Advances in modern farming and food preservation techniques mean that we can find certain ‘fresh’ foods in supermarkets all year round, albeit at a premium.
However, it is generally better to eat seasonal fruits and vegetables if optimal health and vitality is your aim.
Why ‘out-of-season’ is out
Out-of-season produce generally comes from regions that are ‘in season’. That means they’re transported over long distances and it takes time to reach their destination, which degrades the nutritional content of this ‘fresh’ food.
These foods are also generally gassed, irradiated (blasted with radiation to kill germs) and preserved in wax to extend shelf life, or they’ve been artificially grown and ripened, which all reduce the nutritional value of the food.
Why ‘in season’ is in
“Eating foods that are ‘in season’ is ideal because it means they’ve ripened naturally,” explains Antonia De Luca, a raw food chef and the founder of raw and organic food cafe, Leafy Greens in Johannesburg.
Sourcing fresh, organically-grown foods is always best because they’re farmed without the use of pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals, she adds.
“These foods can be up to 35% more nutritious than commercially available ‘fresh’ food because when food is picked, the enzymes start to denature. Freezing slows down this process, but doesn’t stop it.”
This nutrient density earns many of these seasonal foods their ‘superfood’ title. Natural, unadulterated foods grown in rich soils that haven’t been depleted of their nutrients are packed full of important vitamins and minerals.
These natural foods also contain fibre and enzymes, all of which give us the energy and vitality needed to improve our health, and enhance our performance and our physiques.
Natural, seasonal whole foods also contain micronutrients and other compounds like antioxidants, in the exact ratios that our bodies need to create and maintain balance and optimal function.
Easting seasonal food is better because:
- It tastes richer and is more flavoursome because it is naturally ripened.
- In-season, locally-grown produce is more nutrient dense and, therefore, healthier for you.
- These food items will be brighter and more vibrant in colour, making for more appetising meals.
- It can be cheaper due to abundant supply and the associated reduction in harvesting and distribution costs.
- It can reduce the environmental impact of modern farming and food management processes.
- It ensures you get a broader variety of foods in your diet.
Seasonal eating guidelines
When eating seasonally, it is best to buy food as close to its natural source as possible. “This is generally termed farm-to-table dining. If you don’t have access to local farmers’ markets, start a small garden or grow some sprouts on your windowsill. Add these fresh ingredients to your daily meals to boost the nutrient density of your diet,” add Antonia.
It is also beneficial to eat certain fruits and vegetables in their raw state as often as possible because they have the highest vitamin and mineral contents.
Cooking certain vegetables can make the vitamins more bioavailable, which makes it easier for our bodies to use.
However, eating raw foods more often ensures that our bodies get more of living material they contain because cooking, especially on high heat, can destroy enzymes and phytonutrients, removing a great deal of its nutritional value.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.