Research tells us that the nutritional value of specific foods can change, depending on the seasons they are grown or produced. For example, one UK study conducted by the UK Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food looked at the nutrient value of milk at different times of the year. The nutrient content of milk can differ depending on when it was produced. The reason for this? The cows’ diet can affect the quality of the milk produced. In summer, when fields were dry, for example, cows were less likely to consume fresh produce and this would impact on the nutritional quality of the milk.
In addition, eating more seasonal food can help create more sustainable consumption patterns, and thereby it could reduce the environmental impact of the diet.
The modern day dilemma
Specific fruits and vegetables are sprayed with pesticides to extend their shelf life. Preservatives are used for the same reason. Other additives, such as wax, are used to improve the appearance of produce.
Today, we are increasingly aware of the negative impact of insecticides and artificial ingredients and preservatives on our health. Some of our food can be months’ old by the time it reaches our table. In modern cities, the time to transport food from the orchard to the supermarket shelf can be extensive. Some of our products are picked long before they are meant to. This means they may no longer be as nutrient-rich as we would like to think. One US based study from the University of California, found that vegetables such as green beans and spinach can lose up to two-thirds of their nutrients within a week of being picked.
Foods that are grown and consumed during their natural season are more likely to be nutritionally dense. In a study monitoring the vitamin C content of broccoli, it was found that broccoli grown during the autumn months have a higher content of vitamin C than broccoli grown at any other time of the year.
It makes sense that when foods are grown out of season, they out of their natural growth and ripening rhythms. We also know that when particular fruits and vegetables are available all year-round, a range of chemicals, gases and ripening agents are used to get them onto the market.
Eating seasonally means you are eating fresher, more nutritionally-rich foods. Additionally, it encourages us to eat a variety of foods throughout the year.
Guide to Seasonal fruits and vegetables
We have included a simple list here of seasonal foods that you can focus on to ensure you get the nutrients you need at different times of the year.
Apples, beans, berries, broccoli, cabbage, figs, kiwi-fruit, pears, pecans, persimmons, pomegranate, Brussel sprouts, mushrooms, radishes, spinach and sweet potato.
Apples, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, grapefruit, horseradish, mandarins, oranges, pears.
Asparagus, broad beans, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cherries, cucumbers, leeks, lemons, mandarins, peas, peaches, plums, spinach, silverbeet and strawberries.
Apricots, asparagus, beetroot, all types of berries, cabbage, capsicum, cherries, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, mango, nectarines, okra, peaches, pineapple, rockmelon, tomatoes, watermelon and zucchini.
If you need support in getting your health back on track, our Naturopath & Nutritionist, Keri Hogarth, is available for phone and zoom consultations (during the pandemic).
Jennie I MacdiarmidSeasonality and dietary requirements: will eating seasonal food contribute to health and environmental sustainability?”; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25027288/
Written by Rosa Ghidella