Seasonal eating: you’ve heard the term before, but what does it really mean and how can it benefit you?
When we strip down the fad diets, trendy foods and lifestyle hacks, what we often find ourselves left with is what we started with: real, whole foods that we grow from the ground. Seasonal eating is something that is ingrained in our humanity and something that all of us can thrive off of in our own unique way.
Seasonal eating is exactly that, eating with the seasons! Most fruits, vegetables, and other crops can only grow at certain times of the year. For example, cabbage is an amazing hearty Fall/ Winter crop whereas Arugula is more of a Springtime green. As we all know by now, the Earth has its own beautiful rhythm and rotation to nourish itself and all the things living on it. Growing certain foods at certain times of the year is just one way the earth teaches us how to nourish our bodies. Seasonal eating is eating with the seasons, by focusing on consuming specific foods during Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. During these months, someone who follows seasonal eating will cook and eat foods that are harvested in the same season (or stored/ preserved naturally from the previous seasons).
Have you ever felt overwhelmed with diets and trendy foods? Even as a Holistic Nutritionist, this can seem super overwhelming. One of the most stress-free ways to look at healthy eating would be to eat seasonally. Foods that grow with the seasons will be more available to you in your local produce stores, omitting the stress of decision fatigue, thus making grocery shopping and cooking more enjoyable and, in return, sparking creativity in the kitchen. Forget the Amazonian superfoods and tropical fruits for a minute – sticking to locally grown foods can be much more affordable and could help us make easier choices when it comes to cooking up nutritious meals. Science proves that eating seasonally has even been known to beneficially alter the gut bacteria in our microbiome. It is commonly known that the state of our microbiome can also affect our nervous system, and therefore, our stress levels.
Holistic Nutritionist-tip: look for “locally grown” signs in your grocery or produce shop. These foods will likely be more abundant in flavour and contain less pesticide residue.
Think about it: you fly halfway across the world only to find yourself stuck in your hotel room with a bad case of Jetlag. Now think of the fruits and veggies that might come from the other side of the world. Crazy right? The further a fresh food has to travel, the more depleted it will naturally become of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, which are essential to our health.
Now let’s think of summer: our bodies are exposed to more sunlight and we are exerting more energy to sweat. That’s where Summer produce comes in – foods like cucumber and celery are packed with water and natural electrolytes, and carrots and stone fruit are packed with antioxidants which help repair skin after sun damage.
In the Five Elements in Ancient Chinese medicine, it is believed and studied that being in tune with the seasons has a dramatic effect on our bodies and well-being. Within the yin and yang theory, it is understood that we should live in unity with the seasons and accept them with day-by-day small changes, some preparation, and knowledge of our surroundings. It is said that the Spring is the perfect time for detox and cleansing, which coincides perfectly with the bitter greens and citrus fruits that are “in season” at this same time. These types of foods just so happen to also be extremely powerful aids to help detoxify our bodies. Another amazing example is how in the winter months, we find root vegetables, such as potatoes and beets, growing in the ground. These root vegetables can quite literally help us to feel “grounded”, throughout these colder months.
It has been shown that people who shop at Farmer’s markets for locally and seasonally grown produce are more likely to eat an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. Food grown in a specific area is meant to feed its habitants at that certain time – think of hearty stews in colder Northern European winters, and fresh fish and wild greens in warmer, coastal towns. If we think about seasonal and local eating, it just makes sense.
With “shop local” being all the rage in 2019, eating seasonally is a great way to contribute to and support your local community. Shopping in-season produce helps to support local farmers and build a sense of community.
Like any other advice I would give as a holistic nutrition professional, do your best and don’t stress – incorporating more seasonally grown fruits and vegetables into your daily meals is a great place to start!
Below are some B.C. seasonal eating meal ideas, which are all focused on locally grown produce for each season.
Holistic Nutritionist-tip: For areas that don’t produce a ton of fruit in the warmer months, purchase locally grown fruits during harvest, freeze, and use in Winter meals to keep a bit of flavour variety. Since the produce is frozen at its prime peak of ripeness, many of the nutrients will still be intact, versus purchasing produce that has travelled far and has been depleted of its nutrients.
In conclusion, focusing your diet around seasonal eating could be one of the most realistic and healthiest ways to enjoy food.
-Posted April 2019-
Sisley Killam is a proud CSNN grad from Vancouver, B.C. She has worked with many clients as a Holistic Nutritionist, co-hosted retreats and monthly workshops. Sisley is the founder of The Pure Program, a program designed to help women create a healthy relationship with food and plant-forward cooking.
Pitchford, Paul. (2002). Healing with Whole Foods. Five Elements.
Magkos, F., Arvaniti, F., & Zampelas, A. (2003, September). Organic food: Nutritious food or food for thought? A review of the evidence. Retrieved March 20, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12907407?ordinalpos=3&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
Smits, S. A., Leach, J., Sonnenburg, E. D., Gonzalez, C. G., Lichtman, J. S., Reid, G., . . . Sonnenburg, J. L. (2017, August 25). Seasonal cycling in the gut microbiome of the Hadza hunter-gatherers of Tanzania. Retrieved March 20, 2019, from http://science.sciencemag.org/content/357/6353/802.full
Ismail, A. and Fun, CS. (2003). Determination of vitamin C, β-carotene and riboflavin contents in five green vegetables organically and conventionally grown. Mal J Nutr 9:1, pp. 31-39.
Cox, B. D., Whichelow, M. J., & Prevost, A. T. (2000, March). Seasonal consumption of salad vegetables and fresh fruit in relation to the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Retrieved March 20, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10786720
Fjeld, C. R., & Sommer, R. (2010, August 31). Ecology of Food and Nutrition. Retrieved March 20, 2019, from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/03670244.1982.9990703?needAccess=true
Smits, S. A., Leach, J., Sonnenburg, E. D., Gonzalez, C. G., Lichtman, J. S., Reid, G., Sonnenburg, J. L. (2017, August 25). Seasonal cycling in the gut microbiome of the Hadza hunter-gatherers of Tanzania. Retrieved March 20, 2019, from http://science.sciencemag.org/content/357/6353/802