Can Seasonal Foods Benefit Health?
Eat local. Eat what’s in season. Eat organic. We hear this ever so often and are often not sure about what this means, what food is in season and where to buy it?
As the weather changes, so does the freshness of the available produce. All of the world’s healthiest foods are very subjective, depending on seasonal produce. Changes in growing conditions from spring to summer or fall to winter are considered essential for balancing the earth’s resources and its life forms, including the cyclical growth of fruit and vegetables.
Today it is so easy for us to forget about seasons when we eat food since everything is available all the year round. Modern food processing and worldwide distribution of food make foods available all the time, and grocery store shelves look much the same in December as they do in June!
Now the question arises, on whether this a healthy approach to eating and our lifestyle in general? It most definitely is not!
Seasonal foods are produced as nature intended them too, as per the changing seasons, weather conditions, soil life and definitely for an intended purpose – to nurture the health of people who consume them.
We’ve looked into the benefits of eating seasonal foods and there are several reasons for their consumption and how eating them has huge benefits for the body, helps builds immunity and also assists the community and environment.
SEASONAL PRODUCE TASTES BETTER
For most of us, the taste of the food we buy is very important. When food is not in season locally, it’s either grown in a hothouse or shipped in from other parts of the world, and both affect the taste. Fresh, locally harvested foods have their full, whole flavors intact, which they release when consumed. Foods that are chilled and shipped lose flavor every step of the way — chilling, transport, being held in warehouses – ultimately reaching us without their essential nutrients.
SEASONAL IS EASY ON THE POCKET
When produce is in season locally, the relative abundance of the crop usually makes it less expensive. According to the basic law of supply and demand, when crops are in season we are rewarded financially by purchasing what’s growing at the moment. When farmers are harvesting an abundance of produce due to the crop being in season, the cost of the produce goes down. When the produce is locally sourced and consumed immediately, traveling expenses and storage including production costs are less and directly passed onto the consumer.
SEASONAL FOODS HAVE HIGH NUTRITIONAL VALUE
Experts say that harvesting something early to endure long distance shipping, do not carry the full complement of nutrients they are meant to have. In addition, transporting produce sometimes requires irradiation (zapping the produce with a burst of radiation to kill germs) and preservatives (such as wax) to protect the produce, which is also subsequently refrigerated during the trip. Produce that is purchased in season is more likely to be fresher, consumed closer to harvesting and higher in nutritional value. Some anti-oxidants such as Vitamin C, folate and carotenes will rapidly decline when stored for periods of time.
EATING IN SEASON HELPS IN AVOIDING OVERSEAS CONTAMINATES
When fruits and vegetables are sourced from out of country, we cannot be sure of the regulations concerning pesticides, herbicides and fungicides there. Many countries across the globe have very relaxed laws about chemicals being sprayed on fruits and vegetables, that other countries have banned due to their known harmful effects. Foods grown outside season or away from their natural environment need plenty of human intervention in the form of pesticides, waxes, chemicals and preservatives to survive, grow and look appealing to consumers. By choosing local and seasonal food, you are more likely to get fresh, healthy produce.
SEASONAL IS ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY
Eating seasonally reduces the demand for out of season produce which further supports more local produce. This encourages local farming which means less transportation, reduced refrigeration, and less irradiation of produce.
SEASONAL ENSURES VARIETY ALL YEAR LONG
Eating seasonally keeps challenging your creativity to come up with new, fun and delicious dishes based on what you find. Variety is very healthy for our bodies. By changing our menu according to what’s available, we supply our bodies with various essential nutrients regularly, maintain body’s pH balance and also have less likelihood of developing food allergies.
It’s really important to note that it’s not always possible to eat locally and seasonally for everyone all of the time. It is however important to make food buying decisions that are not just dependent on the nutrients they have, but also in terms of their non-health benefits to the family, affordability and their impact on the environment.
Here is a quick peek into the top foods that can be consumed in season:
Spring is the season of life, prosperity and richness. Eating easily digestible food during this season is a better way of staying healthy and fit. Grains such as barley, rye, millet, buckwheat and wheat, in addition to other fruits and vegetables, can be consumed. The top 5 foods to eat during this season are:
- Green Peas
- Spring Onions
Summer season is extremely hot and restoring fluids that are lost in sweat is very important. Concentrating on water and cool beverages like buttermilk can help to keep the body cool. It is essential to keep the humidity level optimal at all times. Top foods that can be eaten during this season are:
- Bitter Gourd
- Ladies Finger/ Bhindi
Monsoon means rainy season hence the weather is wet, soggy and humid. Humidity weakens digestion, so special care has to be taken during monsoon season. Some of the foods best eaten during monsoons are:
- Sweet Potato
Autumn is the season when one should be exposed to plenty of sunlight to avoid mood swings that come during the winter season. In this season, the diet should consist of sweet, slightly bitter and light foods. Grains like barley, ragi and wheat can be consumed. Fresh produce that can be consumed during autumn are:
- Brinjal/ Eggplant
Along with a pleasant weather, winter welcomes various vegetables and fruits with varied health benefits. Winter is a period of hibernation with a subsequent slowing down of metabolism. It is important to conserve energy and build strength by consuming the right seasonal food items. Some of them are as follows:
- Mustard Leaves/ Sarson Ki Pathiya
- Fenugreek/ Methi Leaves
Consuming seasonal foods isn’t easy, but it is good to keep to it as regularly as possible. Children especially, can benefit from the healthy and natural effects of fruits and veggies as they grow.