How to Eat Seasonally
Eat seasonally to improve your your health, reduce your impact on the planet and support your local community. But what does that really mean? In this article you will learn what it means to eat seasonally. Know the benefits from this eating pattern and how it can impact the world around you.
To eat seasonally, means eating food that has been grown and picked at peak ripeness. For example, enjoying an orange straight from the tree or picking a strawberry in your garden is a way of eating seasonally.
Why You Should Eat Seasonally
First and foremost, there are a lot of wonderful reasons to eat seasonally! The flavor and quality of produce is exceptionally better when it is harvested ripe and enjoyed as soon as possible. Take into consideration how much longer your produce lasts when you buy from a farmers market or harvest it from your garden. Reduction of travel time and picking at peak season makes for delicious, nutrient dense options.
Have you ever eaten a peach in the winter that was bland as opposed to the flavorful juicy peaches you enjoy in the summer? What about a strawberry in November? It won’t not have that same sweet pop that it does in March or April.
As food ages on the shelves of the store and your fridge it has results in a steady decline in its nutrient content. In fact, spinach was found to lose 53% of folate content after 8 days of storage. It also loses 80% of vitamin C content after 3 days! Therefore, fresh produce picked at its peak ripeness will contain the most nutrients compared to those picked out of season or transported thousands of miles to reach your plate.
Eat Seasonally for the Environment
I chatted with Thea Baker (no relation), a Civil Engineer and Graduate Student in Global Sustainability at the University of South Florida about sustainable food systems. Here is what she had to share, “eating locally is not necessarily better for the environment. It’s important to note that the global food system is very complex. We cannot simply say eating locally grown or raised food is better for the environment or the economy.”
“There have been many studies done in the UK showing that certain foods produced in the UK had a much higher overall carbon footprint than foods grown elsewhere in the world and transported to the UK. This was the case for foods such as lettuce, strawberries, and tomatoes grown out of season in the UK versus in season in areas with a hotter climate and transported to the UK.”
“In these cases the energy required to grow certain foods out of season outweighs the transportation impacts. However, it is better for the environment to eat locally, AND in season. The problem is, we’ve found ourselves in a society where the only food we know of is what we find on grocery store shelves. That’s only a fraction of a fraction of what can be grown and eaten” she states.
“Eating foods that are more easily grown in our local climate is better for the environment than foods that require excess inputs (fertilizers, pesticides, water, etc). Examples in Florida in climate 9A include eating Okinawa spinach, longevity spinach, Malabar spinach, Chinese multicolor spinach, and bok Choi in summer. All of these grow easily in the heat. Or, in winter locally growing broccoli but eating not only the head, which takes 70 days to grow. Also enjoy eating the huge leaves that have just as much nutrition as the head, but typically go to waste.”
Thea is an avid gardener, researcher, and builder of more sustainable communities. To hear more from the amazing Thea and find inspiration for your own sustainability efforts, follow her on instagram @thea_gram .
How to Shop Seasonally
Great! We have all this beneficial information on how seasonal eating impacts our personal and environmental health. Now, how can you make this happen? Here are a few suggestions…
- Shop at the farmers market: by shopping local, you will get to enjoy what is likely growing in season within a hundred mile radius around you.
- Shop produce sales: It is not uncommon for your favorite grocery to put on sale what is in season due to the larger influx of produce coming in!
- Grow your own: Try growing an herb garden in your window, a garden bed in your yard or joining your local community garden. Grow your own produce so you get the freshest produce in every season!
- Download the Seasonal Foods Guide app:This amazing app shows you what is in season whenever and wherever you are!
- Use a Seasonal Cookbook: Check out awesome cookbooks like Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden, Half Baked Harvest by Tieghan Gerard.
Start Eating Seasonally
Now that you understand the benefits of eating seasonally and how to start its time to get to it. Start growing or supporting local growers who are harvesting in season so you and your world can reap the benefits! For more information and fun reminders about what is fresh this season, check out @elevated.nutrition on instagram.
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