Benefits of Eating Seasonally
There is an overwhelming amount of information out there on how to eat healthy, what foods to eat, what foods to avoid. Something that should be simple – what to eat? – has become a confusing topic for many people, including my clients. One of the simplest answers to this question is to eat seasonally.
Why is eating seasonally recommended?
1. Nutrient Density
For much of the conventional produce that we find in the grocery store, it was picked long before it arrived on your store shelves. I read an article the other day that fruits and vegetables travel an average of 1,300 to 2,00 miles just to get from the farms they were grown on to the stores where we buy them. Let alone the environmental impact of the trucks and ships that transport this produce, the nutrient density of this produce begins to decrease as soon as it is harvested. This means that the longer it takes to travel to you, the less nutrients it contains.
Some statistics that blew my mind (and likely will yours too!):
The average vegetable in our grocery stores today has from 5-40% less minerals contained in them than 50 years ago.
Green beans and peas lose from 15-77% of their nutrient content by the time we eat them.
Spinach can lose as much as 90% of its vitamin C content within 24 hours of being harvested and nearly 50% of its folate and carotenoids within a week (note the average piece of produce found in stores is more than one week old).
The solution: Buy your produce locally!!! Farmers markets are a great way to buy fresh produce, that is not only in season, but also nutrient dense. After all, the goal of eating is to benefit from the crucial nutrients the provide. If by the time we eat them, they have lost much of these key nutrients…. what is the point?
Not only does eating fresh, local produce have significant health benefits, it also tastes better! Nothing tastes better than something that is freshly picked. And if you are someone who primarily buys their produce from the supermarket, you don’t know what you are missing! Further, you will likely find now foods you have never seen or tried before, so it’s a great way to add a little variety to your meals.
3. Supporting Local Farms / Sustainable Agriculture
In addition to the travel time, it takes to get produce to market, a number of common conventional farming practices also contribute to the degradation in the quality of produce. These include things like using pesticides and herbicides, which we in turn ingest when we eat that fruit or vegetable. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports that 54% of our fruit and 36% of our vegetables contain pesticides.
Further, many large scale, industrial farms use genetically modified seeds (GMOs). Genetically modified foods are highly controversial, as not enough is known about them to determine what, if any, are the long terms health effects of eating them. Additionally, these seeds are often genetically modified to be resistant to pesticides and herbicides, which allows them to be even more liberally sprayed with these toxins, without fear of killing the plant itself. These pesticides and herbicides leave residues called glyphosates on the plant, which have been linked to a number of health conditions including cancer. Even after processing these plants, the residues persist and can build up in your body if you eat them in large quantities.
Due to the scale of these farms, combined with all the toxins that are used, the soil becomes depleted, which in turns depletes the nutrient content of the produce that are grown in it. Buying locally and seasonally, not only provides you with better quality produce, but also supports your local farmers and ensures that they continue to exist. Not to mention the fact that produce found at farmers are often cheaper than what we find in the grocery stores.
In addition to frequenting your local farmers markets, there are a number of online resources to help you find out what is in season for your area:
The Seasonal Food Guide Helps You Find Local Produce | FoodPrint
Seasonal Produce Guide | SNAP-Ed (usda.gov)
In the coming months, I will be showcasing foods that are in season, along with recipes to help you give them a try. The weekend is coming…get out to your local farmers market and enjoy!!