is an excellent source of folic acid, one of the B vitamins, which is particularly handy at altitude since it is required in the formation of healthy red and white blood cells. And don’t chuck those edible green leaves, which are rich in calcium and antioxidant vitamins A and C. Rather chop and sauté them with white wine and mushrooms for an easy-yet-gourmet steak sauce.
Harvest Beet and Strawberry Quinoa Salad
1 cup water
½ cup quinoa (small red protein-rich grain, pronounced keen-wah)
1 cup grated raw beets
½ cup fresh strawberries, chopped (sub dried cherries in winter)
½ cup sunflower seeds
2 tbsp flax oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinaigrette
Salt and pepper
Bring water to a boil and add quinoa. Cook approximately 15 minutes, or until rings of quinoa begin to release. Drain and scoop into a serving bowl. Add next three ingredients and mix. Add the oil and vinegar and stir, salt and pepper to taste. Will keep in fridge for a few days.
2. Cabbage, much more than runny coleslaw.
This large leaf conglomerate is a member of the well-known, anti-cancer cruciferous vegetable family. What might be surprising is that the cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C. (Oranges are not the best vitamin C source, and according to Chinese Medicine can be inflammatory). There are tons of ways to add cabbage to the menu: the easiest? Ditch the taco shells and use cabbage leaves as the transport vessel.
Not Your Grandmothers Po-Slaw
2 russet potatoes, cleaned, cubes and boiled with skins on until tender
1 head purple cabbage, shredded
4 boiled eggs, chopped
2 carrots, shredded
1 large onion, diced
3 large celery stalks, diced
1 cup Nayonaise
½ cup mustard
Salt and pepper
Add first seven ingredients into a large serving bowl and mix together. Add Nayonaise and mustard and combine thoroughly. Salt and pepper to taste. This potato salad meets coleslaw recipe is a great side with burgers or grilled chicken.
3. Got Greens?
If you get to know one vegetable this summer let it be collard greens. These leaves are an incredible source of all three main antioxidants: vitamin C, vitamin E, and vitamin A. Second, collard greens are calcium-dense. Dark leafy greens like collards and kale as just as good of a source if not a better source of calcium that dairy foods. Last, collards boast many of the B-vitamins including B2 and B6 which both play critical roles in the body’s production of energy. Feeling adventurous? Collards go great in a smoothie.
Summer Collard, Goat Cheese and Garlic Omelet
2 garlic bulbs, peeled and chopped
3 collard green leaves
8 shavings goat cheese
Dash of water
Butter, salt and pepper
Warm sauté pan over medium heat and add butter and garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until you can smell it. Meanwhil,e de-stem the collards by tearing green leaves from the stock into small pieces. Add collards to garlic and dash of water to pan and continue to sauté for 4-5 minutes and water has evaporated. Transfer garlic and collards onto a plate and recoat pan with butter. Whip eggs together in a bowl and add to pan, cooking evenly. Before removing add cheese and collards onto the egg to heat for a minute. Remove and enjoy a breakfast of champions.