The convenience-driven modern food system is filled with foods flown into the United States from all over the world. At any time of year, it is easy to find almost any produce you are looking for - strawberries in winter, asparagus in fall, and apples almost all year round. This can lead to the assumption that seasons don’t matter.
It is important to remember that the industrialization of the food supply, which led to this variety of non-seasonal foods at your fingertips, only occurred within the last century. Before this time, when people were involved in the harvesting, collecting, and preparation of their own food, they ate seasonally.
What Is Eating Seasonally?
Seasonal food is defined as “food that is outdoor-grown or produced during the natural growing/production period for the country or region where it is produced. It need not necessarily be consumed locally to where it is produced.”
Spring is around the corner. Changing of the seasons provides a unique opportunity to incorporate a variety of fantastic foods that are only available during that particular time of the year. This means you are offered a natural diversity in produce that you should take advantage of for the benefit of your health as well as the health of the planet.
There’s a reason that there is little that tastes better than enjoying a juicy ripe peach or a cool salad in summer or a warm hearty soup full of root vegetables in winter. These are the foods in season at those times and it’s hard to ignore the fact that in-season produce is a treat for the taste buds. Eating seasonally ensures that you are properly nourished throughout the year by eating the best that each season has to offer and what your body is often craving at that time of the year.
Chef Pete wrote an entire cookbook about eating Paleo by Season. Start cooking like a chef, seasonally - grab your copy here >>>>>
Benefits Of Eating Seasonal Produce
Eating with the seasons comes with a host of benefits. Not only does seasonal produce taste better, but it’s more nutritionally dense. Seasonal produce also reduces your carbon footprint, leaves a little extra money in your wallet, and helps you form a connection with your local community.
Most people will agree that nothing tastes better than fresh strawberries in the spring and early summer and that most fruits and vegetables have the best flavor when purchased from the local farmers’ market. With the global increase in demand for all the produce all year rounds, many producers have had to turn to post-harvest treatments to control ripening, spoilage, and quality during transportation. Oftentimes this translates to a decrease in quality through the use of heat, irradiation, and edible coatings. Bananas are one of the most popular foods consumed all over the world - they have been shown to be significantly affected by ripening agents in terms of quality such as color, texture, and flavor.
The best consequence of eating seasonal produce is that you get the best tasting, healthiest food available. The food is grown closer to you so it does not have the opportunity to spoil or lose flavor on its trip to your grocery store. It is harvested at the peak of its season (although there is no real guarantee it has been picked at the peak of freshness), and sold during its season, so does not need to be stored. Ideally, this means you are getting fruits and vegetables that have not had much time to lose their flavor or their health benefits by sitting in a shipping container for a trip across the ocean.
Read more here on choosing food grown locally
Increased Nutrient Density
Factors such as the quality of soil, amount of sunlight, and climate contribute to the nutrient composition of foods. Seasonally fresh produce is picked when ripe and fully developed. The plant has had more sun exposure, which means it will have higher levels of antioxidants! Antioxidants are substances that help prevent the damaging effects of oxidation (damage) on cells throughout your body. Fruits and vegetables contain high amounts of antioxidants. A prime is example is a study showing that broccoli grown in-season has twice as much vitamin C as broccoli grown out of season.
Better For The Planet
Having access to year-round produce has its benefits, especially in colder climates where access to fresh local food is limited for many months of the year. This has proven extremely beneficial for increasing international trade, sharing cultural foods, and providing low- and middle-income countries with food. There is, however, a major environmental impact, as food travels over countries and continents, collectively leaving a large carbon footprint. Approximately 1/3 of the vegetables and more than 1/2 of the fruit purchased in the United States are imported from other countries.
The distance that your food travels is not the only important part of the environmental equation; growing methods contribute too. Research reveals that out-of-season foods grown in greenhouses require greater energy consumption than the same product grown elsewhere in-season then imported. Buying with the seasons and, if possible, sourcing your food locally from a farmers’ market or through a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program can help reduce the distance from farm to plate, supporting the health of your body, the local economy and the health of the planet.
It is no surprise that eating seasonally and locally is easier on your wallet. When you buy vegetables and fruits in season, you buy food at its peak of supply which lowers costs to farmers and distribution companies. It may seem like common sense, but is one of those things often ignored when grocery shopping. When fruits and vegetables are in season, there is also more supply available, resulting in lower prices.
Creates Community Connection
Choosing seasonal produce and combining this with choosing local suppliers as much as possible, means not only supporting local agriculture, but it also gives you the opportunity to connect with the people growing food in your local community. Getting to know where your food is coming from, who is growing your food and how they do it also makes you feel more connected to that whole process. Just because you buy seasonal does not mean that a huge food distribution company has not harvested the produce early and stored it in a warehouse. You will probably still benefit from better food for less money, but the fruits and vegetables are probably not at the peak of freshness, flavor, or nutrition.
If you buy locally, you are 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 order some Pete's Paleo meals which are all carefully and lovingly locally and seasonally sourced.
Choosing local options supports the creation communities around food that encourage knowledge seeking and engagement in your local environment. Together you are more powerful and big change can happen.
Get this week’s menu and order your Pete’s Paleo meals here>>>>>>>
More Home Cooking
Eating seasonally also encourages you to cook more. Other than getting Pete's Paleo meals delivered, cooking meals yourself is one of the best things you can do for your health. When you start to take back control of what you put in to your body, which oil you choose to cook with, how much sugar you add to your food, you are consciously making better choices for your health. Cooking is also a great activity to do with your kids, family and friends.
Whether you shop at the market or you’re part of a CSA, eating seasonally keeps challenging your creativity to come up with new, fun and delicious dishes based on what you find. Maybe you choose to google a recipe or peruse Paleo by Season to find new inspiration and ideas about what to do with all that kale.
Improved Diet Variety
Seeking out and trying new fruits and vegetables that are in season is a great way to vary your diet and try different types of produce. It prevents you from consuming the same produce over and over again and opens up whole new worlds of foods! One of the keys to successfully following a Paleo diet is eating a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables that are rich in different nutrients. Eating seasonally expands this way of eating and keeps it more interesting and engaging.
Finding Seasonal Produce
If you find yourself unfamiliar with what seasonal foods are available where you live, it is 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 stone fruit get really expensive at the end of fall? Or that the ones that are available look so much less appealing and appetizing than they did during the spring? That is always a good indicator. Another good indicator is an abundance of something specific, and it is either on sale or very affordable
Finally, don’t think eating seasonally has to be a 100% commitment. If you like some fruits and vegetables that are available year-round, go ahead and have them. Start small, adding seasonal items to your diet, and continue to add more as you can. Know that with each seasonal item you choose, you are improving your nutrient intake, saving money, and making a better choice for your body and the environment.