I am a big fan of eating for the Season. I think the earth provides exactly what we need and when we need it. I believe our bodies need certain foods at certain times of the year for optimal function. Some of the symptoms we may experience when we are not eating in season are: sluggishness, fatigue, depression, disruption in sleep, decreased memory function and anxiety. Take a look at this fabulous article to learn more about why Eating Seasonally is so important.
Until recently, most people adapted their diets throughout the year according to what foods were available locally. Today, we don’t need to pay as much attention to what’s available where we live because we have refrigerated trucks and giant supermarkets stocked with fresh foods from all over the world.
However, there are many reasons to choose seasonal foods. Eating seasonally helps you eat healthier, more nutritious food, and be more in sync with the natural world. Seasonal eating is also usually better for the environment than the standard American diet, because foods grown locally require less energy and resources to produce and transport. Moreover, eating seasonally helps support the local or regional economy.
Even with all the benefits, adopting a diet that more closely reflects the seasons can be a challenge when imported strawberries and cucumbers are available year-round at the grocery store. Don’t worry: you don’t need to eschew all of your favorite imported or exotic foods (we’re looking at you, coffee!). Even a modest transition to more local and seasonal foods has a positive impact on the planet and offers personal perks. Read on to discover why you may want to eat season by season, and learn some simple and delicious ways to do it.
Health Reasons to Eat More Seasonally
We’ve become accustomed to the idea that being healthy means ingesting green smoothies and leafy green salads year-round, even if the ingredients are grown on another continent. However, there are health advantages to sourcing food as locally as possible and adapting our diets throughout the year to reflect local seasons. That’s because the foods in season within your own region help your body adapt to the environment.
Consider these examples. Wild spring greens, such as nettles, help the body fend off spring’s seasonal allergies. Fifty-eight percent of participants in a randomized, double-blind study reported that nettles were as effective as allergy medication. , Juicy summer fruits give us energy and fluids for long, hot days and provide a boost of antioxidants to help the body deal with the damaging effects of sunshine. Autumn’s squash and root vegetables are loaded with beta-carotene, a nutrient that supports the immune system at a time of year when most of us can benefit from extra immune support. And fish, a widely available winter food source in many northern climates, is packed with vitamin D and omega 3s, which help prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder.
It may seem counterintuitive, but eating seasonally also encourages people to eat a wider variety of nutritious foods. Although there are 80,000 edible plant species, very few are included in the modern, industrialized diet. Globally, only 30 plant species make up 95 percent of the calories people eat.
And within those 30 species, we eat far fewer varieties of vegetables and fruits than people did even 100 years ago. That’s because our industrial agricultural system relies primarily on fruit and vegetable types that produce large yields and hold up well during long-distance transport and long-term storage. These are not necessarily the most nutritious types.
Because farmers grow fewer types of crops today, the genetic diversity of our food supply is plummeting, too. In 1903, commercial seed growers offered 497 different types of lettuce. In 1983, only 36 of those lettuce types were available in the National Seed Storage Laboratory (now the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation). Moreover, these crops lose nutrition during long-distance transport and storage, even when temperature and humidity are carefully controlled.
For this and other reasons, the nutrients in crops have declined dramatically. One study concluded we’d have to eat eight oranges to get the same amount of vitamin A our grandparents got from eating one.
Getting more produce from local sources is an excellent way to eat a more diverse range of nutritious crops because home gardeners and small farmers can select fruit and vegetable types based on optimum nutrient content, rather than just storage needs. Moreover, foods grown close to home typically retain the most nutrients because they’re handled minimally and eaten quickly after harvest.
Other Reasons to Eat More Seasonally
The farm-to-table movement took off for a reason. Seasonal produce is nearly always more flavorful than produce that’s shipped long distances. Small, local farmers can make flavor a high priority when deciding which vegetable and fruit varieties to grow. And the shorter distance to market means more flavor: anyone who’s eaten a store-bought tomato in January and a sun-ripened one in August has tasted the difference.
Eating seasonally can also be more affordable than relying exclusively on the grocery store. After all, you may be able to find seasonal food growing near you for free, sometimes in abundant quantities. Many people don’t take advantage of all of the free food available, and a lot of good fruit rots on the ground. If you’re willing to do some harvesting and learn some simple preservation methods, you’ll find no shortage of free food. Visit fallingfruit.org to find a map of nearby unpicked fruit trees available for foragers.
Purchasing the freshest, tastiest, and most nutritious food available is also relatively inexpensive at farm stands and farmers’ markets. Farmers' markets sometimes get a bad rap as being elitist and expensive. However, in studies done in four different regions, the produce at farmers' markets was the same price or less expensive than it was in grocery stores. In a 2010 Vermont study comparing prices of a handful of produce at 10 farmers' markets with the same handful in 10 grocery stores, the organic produce at farmers' markets was 40 percent less expensive than comparable organic produce at the grocery store.
And when you buy food locally, more of your dollars stay in your community. According to the Farmers' Market Coalition, for every $100 you spend at a farmers' market, $62 remain in your local economy and $99 remain in your state.