Though seasonal eating has become popular, it's not new. People have eaten food fresh from the garden from very early in our history. Though being able to eat produce in any season is convenient, it's not as beneficial to your health as seasonal eating.
Studies have shown that freshly picked fruits and vegetables that have been allowed to ripen fully before being harvested have many health benefits. These are a few.
Eat seasonally for higher nutritional content
According to an Institute of Food Research report, vegetables can lose as much as 45 percent of their nutritional content by the time they reach the supermarket. That's because farmers pick them before they're ripe, so they have time to ripen on the long journey to the store. Though eating ripe produce is tasty and desirable, it's not as good for your health as eating it almost straight from the garden.
For ultimate nutrition, experts recommend that you include a rainbow-colored variety of fruits and vegetables on your plate. Each color indicates different nutrients, depending on the food. Here is what some of the colors mean for your health:
- Green: Dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach, contain large amounts of vitamins C, E, A and K, iron, magnesium and others necessary for good health. They are also rich in antioxidants, molecules that protect cells and may prevent cancer.
- Orange: Pumpkin, sweet potato and carrots are loaded with vitamin A, an essential nutrient for your eye health. It also strengthens the immune system and may prevent cancer.
- Red: Tomatoes, apples, strawberries, watermelon and beets, among others, are rich in nutrients. Many of them are loaded with antioxidants and folic acid that help prevent heart disease, as well as vitamin C that strengthens the immune system.
Tips for eating seasonally
Though it can be challenging to find fresh fruits and vegetables in season, especially during the winter, you can do it, with a little planning.
- Buy freshly picked produce and freeze it for later. Research indicates that ripe fruits and vegetables that are frozen immediately after picking retain most of their vitamins and minerals. During your visits to the local farmers market in the summer, buy extra fruits and vegetables and freeze them for the winter.
- Eat only fresh vegetables in season. According to the Cleveland Clinic, eating fruits and vegetables at the time of their harvest is a good way to connect to nature. Find charts online that tell you when local fruits and vegetables are being harvested. Print out the list and take it to your farmers market.
- Sign up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), which provides a selection of ultra-fresh seasonal local produce and other farm products, usually weekly, to members who pay for a share of the harvest from nearby farms.
Seasonal eating is a healthy lifestyle choice for many people. Though it takes more thought than going to the supermarket, it may be something you want to consider for your health. Call a local farm, farmer's market, or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) group and ask about the availability of seasonal produce.
CATEGORIES: Benefits, Local Food, Seasonal, Seasonal Eating, Local Farmers