Health Habits: Seasonal Eating
Fall is upon us and for some it is not welcomed for the variety of local fresh fruit and vegetables decreases until spring. The types of local produce changes with the season. Seasonal foods are fresher, tastier and full of nutrients. The less distance food must travel, the longer they can stay on the vines, bushes and trees to ripen, develop and build to peak nutrient status. Studies have shown that fruits and vegetables have more nutrients when allowed to ripen on their parent plant.
When you buy locally grown food, you are supporting your local farm families, maintaining farmland and open space in your community. Your local farmers can also tell you how the food was grown and what practices were used. Seasonal eating not only supports your local farmers but helps to provide variety in your diet. It can also reduce your carbon footprint and pesticide consumption. Seasonal eating is beneficial because not all fruit and vegetables are created equal. They contain different vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals so it would benefit everyone to eat seasonally. To learn more about eating seasonally, go to seasonalfoodguide.org.
The thought of eating local and seasonal food may seem daunting. You may wonder how to choose seasonal produce. There are lots of apps and web sites to find out what is in season. When you’re choosing local produce, keep in mind that fresh, local produce will not be “picture perfect.” In fact, it is quite the opposite of what you may be used to finding at the grocery store. The best thing to do is to be open minded about shopping for local produce. Embrace the color imperfections, unsymmetrical shapes, bumps and bruises. Ripe produce is also aromatic. That’s another sign of fruit and vegetables being at their peak for consumption.
Some fall produce to try:
Cabbage: a vegetable at the bottom of the pesticide list and a great vegetable to eat because of its cancer-fighting properties. It’s a great source of vitamin K and C. Use it to make taco boats, slaw, or topping for sandwiches.
Collard greens: tend to be high on the Environmental Working Group’s list of concerns due to higher pesticide use on leafy greens. Wash well before eating or cooking or purchase organic. It’s a good source of plant fiber, vitamin A & C and calcium. Collard greens can be added to soup stock, eaten raw or cooked.
Pumpkin: technically a fruit and something you may want to find organically. Pumpkin is loaded with the antioxidant, beta-carotene, which contributes to disease protection. It’s not only delicious in pie, but can be used as a fun soup bowl when cleaned out.
Winter squash: a great source of vitamin B-6 and potassium. Winter squash is easy to bake and makes a great sweet side dish if baked with a thin brushed layer of real maple syrup.
This week’s health habit: Research some new seasonal food you’d be willing to try and see if you can find a local source to purchase from.