The Benefits of Seasonal Eating
We live in a world that is almost completely cut off from the turning of the world around the sun. We are cocooned in houses and offices that remain at a constant temperature all year round. If the weather is unfavourable we take the car rather than surrendering to the elements. And as for our diets we could be eating food from 5 different continents in one meal without even realising it. All of this cuts us off from nature in a way that wasn’t possible even for our grandparent’s generation.
This month’s blog posts will look at the benefits to health, deliciousness and the planet that seasonal eating can bring. To find out what’s in season each month of the year see our Seasonal Eating Calendar. See the blog post Autumn Recipes for inspiring ways to use the autumn harvest.
What do we mean by seasonal eating?
As the supermarkets have demonstrated sourcing foods from round the world means that just about everything is in season somewhere in the world at any one time. But seasonal eating means choosing foods that are in season where you live. In other words it’s about eating locally grown foods.
Here are 8 good reasons for eating locally grown, seasonal foods:
1. Higher nutrient content – levels of many nutrients start to decline as soon as a food is harvested. Imported produce may have been kept in a low oxygen environment for anything up to a year meaning its vitality and nutrient levels are seriously compromised.
2. Improved health – locally grown seasonal foods contain the properties that your body needs at that time of year. This is the premise behind macrobiotic eating. A macrobiotic diet in the tropics is entirely different from a macrobiotic diet in the arctic. In macrobiotic philosophy if you eat lots of juicy, tropical fruits in the winter while living in a temperate zone such as the UK you are cooling the body and making it too yin. Instead if you eat the root vegetables, squash, cabbages and greens that are in season in the winter you will be more balanced in terms of yin and yang and your overall health and vitality will benefit.
3. Sun ripened flavour – if food does not need to be transported and stored it can be allowed to ripen in the field rather than being picked before it is ready. This means you get to eat it soon after harvesting. This maximizes flavour, nutrient and enzyme content.
4. Pleasure – there is immense joy and satisfaction in eating with the seasons. The delights of the first fresh baby broad beans of spring, the first strawberry of the summer, the delicious treat of asparagus during its short season are all lost to the average supermarket shopper.
5. Fewer pesticides – food grown in season that will be eaten soon after picking rather than being stored is less likely to need to be sprayed with pesticides.
6. Support your local community – rather than giving your money to multi-nationals support your local farmers and independent shops.
7. Less packaging – many fruits and vegetables have their own packaging in the form of their skin. If you buy it fresh from the farmer you may not need packaging at all, or you can take your own re-usable or compostable bags.
8. Reduced food miles – meaning less pollution and energy is used to bring your food to you, making it an environmentally friendly choice. Human beings can’t be healthy on an unhealthy planet. So for your own health and that of your loved ones, not to mention the other species with which we share the earth, do what you can to look after our beautiful planet.
Where to shop
While it may not be possible to eat 100% locally and seasonally grown foods we can all make some inroads into this way of life. Here are some places to source your produce:
- Farmer’s markets
- Farm shops
- Local veg box schemes
- Some health food shops stock fresh, local produce.
- Pick your own farms
- Local allotments sometimes sell excess produce
- Community supported agriculture schemes
- Grow your own in the garden or on an allotment
- Supermarkets are getting better at supporting local producers so look at the labels and see if you can reduce your food miles.