As a nation we are spoilt for choice as we have year-round access to the majority of foods. This makes it so easy to be buy imported fruits and vegetables throughout the year, regardless of the season.
What exactly does it mean if produce is ‘in season’?
When a food is in season it’s produced in their natural season and consumed in the same climatic zone. For example, consuming British strawberries in England during the summer while the strawberries are naturally grown in the UK.
The Institute of Nutrition and Health carried out a review to look at the effects of seasonal eating on , health, economics and society.
As my primary interest is in health let’s start with that…
Fruit and vegetables which are in season are often fresher as they have less distance to travel, less treatment from chemicals and pesticides and sometimes less contact with packaging. As fruits and vegetables are around 70-90% water they are susceptible to nutrient losses once their detached from their nutrient source. The plant type, time of harvest and how ripe the produce is can affect the nutrient losses. Although local fruit and veg are often at a reduced risk of nutrient losses. This means we can get more bang for our buck by opting for the local varieties.
If you read my work regularly you’ll know I’m often banging on about the benefits of consuming more fruit and veg and this is no different. Fruit and veg is rich in antioxidants, micronutrients, water and fibre. A high fibre connsumption has been associated with increased fullness, a reduction in cardiovascular disease risk and can help to support a healthy gut microbiome which we now know plays a huge role in our overall health…Although that’s for another article!
Alongside the fact that seasonal produce are often higher in nutrients they’re also designed to meet the nutritional needs of our bodies at specific times of the year. E.g. Fruits high in vitamin C tend to be in season during the winter (think clementines, kiwi and grapefruit). This is to help meet the nutritional needs of your body to boost your immune system during the winter. What’s more is that produce such as root vegetables are comforting in meals such as more wintery and warming such as soups and stews. Potato, parsnips and squash tend to be higher in energy, than salad leaves, to provide warmth and insulation in the colder weather.
Just to give you a few more examples… summer foods such as berries and stone fruits contain high levels of beta carotene and carotenoids that help protect us against sun damage. So by naturally eating what is in season in our local climate during the different stages of the year, we may actually be helping to provide our body with the specific nutrients that it needs at that time.
This article wouldn’t be complete without touching on the health of our environment as we’re starting to become more aware of our responsibility over the environment.
The preservation methods such as bleaching, spraying, irradiation and the use of pesticides and chemicals are paramount for allowing produce to be accessible all year round. What’s more is the transport, packaging and storage require larger energy requirements which can impact on the environment.
Eating seasonally can help to do our bit in reducing these practices and help to support the British economy and the local farmers too.
Finally, let’s touch on the economic impact. Eating seasonally can definitely be a cheaper way to eat healthy. Eating seasonally can also encourage you to try new foods which can help to diversify your microbiome (this is the bacteria in the gut) and improve your micronutrient profiles too.
And on a last note… (and the most important one too!) Eating seasonally means that the flavour of the fruits and vegetables is so much better.This when produce is at their sweetest, plumpest and richest in flavour.
Here are the top 5 foods to be eating right now and some ideas of how to use them:
Apples (apple crumble or baked apples or apple and peanut butter as a snack)
Parsnip (roasted parsnips or in soups and curries)
Cabbage (homemade coleslaw or sautéed cabbage with chestnuts and shallots)
Pear (poached pears on porridge or delicious as a snack)
Leeks ( I love to add this to soups and bone broth)