Why is Seasonal Eating So Powerful?
Memorial Day is the unofficial start of “summer” (for all those too impatient to wait until the summer solstice, June 21st). It’s the perfect time to start watching for seasonal fruits and vegetables to show up at your local stores and farmers markets so that you don’t miss out on the power of seasonal eating. Seasonal eating is when you eat foods that are currently being grown and harvested at the same time you buy them. Why is seasonal eating so powerful? Eating foods that are in season, or seasonal eating, benefits you several ways:
- Seasonal food tastes better!
- Eating seasonal foods is often cheaper!
- Seasonal eating actually helps the environment!
- Seasonal foods can be more nutritious.
- Eating seasonally and locally adds variety!
Before we get started, here’s a secret. Eating seasonally and locally is not new. Everywhere I’ve traveled, the indigenous cultures have engrained seasonal eating into their traditions. It has been done naturally throughout history. And before supermarkets, processed food, and global trade entered the picture, it was a very, very necessary practice.
How Seasonal Eating Benefits You
Fresh is so much better! It doesn’t take a scientific study to prove that eating a blood-red, ripe, fresh-picked tomato from your garden tastes radically different from a dull-red, hard tomato you buy from the grocery store in mid-December.
The tomato from your garden was begging to be eaten, bursting with flavor, while the tomato in December had to be picked green in order to account for the time needed to ship it to you. Plus, ripe tomatoes seem a little more difficult to ship, don’t they? Making my “Berry Good Morning” breakfast bowl with strawberries picked in season during the early summer will always taste better then when it is made with strawberries out of season.
When foods are picked at the peak of ripeness, right when they were meant to be eaten, they taste different! Seasonal eating brings the full flavor of fresh, whole foods back to your diet.
• Seasonal Foods Are Often Cheaper
It takes a lot of energy and resources to manage, package, and transport foods out of season. This adds to the cost and takes money out of your wallet. Plus, the laws of supply and demand apply. When a food is “in season” and abundant, it is less expensive than when it is outside its growing season and harder to find.
• Seasonal Eating Actually Helps the Environment
Foods grown out of season take a tremendous amount of resources in one of two ways: either it takes a lot of extra energy to recreate the natural growing season in an artificial way or it uses a tremendous amount of fossil fuel to transport the foods across the world to you. Large amounts of fuel are needed to transport non-seasonal fruits and vegetables, whereas local, in-season foods do not. This reduces your carbon footprint!
• Seasonal Foods Can Be More Nutritious
In order for foods growing out of season elsewhere in the world to be shipped to you, they have to be picked green, before they are at their peak and fully developed. Seasonal foods, however, are picked at their peak and in your hands quicker, meaning more nutritious food for you. Some studies have shown that crops grown in season can be up to three times more nutritious when grown in season. Skipping the travel, transportation, and storage, helps food reach your plate with the most nutrients possible. This is because the early harvesting, transportation, and the time it takes the foods to actually be purchased from the store considerably decreases the nutritional content of the food.
• Seasonal Eating Adds Variety to Your Diet
Variety is the cornerstone of a healthy diet, and eating seasonally give you that nudge to break food habits and continuously change up your food choices! Instead of eating the same foods and getting the same nutrients over and over again, you switch to new foods each season.
Getting Started with Eating Seasonally and Locally
The absolute best way to eat seasonally is to grow your own food! When that is not an option, the second best bet is farmers markets or local farmers. They are an amazing resource, not only for fresh, whole foods, but also tips of preparation, recipes, and new food suggestions for you.
If you can’t get a food in your garden or at the farmers market, a supermarket is the next option. It can take a while to break the habit of just heading there first.
Note: Once a food is out of season, I would suggest foregoing it in your diet or finding an organic, frozen version. Frozen food is also picked and frozen at its peak, so that is a better choice than something that has been picked green and shipped thousands of miles to get to you.
Every part of the world has different seasons. Even the different states will be different. This great tool from Seasonal Table is an interactive guide that lets you select your state and the season to see what’s freshest near you.
The SuperSimple Summary:
Learning to eat foods that are in season, or seasonal eating, gives you the opportunity to save money (seasonal food is cheaper!), help the environment (it has a lower carbon footprint), add extra nutrition to your diet, and builds in variety!