7 Benefits of Seasonal Eating

Have you ever experienced the sweetness of an apple picked right off the tree? Perhaps you’ve enjoyed a garden salad with freshly harvested tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, or cucumbers? If so, you’ve tasted the benefits of seasonal eating. 

While seasonal eating may seem like a trendy fad, it’s actually a tradition as old as human life. Our ancient ancestors ate seasonally out of necessity. Without the modern conveniences of refrigeration, food processing, and grocery stores, our ancestors consumed what they could get their hands on at the moment. 

Today, most of us can choose to eat whatever we want – whenever we want it. Any food we desire, from tropical fruits to root vegetables, is available at our fingertips. But is this healthy? 

Seasonal eating is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Moreover, consuming a local and seasonal diet is good for your wallet, the environment, your community – and beyond. 

What is seasonal eating? 

Before the industrialization of food, which only happened in the last century or so, seasonal eating was the norm. Summer would be the time to enjoy the bounty of fresh food that came with the abundant growing season. From berries to vegetables, food was easily accessible.  

During autumn, energy would be spent gathering the last remnants of the fall harvest. Fall fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and berries would be collected. This would also be the time for hunting animals. Food would be stored, as best as possible, to last during the long winter months. Spring would then bring about the growing season once again. 

Today, food is easily accessible. So instead of eating more in the summer months and leaning out in the winter, most individuals eat whatever they want throughout the year. 

Seasonal eating aligns us with the way that our ancestors ate. Often referred to as eating “in-season,” a seasonal lifestyle encourages individuals to eat vegetables and fruits recently harvested by farmers in the geographical area where they live. 

Eating seasonally can mean different things for different regions. For example, those living in New England might enjoy apples in the fall, root vegetables in the winter, asparagus in the spring, and tomatoes in the summertime. 

Essentially, seasonal eating is a return to a simpler way of living. Instead of ascribing to a particular diet, seasonal eaters rely on whatever is naturally available from their local farms. 

7 benefits of seasonal eating

The benefits of eating seasonally are significantly undervalued. While there are many benefits to eating locally, here are our top seven reasons for eating close to home. 

Seasonal food tastes better  

If you’ve ever eaten a strawberry off the vine, you know firsthand how delicious fresh food is. Unfortunately, the moment that food is removed from its source, the natural sugars begin to convert to starches, impacting taste. 

Most grocery store produce is grown and harvested with shelf life in mind. As a result, it’s often picked before it can fully ripen. Produce connected to its source as long as possible is unarguably juicier and tastier than produce picked early and forced to ripen through artificial means. 

Moreover, conventional produce must be treated to avoid spoilage during the long trek from the farm to the grocery store. As a result, most growers use unhealthy ripening agents to manipulate the ripening process. Additionally, conventionally grown food is typically coated with wax or sprayed with chemicals to help retain freshness, which further depletes taste.

Seasonal food has a higher nutritional content

Seasonal food is not only tastier than mass-produced food, but it’s also significantly more nutritious. Vitamin and mineral content is at its highest when produce reaches peak ripeness. Unfortunately, by the time food is harvested, processed, and shipped to the grocery store, it has lost significant nutrients. 

As the seasons change, so do the nutritional needs of our bodies. Therefore, eating in season may help supply our bodies with the vitamins and minerals needed for optimal wellness. For example, this study found that broccoli grown in the spring has half the vitamin C content as broccoli grown in the fall. So, could it be that our bodies need additional vitamin C as we head into the cold winter months? 

Eating seasonally means supporting our local farms, which often have more nutrient-rich topsoil than large-scale producers. Studies show that farms following soil-friendly practices, such as regenerative farms, grow healthier foods.

Eating seasonally boosts gut health

Over the last few decades, research has highlighted the importance of a healthy gut microbiome. The microbiome is the community of organisms that live in our intestinal tracts and play a role in digestion, immune function, mental health, and beyond. 

Recent studies suggest that eating a seasonal diet affects our microbiome. Eating seasonally helps to promote and maintain diversity in the gut microbiome, which is a key factor in maintaining health. Moreover, eating in season provides the right foods for the microbes in a seasonal manner.  

Eating seasonally is good for the environment

While enjoying an occasional pineapple or kiwi fruit is not inherently wrong, eating these long-distance foods takes a toll on the environment. 

Food production and transport have a significant impact on our carbon footprint. In fact, a recent study found that transporting food accounts for 20 percent of all carbon emissions in the food system. This release of carbon dioxide contributes to air pollution, acid rain, and global warming. 

Eating seasonally typically means using fewer plastics and less packaging as well.

Eating seasonally is better for your wallet 

When a vegetable or fruit is in season, it’s typically abundant, which drives down costs. For example, purchasing strawberries in the dead of winter is usually much more expensive than buying them during the summer months. 

Seasonal eating supports your local community 

Small, local farms are in crisis right now in America. Thanks to big agricultural companies, many local farmers can’t compete. In fact, 75 percent of all agricultural sales come from five percent of operations. As if farmers weren’t already stretched, they now face growing inflation. 

Eating seasonally usually means supporting your local farms. It also means building community. Knowing where your food comes from is incredibly valuable. 

Seasonal eating is fun

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, making the same meals over and over again. However, variety is the spice of life – and food is no exception. 

Eating with the seasons means using ingredients you might not normally gravitate towards at the grocery store. Foods like celeriac, rutabaga, and chard suddenly make their way into your diet, supporting your microbiome and overall health. 

When we take advantage of each season’s bounty, we connect more organically with food and the planet. It allows us to flow with life as mother nature intended.

Tips for eating seasonally

Figuring out what’s in season can take time and effort at a chain supermarket. Knowing what’s naturally growing in your area at any given time requires a bit of research. Thankfully, many excellent books and online resources can guide you to seasonal food in your local area. 

One of the best ways to eat seasonally is to visit your local farms or farmer’s markets. Small local farms grow with the seasons, allowing you to get the freshest food available. Investing in a CSA (community-sponsored agriculture) share is another excellent way to invest in your local farming community while gaining access to local produce. 

If you don’t live close to a farm, consider shopping at a local food co-op or health food store. Often, these smaller family or member-owned businesses offer local or regional food. 

Next steps

Eating 100 percent seasonally at all times may be challenging, but finding ways to incorporate seasonal and local food into your diet will reap long-term rewards. 

If you are interested in learning more about nutrition, consider enrolling in our Foundational Nutrition Program. This self-paced four-week course starts at the very foundational level of health and builds from there. This course is filled with practical tips, recipes, and bonus videos. Understanding nutrition has never been so easy. Before you know it, you, too, will be cooking with the seasons.

Eat well, Think well, Live well

Medical Review: Dr. Lauren Lattanza 2022

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