Often we’re told by health professionals or via the media to eat what’s in season and it’s one of those things that we know we should do, like flossing our teeth twice a day or getting 8 hours of sleep a night, but that often falls by the wayside when our Instagram feeds are populated by tropical smoothie bowls, ‘healthy’ date balls and other tempting treats using ingredients from far flung corners of the world. The humble British apple just doesn’t seem to cut it against jackfruit, papaya and coconut!
I want to use this blog post as an opportunity to take seasonal eating out of the “should do but not that fussed” category to the “bonafide health and wellbeing” category and provide you with the information you need to understand why that banana in the middle of December isn’t the best choice for your body.
There are three main reasons why eating seasonally is beneficial: it’s better for you, it’s cheaper, and it’s better for the environment. Let’s discuss!
Why eating seasonally is healthier
Mother Nature is unbelievably clever and always has a plan to keep up humans in tip top condition if we let her! It’s only when we start to live in a way that’s at odds with how nature intended that disease patterns start to show: too much artificial light, not enough time spent outdoors, too much stress, too much processed food etc. Seasonal eating is no different. Did you know that fruit and veg that’s in season contains compounds to help you combat sickness, and the micronutrient status of seasonal food is in tune with the needs of our bodies at that current time? It’s pretty cool when you think about it!
A study in 2008 looked at the differing levels of vitamin C in broccoli that was both conventionally grown and organically grown in both spring and autumn. Whilst we know that organically grown fruit and veg is typically higher in nutrient status anyway, it’s interesting to note that both the conventionally grown (i.e. with the use of pesticides and fertilisers) and the organically grown broccoli had higher levels of vitamin C in the autumn, when it comes fully into season, than in the spring. Vitamin C was used as a biomarker in this study to see if the nutrient status changed because it’s usually present in high quantities in fruit and veg but degrades very quickly. It follows, therefore, that seasonal food (in terms of vitamin C anyway) is much better for us as the vitamin C it contains is very sensitive to being stored, so the fresher and more in season the better.
Another fantastic example of Mother Nature doing her thing around this time is pumpkin and squash. Let me explain… At the change of seasons we are often more likely to pick up seasonal colds and flu, and as the weather here in the UK has taken a bit of a nosedive recently and we’ve truly said goodbye to the warmer summer temperatures in favour of a decidedly autumnal chill, we need to take extra measures to support our immune systems and protect ourselves as our bodies struggle to adapt. Veg that comes into season at this time, for example pumpkins and squash, are high in vitamin B6 which is one of the nutrients needed to support our immune systems! I’d say that Mother Nature works in mysterious ways...but it’s not mysterious at all, it’s just plain logical!
Eating seasonally is cheaper
There is often a glut of seasonal produce, from fruits, veggies, meat, game and fish and because of this abundance it’s often cheaper and more available than non-seasonal produce. If we shop seasonally we can easily reduce our food bills while maximising on the higher levels of beneficial nutrients they contain - it’s a win win! Freezing seasonal produce is also a great way to preserve this nutrient density and price drop. I love to pick big punnets of blackberries around this time and freeze them in batches to add to stewed apples.
Better for the environment
Not only is eating seasonally better for you and your wallet, it’s also better for the environment meaning less air pollution and less of an environmental footprint. It’s even better if you can try and eat seasonally and locally and a great way to do this is to find your local farmers market.
If that hasn’t convinced you that seasonal produce really is better, then here’s a short list of some of the delicious things you can look out for in the shops and at the markets during Autumn:
- Squash and Pumpkin
- Apples (and remember to eat the skins for added pectin and fibre!)
- Hazelnuts and Cobnuts
- Oysters and seafood
- Wild game
- Brassica veggies like sprouts, cabbages and broccoli
- Lettuce greens (although nearly over so be quick!)
- Runner Beans