Why Eating in Season and Locally is BEST for YOU!
Before we started cultivating the land and producing food for longer growing seasons, humans were nomads for thousands of years - traveling place-to-place and finding resources, including foods, as they went. As a result of our nomadic heritage - our ancestors did not have the ability to get many types of foods year round; so they had to eat seasonally and store what they could - such as squashes, potatoes, apples, meats, and onions. In our modern society, we can get any type of food we want year round; but is this ideal for your digestion? Research suggests that at certain times of the year, when things like fruits are not in season, it can be more difficult for our bodies to digest these out of season foods. This can result from changes in our sleep wake cycles - with shorter days in the winter; or changes in our micro-biomes - the good bugs that help us digest things; or simply that our bodies don’t need as much energy in the winter with lower activity levels. Eating seasonally agrees with our body’s ability to break foods down, utilize their nutrients, and prevent sugar and fat storage in our bodies.
Eating in season is ideal for your body to digest foods and absorb nutrients. The other benefits of eating seasonally also make it easier to eat locally:
- Helping the Environment: When eating locally and in season, foods don’t have to be shipped for many hundred of miles, use large amounts of petro fuels, or add toxic gases to our environment that contribute to global climate change. In addition these foods will have less pesticides and herbicides as their natural resistances are higher in their regular growing season, which means these chemicals aren’t in our water systems and on our foods.
- Increasing Nutritional Content: When eating in season and locally, foods aren’t picked many weeks or even months before they are ready. Foods are therefore picked when they were ripe and have higher amount of vitamins and minerals, which are absorbed through their stems as they grow. The use of herbicides and pesticides are also decreased when in season as the natural immune systems of the plants prevails, meaning eating in season you get less chemicals in your system, and less burden on your body. In addition, foods that go across borders are irradiated to kill bugs, which degrades proteins and decreases the value of the food to your body. So more nutrients all around!
- Better Taste: With the increased nutrient content of picking when ripe, less or often no chemicals with local products, and having the care given to your food by your local farmers, the taste of your foods will be greatly enhanced, you will feel more satisfied, and happier with what you are eating! When food tastes better you look forward to eating, which makes your digestive enzymes work better, and thus you absorb the nutrients from your foods more readily. You get better bang for your buck!
- Supporting Your Local Economy: Eating in season and locally helps to keep your hard earned money within your community, and supports small local farms, which increases the wealth of your local economy!! This also creates a feeling of community and wellness in those around you. You are ensured to be getting foods from those that care about what they are growing and use better farming practices as a result. Better for you and the environment!
- Promoting Food Safety and Variety: Eating locally means we do not have to rely on far away places to produce our foods and ensures that in the event of disaster, trade change, and balances in power, we can still have access to foods. This also helps to ensure that we keep local farm and foods spaces utilized for that purpose. Local farmers also tend to have more heritage, heirloom, and variety of seeds in what they plant – meaning more variety increased amounts of nutrients as well as less genetically modified products.
Foods to Emphasize in Each Season:
- Spring: Think of greens and shoots! Leafy vegetables are the new growth of the season so eat lots of herbs, kale, lettuces, spinach, and swish chard. Fava beans, peas, rhubarb, and some other beans are also ready for the pickin’.
- Summer: The sweeter and tastier fruits tend to come in the summer time. Eat lots of asparagus, berries, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, corn, nectarines, peaches, plums, zucchini, and the herb peppermint.
- Fall: When it first becomes cooler for the season the last of the fruits ripen - including apples, local grapes, pears, plums, second season raspberries, and tomatoes. You also get more of the root and hardier vegetables like beets, carrots, onions, potatoes, radishes, squashes, sweet potatoes, wild mushrooms, and the herbs fennel, leek, and garlic.
- Winter: Use more warming foods and herbs. These include meats, nuts, root vegetables (as these are usually able to be stored or grown later in the season and thus eaten later), as well as brussels sprouts, citrus fruits, garlic, onions, and spicy peppers.
For more tips and information by Dr. Adella Gerry, ND ("Dr. Della") – please keep an eye out on her blog viewable at DrDella.ca or on her facebook. Dr. Della is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor, highly trained in Pain Management and Woman's Health, in Victoria, BC's lovely Oak Bay.
Written By: Dr. Adella Gerry, ND (Dr. Della)