Imagine a vegetable garden in the dead of winter, then imagine that same garden on a sunny summer day. Part of the beauty of nature’s bounties comes from how vastly different they are during the various seasons of the year. The seasons are a source of natural diversity, and this is why changes in growing conditions from spring to summer or fall to winter are consideredessential for balancefor both the earth’s resources and its life forms.
Once upon a time, people ate certain foods only when they were readily available, accessible and in season. These days, however, it is extremely easy for us to forget about seasons when we eat. Thanks to modern food processing techniques and worldwide distribution of resources, most foods remain available year-round. Grocery store shelves look the exact same in December as they do mid July, and we are able to buy any type of food we want irrespective of its seasonal availability.
Just because technology makes it possible for us to have oranges in winter, however, doesn’t mean we should eat all foods whenever we please. The disadvantages of living in a technologically advanced period with modern day food practices have revealed themselves among us in the form of anincreasing number of food intolerances and allergies, higher levels of obesity, modern chronic diseases like type-2 diabetes and much more.
According to many scientists, researchers and natural health experts, eating the right kinds of foods during the right times of year and avoiding them otherwise is crucial to a healthy lifestyle. Seasonal foods are a way of reconnecting with the organic cycle that nature intended for us.
Research supporting seasonal eating
In a research study conducted in 1997 by theMinistry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Foodin London, England, notable differences were found in thenutrient contentof milk in summer versus winter. Iodine content was higher in the winter and beta-carotene was higher in the summer. TheMinistrydiscovered 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 foundtremendous differencesin the vitamin C content of spinach harvested in summer versus winter.
What are the benefits of eating seasonally?
Better nutritional content and overall health- Most grocery stores and food chains jazz up their fruits and vegetables to keep them looking attractive and inviting when they’re out of season. This naturally compromises the nutrition level of the food. Non-seasonal foods require bending of nature’s rules in order for them to survive the improper season in which they are brought into the world. Therefore, these foods are often full of pesticides, waxes, preservatives and other chemicals that are used in order to make them look fresher than they are.
By eating freshly harvested produce, you will be rotating your foods, thereby keeping your body from developing intolerances to certain foods and reaping the health benefits of a diet that is diverse and naturally detoxifying.
Choose wisely and consciouslySeasonal foods also have a muchhigher antioxidant contentthan non-seasonal foods.
For example, in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), spring is associated with the liver — one of the body’s primary detoxification organs. Synergistically, spring is also the time when dandelion and other bitter greens are fresh and available; these bitter greens support the liver and its function of cleansing the blood.
Sustainable and environmental benefits- By eating seasonally, you will also be supporting the local farmers and local markets, which, in turn, works well for the sustainability of the entire economy. Seasonal eating helps the environment by reducing the number of food miles your food has to make before it reaches your table. The more local you eat, the less chances exist that you are consuming food that has been flown in from half way across the world, in effect consuming that much more fuel.
Economical benefits- It doesn’t cost the earth to produce seasonal foods at a time when they are naturally and readily available. Seasonal foods arecheaper to produce and hence, cheaper to buyas well.
Our ancestors ate seasonal food because they didn’t have much choice. We, on the other hand, can make the informed and educated choice of opting to eat only those foods that are grown seasonally. Coordinating our diets with thecycles of the seasonsnaturally cleanses us and builds health for the body.
For more information on how to eat seasonally, check out this author’s article titled “How to eat seasonally for optimum health.”
Sources for this article include:
L’Esperance, Carrie.The Seasonal Detox Diet: Remedies from the Ancient Cookfire. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press, 1998.
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