Modern agriculture and food processing techniques have made most foods available year-round. This means we have a variety of foods at our fingertips nearly all the time – asparagus in November and honey crisp apples in January. However, this means we forget that food availability is supposed to change with the seasons. Even though new developments make it possible to eat tomatoes with Christmas dinner, that doesn’t mean we should do it. In fact, eating seasonally has several health benefits. Here’s what you need to know.
What Does the Science Say?
According to multiple studies, nutrient content changes in foods depending on the seasons in which they are produced. For example, a study conducted by the U.K. Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food found that nutrient content in milk differed depending on whether it was harvested in summer versus winter. This is because the cow’s diet changes. They eat fewer fresh vegetables in winter, and so the nutrient makeup of that milk was less robust. Similarly, Japanese researchers found a big difference in the nutritional content of spinach harvested in the summer versus during winter.
What’s more, eating foods in seasons when they are not grown means you are likely ingesting additional pesticides, waxes, and other types of preservatives. Plus, the longer produce sits on the shelf, the more nutrients and antioxidants they lose. Spinach and green beans can lose up to 66% of their vitamin C within a week of harvest.
Basically, eating seasonally ensures you get all the health benefits and nutrients of the foods you are eating. They taste better, look better, and are better for you.
Eating in-season produce is great for everyone involved in the food production — not just you, the consumer. Eating locally supports local farmers who choose to farm sustainably, propping up the industry working against factory farming and industrial agriculture. To this end, it helps preserve the environment, an increasingly important factor for many.
Plus, it’s just better. You’ll have more variety of foods in your diet, and you’ll get to experiment with fruits and vegetables you might be unfamiliar with. Seasonal foods are also often cheaper to produce and buy, meaning your doctor, your farmer, and your wallet will thank you.