The arrival of beautiful fall weather is a great reminder of the importance of eating healthy with the seasons.
The changing of the seasons provides us with the unique opportunity to buy a variety of fantastic foods that are only available during that season. Seasonal foods offer a natural diversity that we should take advantage of when eating healthy for both our own well being and the health of our planet. After all, what's better than a juicy organic summer peach, vine-ripe heirloom tomato, or sweet strawberries grown by a local farmer?Read more about organic farmers
Here are four of the amazing benefits of eating healthy by purchasing local foods in season and organic:
1. It’s More Cost-Effective
It's simple, really. Food is easier to grow in its proper season, making it more abundant, less time-intensive, and more affordable for consumers. Often there will be specials on seasonal produce, because there is simply too much of it, and it needs to be used up!
2. It’s More Delicious
Seasonal food is significantly more delicious than food grown out of season. Foods that have had the chance to fully, naturally ripen before they’ve been picked will taste how they’re supposed to, delicious! And if you’ve ever compared the sweetness of a tomato in February to one in August, you know what allowing food to fully ripen means to your taste buds.
3. It’s Healthier
When produce is grown in its proper season, under the appropriate growing conditions, it exhibits all of its natural nutrients, making eating healthy a cinch. Studies have shown that some crops can have up to three times more nutrients when grown in season. Seasonal fruits and vegetables don't have to endure as much travel, so they don't lose those vital nutrients.
4. It’s Greener
Seasonal and local foods have to travel much shorter distances than non-local fruits and vegetables, which sometimes need to travel well over 1,000 miles to get to our local supermarkets. Plus, seasonal foods typically have fewer chemicals. Foods that have been picked too early and travel long distances won’t look as pretty as the seasonal ones that grew to their peak. To make them look more appealing, they’re often given chemical ripening agents, wax coatings, and other preservatives. Seasonal eating greatly reduces the need for these practices, while reducing your carbon footprint.
How To Do It
In the spring, focus on leafy vegetables that represent the fresh new growth of this season. The greening that occurs in springtime should be represented by greens on your plate, including Swiss chard, spinach, romaine lettuce, fresh parsley and basil.
In the summer, stick with light, cooling foods. These foods include fruits like strawberries, apples, pears and plums and vegetables like summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower and corn (non GMO of course!).
In the fall, turn toward the more warming autumn harvest foods, including carrots, sweet potatoes, onions, and garlic. Emphasize the more warming spices including ginger, peppercorns and mustard seeds.
In the winter, turn even more towards warming foods. Remember the principle that foods taking longer to grow are generally more warming than foods that grow quickly. All of the animal foods fall into the warming category including fish, chicken, beef and lamb. So do most of the root vegetables, including carrots, potatoes, squash, onions and garlic.
So, determine what’s in season right now and dig in. You’ll be rewarded with high quality produce, packed with nutrition, at a lower cost. And your taste buds will definitely thank you for it! To find out what’s harvested seasonally in your area, go to www.localharvest.org to find farmers markets near you and seasonal produce guides.
Image: Oakley Originals