Seasons are changing, and that means a change in the pattern of what you eat. Traditionally speaking, when the weather starts to change, our bodies respond to the changes. We share something in common with the rest of life on the earth with these seasonal changes.
With this comes a change in the kinds of food we eat and nutrients we get. Everything from vegetables to meats we eat, to the strength of the sunlight that breaks down cholesterol into Vitamin D, changes with the seasons. Because of this, it is important to focus on eating healthy foods that are in-season and grown locally.
In-season foods are vegetables that grow to their peak nutritional value during that specific season. A current example of an in-season vegetable would be squash. An out of season vegetable would be artichokes, as their season is in the spring.
There are a few reasons as to why picking in-season and local is better for you:
1. In-season foods can be locally sourced. Good in-season foods can be grown locally. They are planted in consideration of their best growing environment. Perhaps the plants prefer a cooler climate to grow as a seedling before it takes root, which means that the vegetable has to be planted earlier in the Spring than later. This plant spends plenty of time gathering its needed nutrients from the soil, growing into a healthy, viable food that is ready for harvest at the right seasonal time. It takes less time to reach the store since it is grown locally, and therefore retains more of its freshness and nutritional value.
2. Eating seasonally and locally is more cost effective and better for the planet. It actually costs less to eat locally grown food. It reduces the time food is in transit, which in turn reduces the carbon footprint since food is not transported for long distances. This also means less people are involved in the transporting and picking of food, so of course this equals less $ out of your pocket.
Let’s not forget that you are supporting small farms by doing this, as well. All of these factors add up, saving you money in the long run. In-season foods generally take less work to bring to market. They use fewer resources and have a more natural and beneficial impact on your health. They provide you with needed nutrients and do not carry the risk that out-of-season foods do that may have been treated with pesticides or preservatives.
3. Out-of-season foods come from farther away and most are treated with harmful chemicals. Foods that are out of season need to be planted on a different latitude in order to be able to be harvested correctly. For example, watermelon is a fruit that is enjoyed by a lot of Americans during the summer. It is in-season during the summer months. Watermelon is less common in areas farther north because of the general cooling of the Northern Hemisphere.
It is more difficult to grow watermelon because of the cold climate. This means that in order to get watermelons, they have to be grown in the south and shipped north. The longer travel time from farther south means that the watermelon will lose its freshness.
In order to maintain flavor and peak ripeness, the watermelon can be treated with pesticides, preservatives or get harvested much sooner than usual in order to arrive at its peak. These chemical processes are dangerous to the human body and long-term exposure to them can lead to chronic health problems.
If you want to learn which foods are in season, Environmental Working Group (EWG.org) does a great job of outlining produce for seasonal eating and also which carry the least or most amount of pesticides and chemicals.
Eating this way can allow you to try new foods you otherwise may have never had before. All it takes is a little creativity and you can have yourself new and nourishing meals that guide you throughout the seasons.