Why Seasonal Foods?
I love this time of year for so many reasons. I love the longer days and the warmer weather, and I especially love that the food tastes SO much better. Goodbye rubbery, tasteless produce! Hello, delicious, flavorful, snappy and fresh veggies and fruits!
Eating foods that are in season is exciting, especially for those of us living in areas with a short growing season. But more importantly, eating seasonal, local produce is better for you.
Every plant is full of water, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
What are Phytonutrients?
Phytonutrients are nutrients from plants that do not fall under any other category, but that has significant health benefits. You are probably familiar with phytonutrients like lycopene, lutein, resveratrol, and bioflavonoids. They are antioxidants, reduce inflammation, and make our bodies function better.
Phytonutrients are only found in fruits and vegetables, and their presence in plants is good reason to make sure you eat plenty of them. Eating a wide variety of vegetables will increase the diversity of your phytonutrient intake, which is important because each nutrient provides you with a different health benefit.
While water and fiber content remain relatively stable in the process of harvest and transport, vitamin, mineral, and phytonutrient content changes drastically.
Local Equals More Nutrients
Vitamin C content has been measured as higher in freshly picked tomatoes, red peppers, peaches, papayas, and apricots. Another study showed that grocery store broccoli bought while in season has double the vitamin C as broccoli found on the shelves when it is out of season.
When measuring folate levels in spinach, researches found that levels decreased 47% only 8 days after being harvested.
Vegetables on the shelf in your grocery store have traveled many, many miles to get to you. In fact, the average carrot has traveled 1700 miles to get to your plate. The amount of nutrient lost in that transit is hard to imagine, but it gives you a good reason to eat local produce, or better yet, grow your own.
And Better Taste
We all can taste a clear difference between food that is local and in season. A tomato fresh off the vine is delicious, and a carrot pulled from the ground is amazing. Their off-season counterparts are often waxy and tasteless.
Taste is what keeps us coming back to foods again and again. When we eat out of season, we really have little desire to keep eating these healthy foods, because they just don’t taste good. Food scientists have figured out how to engineer foods that make us want to keep eating them. Unfortunately these foods are highly processed and have little to none of the nutrients we need to feel our best.
The answer is to eat as locally as possible. Then we are ensured produce that is in season, tasty, and highest in nutritional value.
Here is what is in season in May: