Why you should be a seasonal eater.
One of the key pillars of Ayurveda, an ancient Indian practice of holistic healing, is ritucharya. Ritucharya is the process of eating seasonally. According to Ayurveda teachings, following the natural ripening of fruits and vegetables as the seasons change will maintain health and prevent disease.
While this practice was invented over 5,000 years ago, the practice of eating seasonally still has many, many benefits in the modern world.
More nutritious and fresh
Foods purchased in season are more likely to be consumed closer to harvesting, resulting in the fruits and vegetables being higher in nutritional value. Studies have demonstrated that produce contains more nutritional value when ripened naturally on the parent plant. Important micronutrients, such as Vitamin C, folate, and carotenes, rapidly decline in value when stored for long periods of time. Produce that has been transported or stocked has a reduction in phytonutrient content. Some produce is picked so early it requires post-harvest treatments, ripening-agents, to allow them to be available year-round. Further, such fruits and vegetables may also be gassed, irradiated, and preserved in wax in an effort to extend shelf life.
A study in Japan compared spinach harvested in season vs not in season and found that seasonally harvested spinach contained 3 times more vitamin C. Another study focusing on broccoli had the same findings, broccoli picked during peak season contained much more vitamin C content compared to off-seasonally harvested.
Seasonally harvested food will taste better! Seasonal fruits and vegetables don’t have to undergo the artificial ripening process, which compositionally and structurally impacts the produce. Produce that has undergone miles of travel often arrives bruised and mushy to your grocery store.
Most grocery store fruits and vegetables have also undergone selective breeding in order to standardize ripening time and shelf life. This selective breeding process overrides taste in favor of appearance and quantity. This is why tomatoes that are grown in your backyard always taste better than the ones you can purchase at the grocery store.
Buying seasonal food has great environmental benefits. More than 50% of fruit and almost 33% of vegetables bought in the US are imported. In fact, the average meal in America has traveled 1,500 miles to arrive on your plate. Seasonal foods are likely to be local to your area, cutting down on fuel emissions required for the transport of fruit and vegetables.
Buying seasonally also lessens soil degradation by allowing farmers to rotate crops through the seasons. Crop rotation benefits the soil’s overall health and adds nutritional value to the crops. Rotating crops seasonally mitigates pathogen and pest buildup in the soil and helps prevent the use of harmful chemicals. Pesticides and herbicides are incredibly harmful to humans and animals alike and should be avoided at all costs.
Crops purchased seasonally will positively impact your financial health as well! Out-of-season fruits and vegetables often undergo long transport periods- which has a serious financial burden of fuel costs and other factors. Buying seasonally means buying produce that is grown locally. This allows you to avoid price markups necessary to cover transportation and artificial ripening costs.
Fruits and vegetables purchased in season are probably in abundance as well, which allows them to be available at a lower price. Buying seasonal foods also supports your local farmers and benefits the local economy. Local farmers can also tell you how the food was grown and harvested.
General list of seasonal foods
Below is a list of average seasonal foods, keep in mind that where you live will impact what produce is seasonal.
How to find what’s seasonal in your area:
To easily find out what is seasonal in your area, check out this website!
Where to buy seasonal foods
The best place to buy seasonal foods will be at your local farmers’ market or directly from local farmers. Websites like localharvest.org and eatwild.com will find local farms near you. You can also find local produce in grocery stores. Just be sure to check where the produce originates!