5 Benefits of Eating with the Seasons

"If you could do just one thing for your health it would be to make seasonal, farm-fresh produce the center of your diet." --- Preston Maring, M.D.

Eating in season may not be a new concept for you. It is for me. At my local grocer, I see strawberries in the winter and winter squash in the summer and think, "cool", but instead I should be asking "how?". It wasn't until recently as I've learned more about clean and healthy eating that when we decide to eat with the seasons there are many facets to it's benefits.

Seasonal eating is based on purchasing foods during their natural growing times. If you've never thought about choosing foods based on the seasons, I encourage you to start now. Here are a few thoughts on why eating seasonally is right for you and your family.

1. Fresh is just best.
Have you ever looked on the label of that pint of strawberries you just bought? Many times those foods are traveling thousands of miles to get to you. What exactly does that mean for the quality of the food? A lot! First of all, they are generally picked early before they ripen and therefore, their nutritional content is much, much lower. According to Brian Halweil, author of Eat Here: Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket, “If you harvest something early so that it can endure a long distance shipping experience, it’s not going to have the full complement of nutrients it might have had.” Second, if they are not organic, they are covered in preservatives and pesticides to get where they're going and still look good to you the consumer. If you are able, purchase in season foods when they are abundant and freeze them for later which also does not significantly diminish the nutritional value of produce.

2. In season = better health.
Seasonal foods also pack the biggest nutritional punch. When you purposefully choose foods that are in season for your particular region, you will be healthier. Since produce starts to lose nutrients shortly after being picked, out of season options will have lower nutritional values. Preston Maring, M.D., the associate physician-in-chief at Kaiser Permanente’s Oakland hospital says, "If we can just get people to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, we can really impact people’s health."

3. It helps you know your neighbor.
Buying locally when foods are in season is the ideal way to shop for produce. You begin to know who is growing the food you are eating and have a sense of supporting those working hard in your community. The authors of Simply in Season remind us that "before the advent of modern transportation and storage systems, eating locally grown food was the norm - as it still is in many parts of the world." They also go on to say that "we have become distant in our food and not just in terms of geography. Who grows our food? What are their lives like? Each food purchase we make is like a vote for the way we want food to be produced - and for the world in which we live." So buy locally when you can so that your area farmers can continue their great work.

4. Buying in season makes your wallet happy.
This is just the basic law of supply and demand. When there is more of something it will cost less, when there is less you will usually pay the price. Author Judi Gerber of the website care2 says, "If you buy items that are not in season, you pay a premium for them. How so? That basket of peaches you buy during winter can cost twice as much as it would if you buy it when peaches are in season locally. Having those South American peaches transported halfway around the world shows up in your food bill, not to mention it is very environmentally unfriendly." Keep this in mind as you shop during the peak harvesting seasons.

5. It strengthens our palates.
The plain fact is when you buy food that is in season plus purchased as close to your front door as possible, it is going to taste fresher and better. Professional chef Kurt Michael Friese states, "When we eat out of season -- gobbling shipped-in strawberries in January, for instance -- the taste degrades: 'Our palate weakens just as our eyesight would if left in the dark for too long.'" Be choosy with your food. Don't eat whatever, whenever... chose the best.

Here is a list of foods that are in season in your region, just skip over to this Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) site and plug in your state and the month you'd like.

For more information on eating in season, here is a list of links you might be interested in:
The Locavore app :: find what is in season in a snap with your smartphone.
Simply in Season cookbook :: get inspired to eat in season and locally by these amazing stories along with healthy recipes. Also available for purchase on Amazon here.
Local Harvest :: for a list of farmer's markets and organic food near to you.
Eating Well in Season: The Farmers' Market Cookbook
Perpetual Produce Calendar :: gives a list of produce in season for your particular region.
Eat Here: Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket

Do you eat with the seasons?

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