In today's society, it is so easy to forget (or not even be aware) of seasonal eating or eating with any sort of cyclical intuition because modern-day food production and worldwide distribution have totally blurred the lines of what is natural, normal, and intuitive eating. Fruit is packaged in plastic, covered in chemicals, and flown all around the world - meaning that we can eat whatever we want, whenever we want - but at the expense of our health, our microbiome, and more. The truth is that for many of us, we no longer understand which foods are 'in season' or even produced locally, but seasonal eating and intuitive eating should form the backdrop for our eating (although I totally admit that this is sometimes easier said than done).
In ancient India and Ayurveda (which I *love*), they call seasonal eating' ritucharya,' and this means to focus on certain types of food during each season to maintain health and prevent disease. Our bodies actually crave seasonal change and the changing seasons, energetically and physically, are nature's way of adjusting our bodies for the changing environments around us. Just like winter is a time to retreat and look inwards, in the spring, the seasonal produce like leafy greens help us to detoxify effectively (after a heavier winter diet when it's cold). In summer, when things are hot outside, we naturally are drawn towards water-heavy, light produce to help us cool down and replace lost fluids. Learning to tap into what our body wants and needs is the first step in intuitive, seasonal eating.
When I learned that eating seasonally has an impact not just on our body, carbon footprint, global emissions and the state of the world - but also on our microbiome, I started to understand how important seasonal eating is for our health and what we need to fight off inflammation, oxidative stress, disease and more. This made me want to be more proactive in seeing how I could move towards intuitive and seasonal eating in my own life.
There are a ton of other benefits of eating locally and seasonally and understanding them is the first step to revolutionizing the way you approach food.
My favorites include:
1. Being better for your health
Foods that are grown and then eaten in their season are more nutritionally dense because when they are grown out of season, they are out of their natural growth and ripening cycles (which impacts the cellular structure of the fruit or veg). What this means is that consuming products in peak season is key. Studieshave also shown that vegetables (broccoli in this case) grown during their peak season (which is fall for broccoli) have higher vitamin C content than those grown in spring - so the same broccoli is literally packed with more nutrients at a different time of year. The study also showed that the 'seasonal changes in vitamin C content are larger than the differences between organically labeled and conventionally grown broccoli', so eating seasonal could be even more beneficial than eating organic (or go for seasonal *and* organic for the double win).
This impact on the nutrient profile of seasonal food also stretches to cover meat and dairy products, not just fruit and vegetables - so this seasonal eating approach applies across the board. A 2018 study out of the UK looked at the effect of processing and seasonality of cow's milk in Northern Ireland. The study concluded that milk produced in the spring had a higher concentration of iodine than milk produced in the fall - and with cow's milk being the most important dietary source of iodine in the whole of the UK and Ireland, a change in nutrient profile across seasons can have a big impact on the wider population.
A diverse diet also helps to contribute to a more balanced diet, which in turn can lead to smoother, clearer skin, more energy, and a faster metabolism. There are so many benefits of eating local, sustainable, and seasonal that I understand now why it's a beneficial switch.
2. Less interference with the produce
When I learned that for fruits and veggies to be available all over the world, all year-round, they have to go through post-harvest treatments (involving chemicals, heat, gases, and more) I started to understand that our food supply gets played with way more than is normal or natural. These processes slow down the growth, change the ripening time (proven to reduce the taste levels of the produce), and, as well as many products being covered with an 'edible film' to protect it during transportation (to stop the interference of pathogens as they travel around the world to your local produce store) you realize that these mass-produced products are not actually that natural at all. So much produce is sealed, sterilized, and canned into impermeable containers that are awful for the environment, as well as totally interfering with the natural way these foods were meant to be grown and consumed. For me, seasonal eating means interfering less with the products, which makes me feel more comfortable than being a part of this crazy chain of events that is so disconnected from how we are supposed to live with the earth and within our local communities.
3. Better for the environment
It's also well known that seasonal and local produce is better for the environment because something coming from your local farmer saves it from being driven or flown across the country or across the world. The fuel emissions of 'round the world produce travel' is insane, and this is even more clear when you understand that more than 50% of the fruit and almost 33% of the vegetables bought in the US are imported. When I learned this, I was insanely shocked. Now, I love the thought of supporting local farmers and produce providers, so I always look into seasonal foods in the area I am in and find any local farmer's markets or community-supported agriculture if possible. They aren't always cheaper, but they're always better for your body, mind, soul & conscience! Also, focusing on local produce will often help the environment because you will support local farms and farmers who don't normally cover their land in glyphosate, weed killer, pesticides, and fertilizers.
4. It (can) be more cost-effective!
This is something that I wasn't expecting to learn, which is that if a fruit or veg is in season, it is actually abundant, and the supply is high, meaning that they often come in at lower prices if you are buying them in the area that they are grown. This is why berries are cheaper during the summer when it's berry season - but get more expensive when you start to source them out of season! If you eat smart and intuitively with the seasons, not only will it taste better and be better for you, but you can cut costs across the board (without the transportation, import, taxes, and duties being built into the product price) and so save you money. I also love to give my money to local farmers rather than big corporations.
So, seasonal eating holds a ton of value, and while it isn't the easiest shift to make, it's one that I think we should all work towards. Our bodies crave seasonal change, and if you tap into your intuition outside of the conditioning of today's society, getting in tune with the seasonal calendar can also help you to get in tune with your body. This can lead to giving your body as many nutrients as it deserves while also supporting local farmers and businesses and helping to save the world and the insane problem with global emissions and unnecessary packaging.
Researching what produce is seasonal where you live is a great place to start - as well as your identifying your local Farmer's Market.
Let me know how you like to eat seasonally. I'd love to hear more.
Love Jena x
***THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN APPROVED OR REGULATED BY THE FDA. WE ARE NOT DOCTORS, THEREFORE ALWAYS CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR FIRST.