Why eat with the seasons?
Your body, wallet, and planet will thank you
Article by Heidi Hoffman, Personal Trainer, Conditioning Coach, Nutritionist, Group Fitness Coach and Mental Health Advocate, Climb for Cancer Volunteer.
Of all the food trends out there, eating seasonally isn’t a new trend, however it’s not one of the most eminent. We soak up a lot about the benefits of going vegan, eating “super foods”, adding green juice to your diet. We collect direction on what to do in the supermarket – shop the perimeter, make a list, plan ahead… that’s all fine and dandy. But how about we break down all those tips, tricks, and trends and establish some sustainable guidance that is as elementary as it is healthy and delicious.
Primarily, a definition would be good. Eating with the seasons means a couple things: not only are you selecting food and planning your meals around foods which are harvested at their peak (and not shipped overseas, stored or canned until the time that you buy them); it also means that you’re changing your diet to reflect the dynamic seasons, as well as the health challenges that are brought with the seasons.
Trying to decide on the best part of seasonal eating is challenging. The first thing that comes to mind is the savory goodness that can only be found in foods harvested at their prime. Imagine it… biting into a juicy, ripe, red apple handpicked in an orchard on a crisp autumn day. Tasting the savory sweetness of golden corn in the late summer heat. Filling your lungs with the mouthwatering smell of that delicious strawberry rhubarb pie in the oven, stuffed with the most succulent June berries you can find… delightful, delectable, delicious. Drooling.
Alright, back to reality. There happen to be more beautiful benefits than the euphoria that occurs on your tongue. Let’s indulge in just a few.
How can it help your body?
Eating fruits and vegetables which are harvested in their natural prime are going to be in their nutritional prime. The redder the tomato, the riper and better it is for you. What’s wrong with produce shipped from far away lands? you may ask. Produce begins to lose its nutritional value almost immediately after harvest. Within a week, spinach has lost nearly two thirds of its vitamin C content. Fruits and vegetables that come from afar travel 2,400 kilometres on average, compared to the local farmer’s market where the plants are grown on the same property and the only travel time is the time it takes to drive home. This one’s a kicker… “Kiwis from Sanifrutta, another Italian exporter, travel by sea in refrigerated containers: 18 days to the United States, 28 to South Africa and more than a month to reach New Zealand,” (New York Times, April 2008). You better believe that shipped produce is doused in preservatives to keep them as green and crisp as possible, for as long as possible. Additionally, far away produce is typically harvested before the nutritional peak. The list goes on.
Doctors around the world claim that a seasonal diet with lots of variety is the cornerstone of preventative medicine. Food patterns rich in seasonal plant-based goodness can significantly lower the risk of so many preventable conditions, such as cancer and heart disease – the number one killers in North America, I might add. These eating patterns can increase longevity, brain function, bone health, weight control, improved cholesterol and vascular health… and that’s only a few.
How can it help your bank account?
Fruits and vegetables harvested at their peak, in season, and locally guarantees the most plentiful stock with the least expenditure going towards production, protection, shipping, handling, packaging, etc., meaning they cost less. For example, May is when you can find asparagus in its short six-week prime. This is when asparagus will be in its highest local stock and thus at its cheapest and freshest year round prime.
How can it help your planet?
In the Citrus Coast of Spain, their local lemons are left to rot on the ground beneath the trees while their supermarkets are stocked with lemons from Argentina. Italy prevails as the world’s leading supplier of kiwis from New Zealand. These patterns seem a bit ridiculous, don’t they? Wouldn’t it save an exuberance of money unnecessarily spent when New Zealand can simply supply their own kiwis instead of sending them to Italy first? The problem is that unlike trains, planes, and automobiles, food transportation is not taxed. Cargo ships stuffed to the rafters with mangos are getting away tax free, and therefor could not care less about the distance they travel, and in turn the pollution produced. According to the World Watch Institute, food transportation is one of the fastest growing culprits of greenhouse gases and emissions. Fortunately, this issue it being addressed. If a food transportation tax is added, it will encourage everyone to buy locally-grown, seasonal produce. Not only will this reduce pollution, it will support your local farmers in success and quality, allowing your community to prosper. It starts with one person. It may be a tiny difference, but it’s a difference none the less, and it will grow.
In Canada, we’re spoiled to have year round options in our supermarkets of any fruit or vegetable we want, regardless of the seasons. Fruits and vegetables are designed to grow at certain times of the year in certain climates. Living in Ontario, we don’t have the opportunity to have some more tropical fruits that you can only find in other corners of the world, unless we grow them in a greenhouse or find produce that has been shipped halfway across the world. Though it may be a convenient luxury, it’s not a terrible idea to consider how your choices can change your health, your bank account, and your environment.
I’ve included some interactive calendars that can give you some more insight on your favourite fruits and vegetables, courtesy of Foodland:
This one is printable. Put it on your fridge next to your grocery list to reference next time you go shopping:
Stay healthy, my friends.
Twitter/Instagram – heidihoff15
“Let the four seasons bring variety. Not only in the weather, but on thy plate.” – Mark Korczynski