Spring is in the air, and farmers’ markets and roadside produce stands are slowly opening up all across the country as gardens and fields begin to yield their bounty of crisp produce and juicy fruit. Depending on where you live, some popular seasonal spring foods include lettuce, radishes, spinach, peas, beans, broccoli, strawberries and even cherries. While it’s temptingly convenient to simply grab whatever you need in the grocery store, taking a second to focus on eating seasonal, local food can bring about some very surprising benefits for your health and the health of the planet.
Eating Seasonal: 5 Surprising Benefits to Eating What’s Grown in Your Area
1. A Reduced Carbon Footprint
Researchers report that one of the most commonly cited reasons for eating seasonal foods is the environmental concerns related to growing and transporting food from coast to coast (or even from other countries). “The average meal travels 1,200 kilometres from the farm to plate,” warns the David Suzuki Foundation. “Food grown closer to home produces fewer transportation emissions.”
When you’re eating seasonal foods grown close to home, you cut back on:
- The distance your food had to travel to get to you (including the gas and carbon emissions related to that travel)
- The energy used to keep the food cold while being transported
- The energy that it takes to keep that food fresh once it arrives at your average big-box grocery store
2. Reduced Pesticide and Chemical Exposure
“Nearly 70 percent of the non-organic fresh produce sold in the U.S. contains residues of potentially harmful chemical pesticides,” reports the Environmental Working Group’s analysis of the latest test data from the federal Department of Agriculture.
Eating seasonal and supporting farmers in your area may reduce your exposure to pesticides and toxic chemicals. For example, many farmers need to use extensive chemical treatments and pesticide sprays to keep plants alive and thriving when they’re forced to grow outside of their natural growing season. Many fruits and vegetables also have to be sprayed with fungicide and other treatments to keep them “fresh” while they’re transported for long distances.
Even if you aren’t buying something marked as organic, food that’s grown locally and in-season likely needed far less “chemical support.”
This is good news for your risks of chronic diseases, such as cancer, as well as your immune system. It’s long been known that pesticides and other industrial chemicals compromise your immune health.
3. Better Nutrition When Eating Seasonal
And because that food didn’t have to travel a long distance, the time from when it was in the ground to when it was enjoyed by you and your family is significantly shortened.
This may help to improve its overall nutritional density when you finally eat it!
Studies show that many popular fruits and vegetables have seen a reduction in vitamin and mineral content over the years. This may explain why some people still struggle to feel energized, healthy and vibrant even when they increase their intake of fruits and vegetables.
4. Better Flavor
Often, conventionally grown foods are grown in a greenhouse, picked when they’re not fully ripe (after all, they need to survive the transportation process and not be over-ripe when you come across them in the grocery store), shipped thousands of miles in a chilled refrigerator truck, then packaged and sold in a store. All of this, including the chilling process, affects the texture and flavor of the food.
With seasonal, local produce, you get to taste those fruits and veggies the way that nature truly intended. Many people find locally grown foods to be simply more flavorful and enjoyable!
5. More Harmonious Living
Some scientists think that various factors, such as our gut health and our mood, are linked with the changing seasons. They also propose that our nutritional needs may shift slightly as the seasons shift, and that we need the specific vitamins, minerals and micronutrients found in seasonal foods when these foods are actually in season.
By eating with the seasons, you may be providing your body with specific elements and compounds that it needs at exactly the right time. Eating seasonal and local foods puts you back in harmony with nature, and may lead to more vibrancy and an improved sense of wellness.
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