We are perhaps never more aware of the seasons than in winter. It causes a shift in how we dress, our small talk and can even take over the news. But the seasons and how they affect us can and should be considered all year in regards to our health.
What Exactly is “Seasonal Eating?”
You may have heard of seasonal eating but not fully grasped what it meant. And that’s understandable. After all, when you walk into the grocery store these days, you can still find corn, strawberries, artichokes and pumpkins despite the fact that’s January.
If you pay a little attention to what grows when and where, eating seasonally begins to feel natural. But just because you CAN eat seasonally, does that mean you SHOULD?
Before we consider the impact on our bodies, let’s start with the impact on our world. When we choose produce that is not currently grown in our climate, it means it came from somewhere else. (That may or may not be obvious so it had to be said.) The farther away a food has to travel from, the more gas (in transportation) and electricity (in refrigeration) it takes to get to you. If leaving a smaller carbon footprint is important to you, seasonal eating can go a long way (no pun intended).
Because of all that traveling, foods that are not in season where you live, often must be picked before they are ripe. This helps prevent them from going bad but is also done in hopes that it will be ripe once it gets to you. However, anyone who has bitten into an apple picked from the tree or a tomato plucked from the vine, knows nothing beats fresh and recently harvested foods.
Nutritional Value and TASTE
And this leads to our first direct health benefit. The fresher the produce, the richer in nutrients. With long periods of time off the vine or tree, nutrient levels begin to decrease. Certain produce is also treated with chemicals to withstand the long trek. Those bags of salad are a perfect example. The lettuce is treated to wash it and prevent it from browning.
And hey, guess what? There is a fantastic perk to those seasonal, fresh and local fruits and vegetables. They taste better! And of course, the better those healthy foods taste, the more of them you want to eat, right?
A Seasonally-Appropriate Vitamin PUNCH
Another benefit of seasonal eating is that Mother Nature has our back. Foods are richer in the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that we need during the time they grow naturally. Winter squash, which is high in cold-busting vitamin C, thrives in late fall and early winter and stores well throughout the season. Vitamin C is also found in cauliflower, which stands up to cold weather very well too. Vitamin E, which can be crucial during and after sun exposure, is very high in foods like sunflower seeds, turnip greens and spinach, all of which flourish from late spring to early fall (hello, sun exposure!)
Soups vs Salads?
Eating with the seasons in mind can also mean more than WHAT you eat. It can also impact HOW you cook. It is no coincidence that slow-cooked foods are more appealing in the winter and lightly cooked or raw foods sound delicious in the summer. Imagine eating stew when it’s cold outside and drinking a smoothie in the heat and you’ll see what I mean. That’s because foods have the power to warm us up or cool us down.
Even herbs and spices come into play when it comes to the seasons. There is a reason we associate warming spices like cinnamon and cloves with the holiday season, because they have long been dried and used in colder months. But thick-stemmed herbs like thyme and rosemary also do well at this time, plus they withstand heat well. More delicate herbs like peppermint and basil grow in warm months and do better with little to no heat.
Where Do I Begin?
If seasonal eating still feels like a daunting task, I’ve taken some of the guess work out of it with the Winter Edition of my Simple + Seasonal cookbook. These are my top 10 recipes winter to fill your belly and warm up from from the inside out!
(Bonus: gluten, dairy, grain and refined sugar free!)
Grab your free copy HERE