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Why seasonal eating can be good for your health

Why seasonal eating can be good for your health

Our hectic modern lifestyles can mean buying a limited range of fresh, frozen, and preserved fruit and vegetables throughout the year often with little thought to whether it was grown in season, where it was grown or how old it might be as it reaches our plate. On the one hand it is wonderful that strawberries are available year-round. On the other, does eating produce out of season mean we compromise on the nutritional quality and taste of food?

What does seasonal eating mean?

Seasonal eating encourages eating fruits and vegetables when they are in season. For example, in the UK asparagus and purple sprouting broccoli are ready to eat in spring, strawberries in the summer and pears, apples and pumpkins in the autumn. Some fish and meat is only available at particular times of the year, for example wild game and some fish and shellfish.

How can eating seasonally can improve your diet?

Eating seasonally helps to increase the diversity of your diet. It encourages people to eat a wider range of fruits and vegetables as they come into season throughout the growing calender. A diet consisting of at least 30 different plant foods a week has been shown to be better for health.

Does eating out of season produce affect its nutritional value?

The nutrient content of many fruits and vegetables declines over time. Particularly water soluble vitamins, vitamin C and the B group vitamins. By eating, fresh, seasonal food, you are more likely to get the full nutritional benefits from food.

What are the disadvantages of eating food out of season?

When foods are grown out of season, they can’t follow their natural growing and ripening rhythms. In order for certain fruits and vegetables to be available year-round, post-harvest treatments, known as ripening agents, are used. These can affect the quality and nutritional content of the produce.

Before science played a part in agriculture, the only fruit, and vegetables available were seasonal. Ripening of fruit and vegetables depended on season-specific weather.

Which foods are in season now?

Here are some examples of produce in season during spring and summer.

SPRING

SUMMER

Asparagus

Strawberries

Purple sprouting broccoli

Garlic

Herbs: chives, parsley, mint

Black currants, gooseberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries

Spring greens

Cucumber

Peas

Aubergines

Radishes

Tomatoes

Rhubarb

Plums

New potatoes

Courgettes

Watercress, chicory, salad leaves

Plums

 

Are there times of the year when it is difficult to eat seasonal fruit and vegetables?

During the winter months Northern countries do not have the climate to produce a wide range of fruit and vegetables. So, expect to eat more root and leafy vegetables in the winter.

During the winter months frozen food can be a good alternative to eating fresh, seasonal produce. For a few months of the year, we may have to eat seasonal produce that has had to travel a little further from where it is grown.

Are there any other benefits to eating seasonally?

Seasonal food will often appear brighter and plumper than non-seasonal food. It can also taste better.

Your food budget will go further, as fruit and vegetables tend to be cheaper when they are in season.

Eating seasonally is better for the environment. Food bought in season helps to reduce the demand for food that is transported from other countries. This means less refrigeration, less transportation, less artificially heated greenhouses, less fuel and carbon emissions.

Grow your own

Whether you have a window box, a few pots in the garden or an acre of land it is always worth growing some of your own produce. Start by growing cut and come again salad crops, courgettes, cucumbers and a few strawberries as they are easy and rewarding to grow.

… and finally

Eating seasonally increases your knowledge of food and when it is at its best. The more you know about the food you eat, the more likely you are to eat a nutritious diet that is good for your health.