Most of us know eating fruits and veggies is good for our health, but did you know there are additional benefits when you eat locally grown and in-season produce? From saving money to supporting local farmers to added nutritional value, locally grown and seasonal fruits and veggies are good for our bodies and the planet. Keep reading to learn why you should choose in-season and local produce!
What Is Seasonal Eating & Why Is It Better for You?
While it may seem like a newer concept, humans have eaten in-season food for centuries. Before refrigeration and other methods of preserving food, we had to eat whatever was being grown or harvested in our gardens or on local farms. But with the advent of cross-country and international shipping, along with refrigeration, we can now eat any food at any time. But that’s not always a good thing.
Eating seasonal food, especially produce, has many benefits for both your body and your community, including:
- Helping the economy. When you buy produce from local farmers, you support the local economy and keep those farmers in business. Plus, the money you spend stays in your community and creates more jobs for local folks. And there’s an added benefit for your wallet. Seasonal food is usually less expensive because every farmer grows and harvests similar crops. That means when there’s a lot of produce available, those items could be put on sale or kept at a competitive price point.
- Better taste and nutritional value. Have you ever had a piece of fruit or vegetable straight from the garden and thought, “Wow, this tastes different from what’s sold in my grocery store?” Well, you’re right. That’s because when fruits and vegetables are harvested and eaten soon after, their flavor and freshness are at their peak. But when crops are harvested and then transported long distances, they must be chilled to avoid spoiling, which can also spoil the flavor. Plus, once they reach their destination, fruits and veggies are often heated in a hothouse to artificially ripen them before they hit the store shelves. For the same reasons, seasonal produce also offers a higher nutritional value as the minerals and vitamins aren’t reduced by the chilling and artificial ripening process.
- Caring for the planet. To stock out-of-season produce, grocery stores rely on transporting food by boat, plane, or truck from other cities, states, or countries. Unfortunately, the gas and oil required to power those large cargo vehicles create carbon dioxide, which contributes to the greenhouse gasses largely responsible for climate change. However, when you buy seasonal (and local) produce, you help reduce emissions, which is good for the planet. And your wallet will be happier too when you’re not paying for cross-country or international transit.
- Supporting your body’s natural nutritional needs. Eating seasonal produce allows you to give your body what it needs when it needs it. For example, in winter, nature gives us all things citrus, which is high in Vitamin C and helps fight illnesses such as colds and the flu. Winter vegetables offer comfort and are perfect for keeping warm on colder days when used in stews, soups, and casseroles. And conversely, summer produce, such as stone fruits, gives your body a beta-carotene boost to help protect against sun damage. And there’s nothing better than cooling off on a hot day with a summer salad or a cold slice of watermelon.
How Can You Shop Seasonally and Locally?
While it may not always be possible to eat seasonal and local produce for everyone all of the time, you can arm yourself with the knowledge of when produce is in season and where to find locally grown food.
Most grocery stores do sell in-season produce and will even stock their shelves with crops from local farmers, but smaller shops and farmer’s markets are always a good bet for snagging in-season and locally-grown produce. Not sure which food is in season when? Here are a few examples to get you started (you can find more exhaustive lists here):
- Green onions
- Bell Peppers
- Brussels sprouts
- Collard greens
- Sweet potatoes and yams
- Winter squash
When In Doubt, Go Seasonal and Local
Eating healthy and nutritious meals is critical to your overall health and well-being, and incorporating seasonal and locally-grown produce can take your wellness journey to the next level. Getting more quality nutritional value, helping the planet, and enjoying better-tasting food are just some benefits when you eat, think, and shop local.
Need some extra support in getting your eating habits to a better place? Reach out to Forge to connect with our team of certified nutrition experts who are ready to guide and support you!