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Healthy Eating with the Seasons

What are the benefits of Eating Foods in Season?

Every week we celebrate a food that is in season because that is when you get the most flavor and nutritional value and when it is the most affordable. For the greatest freshness look for foods that are locally grown and are in season.

Seasons form the natural backdrop for eating. All of the World's Healthiest Foods are seasonal. Imagine a vegetable garden in the dead of winter. Now imagine this same garden on a sunny, summer day. How different things are during these two seasons of the year! For ecologists, seasons are considered a source of natural diversity. Changes in growing conditions from spring to summer or fall to winter are considered essential for balancing the earth's resources and its life forms. But today it's so easy for us to forget about seasons when we eat! Modern food processing and worldwide distribution of food make foods available year-round, and grocery stores shelves look much the same in December as they do in July.

Research Supporting Seasonal Eating

In a research study conducted in 1997 by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in London, England, significant differences were found in the nutrient content of pasteurized milk in summer versus winter. Iodine was higher in the winter; beta-carotene was higher in the summer. The Ministry discovered that these differences in milk composition were primarily due to differences in the diets of the cows. With more salt-preserved foods in winter and more fresh plants in the summer, cows ended up producing nutritionally different milks during the two seasons. Similarly, researchers in Japan found three-fold differences in the vitamin C content of spinach harvested in summer versus winter.

Guides for Eating Seasonally

What does this mean for you? Eat seasonally! To enjoy the full nourishment of food, you must make your menu a seasonal one. In different parts of the world, and even in different regions of one country, seasonal menus can vary. But here are some overriding principles you can follow to ensure optimal nourishment in every season:

In all seasons, be creative! Let the natural backdrop of spring, summer, fall and winter be your guide.

References

  • Haas EM. Staying healthy with the seasons. Celestial Arts, Berkeley, CA. 1981.
  • Igarashi O. The Significance of the Issuance of the 5th Revision of the Japanese Standard Tables of Food Components on Study and Research on Vitamins and Diseases. 36th Vitamin Information Center Press Seminar. Tokyo, Japan. 2001.
  • Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Nutrient analysis of liquid pasteurized milk. Food Surveillance Information Sheets, Number 128. 1997.
  • Pitchford P. Healing with whole foods. Revised edition. North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA. 1993.

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