Sophia Power, BA Media, BHScNutMed
You may have heard the term ‘seasonal eating’ getting thrown around a bit. So, what does it actually mean and what does it have to do with your health?
Learning to eat in tune with the seasons isn’t really a new idea, it’s actually going back to the way we used to eat before refrigeration and industrialisation. What’s great about eating this way is that it really isn’t about following any particular kind of diet or restriction - it’s about the recognition that nature provides what the body needs with each change in season. Eating seasonally actually takes the effort and guesswork out of healthy eating.
Keep scrolling to learn about some of the surprising benefits of switching up your diet at the change of season.
What is meant by a seasonal diet?
Eating a seasonal diet is about eating fresh produce that is in season where you live. Far from being a fad diet, it’s going back to traditional wisdom about how nature provides what is needed by the body. And yes, what the body needs does change from season to season!
Seasonal eating also means eating locally produced foods. This has a variety of benefits - when you eat close to the source, the produce retains a lot of its highly beneficial antioxidants and nutrients. Because certain nutrients and antioxidants are prone to damage over time, the more time that has passed since something was picked and packed, the less nutrients it has.
The bonus benefit of seasonal eating is that while you’re doing something great for your own health, you’re also supporting your local economy and the health of the planet - making it one of the more sustainable diets.
How seasonal eating can improve your health
You may notice as you begin to eat more seasonally that you’ve been doing quite intuitively all along. As the weather heats up, you might crave salads, juicy, thirst-quenching fruits and veg like watermelon, cucumber and pineapple. In the middle of winter, there’s an abundance of citrus fruits packed full of vitamin C to ward off coughs and colds. You will also likely crave more grounding stews packed with root vegetables like carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes or beetroot - these are packed with beta carotene, the precursor to vitamin A which is needed to keep the immune system strong and fight off respiratory infections.
Another major benefit of seasonal eating is that it encourages a greater diversity of foods. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with what you eat, but going to local markets can help to get you excited about the abundance of choices available to you. This doesn’t just get you excited about healthy eating, it also provides you with a much greater range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Do you know who else loves to eat a diverse range of produce? Your gut bacteria! Beneficial bacteria thrive on getting a smorgasbord of different plant fibres to choose from. Many plant fibres are prebiotic, meaning that they will actually boost the population of good bacteria in your gut. In the long run, this can mean a stronger immune system, less bloating and better detoxification.
How to eat seasonally
There’s a couple of really easy hacks for knowing what’s in season. If you’re shopping at your local supermarket, look at the country of origin label on your fresh produce. If it’s grown in Australia, chances are it’s been grown this season, and has had minimal transportation or refrigeration requirements.
By far the most enjoyable and easiest way to eat seasonally is to get out to your local farmer’s market - you’ll only see seasonal produce there! You’re also likely to meet the person who grew your food and you know you’re getting the freshest, most sustainable and nutritious produce around.
If you’re the proud owner of a couple of green thumbs, why not try your hand at growing a few of your favourite seasonal fruits and vegetables?
Avoid food waste by creating a meal plan on the day you go shopping, ensuring you’ll be using all the produce you’ve purchased. Alternatively, choose recipes that use a lot of fresh ingredients such as vegetable soups, curries or salads. Once you’ve got a fair idea of what’s in season, you can pick out a couple of go-to recipes for each season or even better, create a ‘seasonal eating’ Pinterest board so you never get stuck for ideas again.
Eating seasonally might just be the easiest way to get healthier and eat more sustainably! You can enjoy the health-giving benefits that each season’s fresh produce provides by strolling through your local farmer’s market.
For a complete list of all the fruit and vegetables available by season, check out the Sustainable Table’s Seasonal Produce Guide.