With October behind us, autumn is now well and truly underway. Shorter days and colder nights, replace the blanket of warmth that was summer. As the seasons change, so do the fruits and vegetables to be enjoyed at their peak. The soft fruits and tender salads make way for heartier root vegetables and more durable greens, such as Brussels sprouts, leeks, and cabbage.
Here, we cover the top 4 reasons to eat the seasons, as well as some of or top picks for where to go if you’re in the mood for a seasonal treat.
1. Eating seasonal foods gives your body the nutrients it needs
First off, eating seasonally is good for you for two main reasons.
- Fruits and veggies that are in season are more nutrient-rich than those out of season
- Produce that is in season provides your body with components that help it through that season
When eaten seasonally, produce is allowed to reach peak ripeness on the plant, which has been shown by the Harvard Medical School Center for Health and the Global Environment to lead to higher nutritional content. Foods that are out of season, or are in season in other parts of the world, are picked before they fully ripen to be shipped around the world, which never allows them to reach peak nutritional value. For example, a peach eaten off the tree is much more nutritious than the same peach in a supermarket 2 weeks later.
There is also a synergy between what is in season and what your body needs in that season. For example Lycopene is a nutrient found in tomatoes and watermelon, both of which are in season at the peak of summer. Lycopene has a protective factor that gives your skin a boost against the sun’s rays. A study by Newcastle University found women who ate more tomato paste (high in lycopene) experienced less skin redness and UV damage from sun exposure than those who did not. Crazy right?
2. Eating the seasons is good for the planet
According to DEFRA, food miles in the UK have doubled since 1974. “Food miles” are a measurement of distance a given food travels from the land it grew on to your plate. Eating food that is not in season relies on a worldwide network of transport and logistics, hiking up the total food miles in your dinner. Today, 25% of all road miles traveled can be attributed to the transportation of food. That’s not even factoring in air or sea freight, bringing bananas from Costa Rica or Kiwi Fruit from New Zealand!
However, for seasonal eating to be good for the planet, it is best to not only eat local, but also eat native. What do we mean by this?
Eating local means eating anything grown near you. Technically, eating tomatoes grown in a greenhouse in Britain would be eating locally.
However, eating native means eating foods that naturally grow near you, in which case British tomatoes wouldn’t fit the bill. In fact, there is evidence to suggest it is actually more environmentally damaging to grow tomatoes in a greenhouse in Britain than it is to import them from Spain, because heating the greenhouse requires more energy than transporting the Spanish tomatoes.
3. Foods that are in season are cheaper
Foods that are in season are cheaper for a few reasons, but they boil down to the fact that these fruits and veggies are cheaper simply because they are more abundant!
When grown in their appropriate season, fruits and veggies are actually being grown in optimal environmental conditions for their needs. This means that they require less farmer labour, minimal equipment, and grow faster and easier than if they were grown out of season (which typically requires extra infrastructure like a greenhouse or irrigation systems to be implemented, managed, and maintained, which drives cost of production way up!).
4. Keeps things interesting
Eating seasonally allows you to fully appreciate the abundance of one season, indulge in all the produce it has to offer, and then move on to the next one as you start tiring of the old one. Peaches might be amazing in June, but by the end of August we bet you’ll be pretty over them. Luckily, plums and blackberries start popping up around that time, allowing you to change up how you eat! Staying excited about food is difficult in an on-demand world, where choice paralysis is a real issue. By keeping what you eat distinct across seasons, you can enjoy the differences in flavours and textures among each in a way you might not have before.
On the whole, eating in season is beneficial for a variety of reasons. It is good for your health, the planet, your wallet, and it keeps your diet varied and interesting. It really is the best way to eat!