Eating Across the Seasons
You’ve probably heard of the food pyramid: a chart telling you how much of each food group you should eat each day for optimum health. If you’re looking to lose weight, gain energy, or just improve your overall health, the fruit and vegetable tiers on the food pyramid are crucial to success.
The Perks of Produce
According to Eat for Health (an Australian government initiative), there are a lot of important reasons besides weight loss to make sure that your diet is rich in fruits and vegetables.
A plant-based diet is shown to reduce a number of health issues within the body. Fruits and vegetables are also rich in vitamins and minerals that are vital to a healthy body and mind. The CDC provides some great tips for including more plants in your regular diet to cut calories and create healthier meals, such as:
- put less cereal in your bowl and add sliced fruit
- put less meat in your lunch wraps and fill it with vegetables instead
- substitute vegetables for some of your rice or pasta at dinner
Studies suggest that at each meal, fruits and vegetables should make up around 50% of your portion. This is the amount that the average person needs to consume to get their daily requirements of vitamins and minerals.
These studies also indicate that cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli and bok choy), dark-green leafy vegetables (e.g., kale and spinach), citrus fruits (e.g., oranges and pineapples), and dark-coloured berries (e.g., goji berries and blueberries) are some of the best types of plants to include in a healthy diet.
The Superiority of Seasonal Foods
Most people don’t pay much attention to what fruits and vegetables are in season, except when it comes to price. You may notice that certain pieces of produce are cheaper at certain times of the year, but there are a number of other reasons to fill your grocery basket with in-season fruits and vegetables.
The fruits and vegetables that we pick up at our local markets provide us with important vitamins and minerals; however, we give little thought to where those nutrients come from.
It is actually the sun, water, and soil that help the plants grow that feed the fruits and vegetables and make them nutritional powerhouses. In a food’s optimum growing season, it will be getting the exact right amount of sunlight and rain, and the soil will be in its best and richest condition. This means that there are more nutrients available to nourish the foods and, in turn, your body.
According to clinical nutritionist Dr. Josh Axe, a big part of the reason why foods are more nutritious when they are seasonal is the distance they have to travel from farm to plate. When foods are out of season in your area, they will have to be shipped in from far away.
During the course of this long travel time, the foods become less nutrient-dense. For this reason, the fruits and vegetables in your kitchen might not be quite as nutritious as you think they are if you’re shopping out-of-season.
People who make a habit of eating seasonal produce will tell you that it just plain tastes better! Foods that are picked during the optimum season are fragrant, colourful, and delicious. In fact, research indicates that taste is the main reason that people make the decision to eat foods that were harvested in-season from local growers.
Eating fresh produce that is particularly delicious can be great for your attempts to lose weight and get healthier. You will be much more likely to include low-calorie, nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables in your meals if they taste great. Plus, you’ll be less likely to add unhealthful ingredients such as oil, butter, and sugar to your meals if they are naturally delicious.
When foods are grown outside of their peak season, farmers have to do a lot more work to make them appealing to consumers. Many of these foods require pesticides, waxes, and other chemicals so that they will grow big enough and look healthful enough to make it to your market. On the other hand, foods that are grown in their optimum season are able to grow more naturally without the aid of chemicals.
Most nutritionists and other health professionals will tell you that more natural, whole foods are better for your health. One study determined that eating foods that are free from chemicals can lead to greater longevity, energy, stress resistance, and fertility. This means that seasonal foods, which are more likely to be chemical-free, can make a huge difference to your body.
If you make the decision to eat seasonally, you will most likely end up cooking at home more often, as it is more difficult to control what goes on your plate while dining out.
Cooking meals in your own kitchen is one of the best things that you can do for your health! In a restaurant, it’s hard to know what unhealthful ingredients are being added to your meal. Even a supposedly “safe” meal like a salad could be loaded with excess dressings or even sugars.
In fact, researchers from Harvard Medical School have stated that people who cook at home consume fewer calories on average and have a lower risk of developing other health issues. So fill your kitchen with seasonal produce and whip up something tasty instead of calling for take-away.
Our bodies are attuned to nature. The seasonal growth cycle of fruits and vegetables matches the seasonal needs of human bodies. For example, cucumbers and watermelons are typically in-season in the summer; this is the time of year when our bodies need extra hydration due to the heat, and these plants are a perfect way to consume more water.
One of the most important “cycles” in our bodies is metabolism. The way that our bodies cycle fat, sugars, and nutrients has a major impact on our overall health (particularly body weight and fitness). Research has indicated that eating foods in-season has a major impact on the body’s various metabolic cycles, particularly metabolism of fat and sugar.
Eating foods out of season disrupts natural cycles and makes it more difficult for foods to metabolised properly. This can make a crucial difference if you’re looking to shed excess weight.
What Should I Eat in Each Season?
The foods that are in season will vary by region. The individual climates of different areas have a major impact on what fruits and vegetables are able to be grown during certain seasons. The best way to know what foods are in season is by finding a seasonal food calendar that lists foods that are best eaten in winter, spring, summer, and autumn.
Here are some examples of foods to eat in each season in Australia.
- navel oranges
- snow peas
- brussel sprouts
- sweet potatoes
The Bottom Line
When we think about our weight, our first instinct is to focus on how much food we’re putting into our bodies. However, what type of food we eat and when is actually crucial to achieving our health and weight-loss goals.
The best way to stay on top of things can be summarised in one word: planning. If you plan your foods ahead of time, you’ll be much more likely to make good choices that will help get you closer to your goals.