Why Eating Seasonally and Locally is Better for You
Health experts and chefs both often say you should eat “seasonally,” or include foods in your diet that are grown at the same time of the year you eat them. For example, that means squash in the summer and fall, and artichokes in the spring. Eating seasonally is important, and carries benefits to your health, the planet, and your wallet. Here are some of them.
At first glance, eating seasonally may seem simple—you eat foods that are “in season,” or being grown and harvested at the time of the year when you buy and cook them. That’s true, but there’s more to it than just being a trendy food movement. There are real benefits to eating foods that are available at their peak right now.
You Can Save a Ton of Money and Eat Better, Healthier Food: perhaps the biggest tangible benefit of eating seasonally is that you’ll save money on food. When you buy what’s in season, you buy food that’s at the peak of its supply, and costs less to farmers and distribution companies to harvest and get to your grocery store. It may seem like common sense, but it’s one of those things many of us ignore when we’re shopping.
However, the best consequence of eating seasonally is that you get the best tasting, healthiest food available. The same reasons that keep the cost of seasonal food down also drive its quality up: The food is grown closer to you so it doesn’t spoil on its trip, it’s harvested at the peak of its season (although there’s no real guarantee that it’s picked at the peak of freshness), and sold during its season, before it spoils. Ideally, this means you’re getting fruits and vegetables that haven’t had time to lose their flavor or their health benefits by sitting in a shipping container for a trip across the ocean.
The inverse is true for foods that are out of season. They have to be shipped from around the world to get to you, usually picked before the peak of their flavor in order to survive the long trip (or be allowed to mature while they travel) to your local grocery store. As a result, they’re much more expensive because of the time, the distance, and the sheer number of people involved with getting those food items to you that need to be paid.
You End Up Supporting Local, More Sustainable Farmers: some of these factors can be compounded if you also buy local as well as seasonal. Just because you buy seasonal doesn’t mean that a huge food distribution company won’t harvest early and keep your food in a warehouse for awhile. You’ll definitely get better food for less money, but there’s no guarantee you’ll get food at the peak of freshness, flavor, or nutrition.
If you buy locally, you’ll have a better chance at getting foods that are seasonal, fresh, and support local farmers and businesses in your community.Shop at a nearby farmer’s market or food co-op, or support a local farm by signing up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project (or other fresh food delivery service.) Many of those farms and businesses also likely offer organic or sustainable options if you’re looking for them. You may wind up spending more to put your money where your taste buds (or personal ethics) are, but it may be a trade off that’s worthwhile to you in the long run.
You Get a Wider Variety of Foods in Your Diet: a pleasant side-effect of eating what’s in season is that you get a broader variety of foods in your diet. Those foods can broaden your palate, for one, but they may also expose you to dishes and ingredients you may not have otherwise explored, and while it doesn’t go for every location, it can also help you eat a more well-rounded and balanced diet as well.
Many of us do this by default to a certain degree—in the spring and summer we eat berries and stone fruit, then as summer turns to fall we turn our attention to apples, pumpkins, and squash. Part of that is because they’re ingrained in our culture, but also because they’re seasonal and plentiful. Expanding your horizons a little more can open the door to way more delicious food that you can get and prepare cheaply.
How to Tell What’s “In Season” Near You: if you’re not familiar with what’s “seasonal” where you live, it’s not too difficult to find out. Take a quick glance around the produce section of your grocery store. Pay attention to the way prices are trending. Have you noticed that berries, peaches, nectarines, and other stonefruit get really expensive at the end of fall? Or that the ones that are available just don’t look as good as the ones during the spring? That’s a good indicator. Also, if you notice there’s an abundance of something specific, and they’re on sale (like potatoes in fall, for example,) that’s another good indicator.
Still, your eyes—and stock levels at grocery stores— If you live in the United States or Canada, This map from the Eat Well Guide lets you click on your location to see what’s in season at what times of the year. Eat the Seasons is another good reference for all things seasonal, no matter where you live.
10 foods to eat this Fall (that you can buy locally) – By Teresa Stanley
Apples are an excellent source of antioxidants which combat free radicals. Free radicals are damaging substances generated in the body that cause undesirable changes and are involved in the aging process and some diseases. Some animal studies have indicate that an antioxidant found in apples (polyphenols) might extend lifespans.Researchers at The Florida State University said that apples are a “miracle fruit”.
In their study, the investigators found that older women who starting a regime of eating apples daily experienced a 23 percent drop in levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and a 4% increase in good cholesterol (HDL) after just six months.
The combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory molecules in beets makes this food a highly-likely candidate for risk reduction of many cancer types. Lab studies on human tumor cells have confirmed this possibility for colon, stomach, nerve, lung, breast, prostate and testicular cancers. Eventually, we expect to see large-scale human studies that show the risk-reducing effect of dietary beet intake for many of these cancer types.
3. Brussels Sprouts
For total glucosinolate content, Brussels sprouts are now known to top the list of commonly eaten cruciferous vegetables. Their total glucosinolate content has been shown to be greater than the amount found in mustard greens, turnip greens, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, or broccoli. In Germany, Brussels sprouts account for more glucosinolate intake than any other food except broccoli. Glucosinolates are important phytonutrients for our health because they are the chemical starting points for a variety of cancer-protective substances. All cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates and have great health benefits for this reason. But it’s recent research that’s made us realize how especially valuable Brussels sprouts are in this regard.
Cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables, often overshadowed by its green cousin broccoli. This is one vegetable that deserves a regular rotation in your diet, however, as it contains an impressive array of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals.Adding to cauliflower’s appeal is its extreme versatility. You can eat it raw, add it to salads, or use it in your cooking. Cauliflower can even be seasoned and mashed for a healthier version of “mashed potatoes.”
Pears are a mild, sweet fruit with a fibrous center. They are rich in important antioxidants flavonoids and dietary fiber and pack all of those nutrients in a fat-free, cholesterol-free, 100-calorie package.Consuming pears may help with weight loss and reduce the risk of developing cancer, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease in accordance with an overall healthy diet.
The only difference between 100 grams of raw and the same amount of cooked pumpkin is a 6-calorie increase in the raw form. So where do the nutrients come from? It’s in the vitamins and minerals, including large amounts of fiber and 100% of the daily vitamin A requirement.Pumpkins also provide lots of vitamin C, riboflavin, potassium, copper, and manganese. Smaller but significant amounts of vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus also are present.
What does that mean for us? The bright orange hints at the presence of a particularly beneficial phytonutrient: carotene. This converts to vitamin A in the body for a tremendous punch of antioxidants with the capacity to help prevent heart disease, cancer, and many of the degenerating signs of aging. Vitamin A is also a must for good vision and helping to prevent lung and mouth cancers. Flavonoids such as cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin destroy harmful free radicals, and the latter, especially, helps protect the retina of the eye from macular degeneration.
Pumpkin seeds are not only a tasty, easy-to-transport snack, you could also say they’re a concentrated source of minerals and vitamins, with 30 grams of protein, 110% of the daily value in iron and 559 calories, but no cholesterol, which is excellent for cardiovascular health. The fiber helps maintain regular elimination to keep the colon clear.
A special bonus in pumpkin seeds is the amino acid tryptophan, which, once in the brain, converts into GABA – a nutrient which relaxes the body, calms the nerves, improves sleep, and transmits signals between neurons.
Some vegetables offer different nutrients than others. Some, however, have truly impressive amounts, which is the case with squash: 457% of the daily value per serving in vitamin A – more than pumpkin and possibly more than any other vegetable. Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant essential for good skin, vision, and mucous membranes. What’s more, polyphenolic carotenoid/flavonoids such as betacarotenes, cryptoxanthin-ß, and lutein convert to vitamin A in the body for a “one-two punch” of protection. Research reveals that vitamin A may protect against the risk of lung and mouth cancers.You get a 42% daily value in vitamin C in every cup of squash, providing infection protection, among other things. The potassium and manganese content in squash is good, too, with 17% and 18% daily values respectively, along with healthy amounts of vitamins E, B, B6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, niacin, folate, calcium and magnesium, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, and pantothenic acid.
Although squash is considered by some to be a starch, not all starch are created equal. Fewer than 15% of the calories in winter squash come from fat, compared with almost 90% of the calories in walnuts, for instance. With winter squash, we have a fantastic anti-inflammatory food opportunity in which we can get a valuable amount of our anti-inflammatory omega-3s. This veggie is also cholesterol-free.
8. Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes are rich in dietary fiber, beta carotene, complex carbohydrates, vitamin C, vitamin B6, as well as carotene (the pink, yellow ones).The Center for Science in the Public Interest, USA, compared the nutritional value of sweet potatoes to other vegetables.17The sweet potato ranked number one when vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, protein and complex carbohydrates were considered.
Turnip is a great source of minerals, antioxidants, and dietary fiber. It is also a low-calorie vegetable – a 100 gram serving only has 28 calories. Surprisingly, it’s also loaded with immune-boosting vitamin C, with 21 milligrams per 100 grams, which is 35 percent of the recommended daily amount (RDA). Vitamin C is essential to your body for collagen synthesis as well as for scavenging free radicals, which may cause cancer and inflammation linked to various diseases.The leafy green tops are more nutritionally dense than the crunchy white roots. They are rich in free radical-scavenging antioxidants like vitamins A and C, carotenoids, xanthin, and lutein. The leaves are also an excellent source of vitamin K, a direct regulator of the inflammatory response, and omega-3 acids like alpha linolenic acid (ALA), which are the building blocks for your body’s anti-inflammatory molecules.
Turnip greens also contain B vitamins (riboflavin, folates, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, and thiamin), calcium, copper, manganese, and iron, as well as phytonutrients like quercetin, myricetin, kaempferol, and hydroxycinnamic acid, which help lower your risk of oxidative stress.
You’ll surely be impressed with the nutritional bounty that zucchini offers. It’s low-calorie (with only 17 calories per 100 grams) and high in fiber, and has no cholesterol or unhealthy fats. It’s also rich in flavonoid antioxidants such as zeaxanthin, carotenes, and lutein, which play a significant role in slowing down aging and preventing diseases with their free radical-zapping properties.Most of the antioxidants and fiber are in its skin, though, so it’s best to keep the skin when serving this food.
Zucchini is also a wonderful source of potassium, a heart-friendly nutrient that helps moderate your blood pressure levels and counters the effects of too much sodium. In fact, a zucchini has more potassium than a banana.
Zucchini is rich in B-complex vitamins, folate, B6, B1, B2, B3, and choline, as well as minerals like zinc and magnesium, which are all valuable in ensuring healthy blood sugar regulation – a definite advantage for diabetics. It also contains essential minerals such as iron, manganese, and phosphorus.
However, remember that most zucchini varieties in the United States are genetically modified, so it’s best to purchase this vegetable organic.