I first learned about eating seasonally and locally when I read the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. This book, written in 2007, is a memoir of a year when she moved from Arizona to southwest Virginia to a family farm. Their family decided to eat seasonally for a year by gardening and buying only locally grown foods. This book is a great read and is also very funny. (See the reference below to read an excerpt from the first chapter.)
But are there good reasons to eat seasonally when fresh fruits and vegetables are available year-round in the grocery store, shipped from other parts of the nation or world? I believe there are, and I challenge you to adopt seasonal eating for yourself and your family.
- Seasonal foods are the most nutritious. Nutrients in fresh fruits and vegetables begin to decline soon after they are picked. When you eat local foods in season, you ingest the highest amounts of vitamins and minerals possible. Foods from South America, or even farther away, have spent days in the shipping process before reaching the store. Then they may stay on the shelves at the store even longer before they are purchased. It will easily be a week or even more after picking before you eat the produce even if you consume it on the day of purchase. In contrast, the fruits and vegetables that you buy from Aiken Organics or the local Farmers Market are often picked that same day and so will have the highest amount of nutrients possible.
- Seasonal, local produce also tastes much better. There is no comparison in the flavor of vine-ripened tomatoes or tree-ripened peaches to those picked before they are fully ripened and transported for a great distance. Apples can be stored for months in cold storage before they are shipped to the stores, but often these out of season apples also have a mealy texture and much less flavor than fresh, in season ones.
- Seasonal eating is the most natural for our bodies. Until about 100 to 150 years ago almost everyone ate seasonally and locally. Refrigeration was not widely available, so produce could not be kept for long without spoiling. Without air transportation it was impossible to get strawberries in the winter or oranges in the summer. In classical Chinese medicine, eating with the seasons is thought to be the best way to preserve health throughout the year. William Wolf, ND, explains that seasonal eating is a form of preventative medicine that facilitates the organ systems to remain in balance. He further states that eating seasonally helps provide a natural and gentle detoxification throughout the year.
- Eating seasonally is cheaper. Locally grown produce will be less expensive, in general, due to fewer transportation and packaging costs than imported produce. In addition, because of supply and demand, produce that is plentiful at the height of the season will cost less, sometimes much less, than produce at the beginning of the season or in the off-season.
- Eating seasonally can help avoid food allergies or sensitivities. Food allergies or sensitivities can occur when a food is eaten repeatedly. Food sensitivities can be eliminated by avoiding the food for three to six months. Then the food can be reintroduced and monitored for negative symptoms, but the food should not be eaten more frequently than every four days.
- Seasonal eating is a natural way to rotate foods. Even daily eating while in season lasts normally only for a period of one to two months. Afterwards, that food is not eaten for the remaining 10 months of the year. This is another way to rotate the foods in the diet successfully.
Why not be like Barbara Kingsolver and her family? Try eating seasonally and locally as much as possible. It will make your meals tastier, improve your nutrition and health, and save you money.
Louis, R. “Eating with the Seasons: Nutrition in Chinese Medicine.” Price-Pottenger Journal of Health and Healing. (v. 40:1) pp. 13-20.
GINGER HUDOCK is a holistic nutrition consultant in Aiken, SC. Her business, Nutrition with Ginger, helps clients discover the power of personalized, whole foods nutrition to prevent and heal from many chronic health concerns, especially food allergies and sensitivities. She is a graduate of the Nutrition Consultant Program at Hawthorn University and is also a Certified Gluten Practitioner. Prior to beginning her career in nutrition, Ginger was an educator and college administrator for thirty years, most recently as the Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance at USC Aiken. To sign up for nutrition consultation sessions or her newsletter and blog where she gives more nutrition news and recipes, visit Ginger’s website at www.NutritionwithGinger.net, or call 803-640-4381.