Spring is upon us. It may not feel like it in some parts of the country, but fresh fruits and vegetables are right around the corner.
After a long winter of canned and frozen food, not to mention supply chain issues, our bodies yearn for the taste of nature in its purest form.
Where’s the best place to find the freshest of everything;
At a local farmer’s market or, better yet, the farm itself.
When it comes to our eating habits, the changing of the seasons is more instinctual than you may realize. Spring and fall are especially close to our hearts because they are transitional seasons. Why do you think this is?
The very survival of our ancestors relied heavily on the planting season, spring, and the harvest season, autumn. When we were kids, we ate according to what fruit or vegetable was in season locally. Grocery stores were small, family businesses, and you couldn’t find a fresh tomato on the shelf in January.
You probably have fond memories of the small community market of your childhood.
At what age did you see your first avocado? Unless you’re from Mexico or California, it probably wasn’t until the late 80s.
The most popular fruit in America is the banana, and it didn’t arrive here until the 1870s when introduced at the World’s Fair. Today, we’re willing to bet you can buy a fresh banana grown in Central America or the Caribbean at almost every grocery store in the world.
So, what has all this food accessibility done to our diets?
Some experts believe the continuous availability of fruit and vegetables to be the precursor of the worldwide sugar epidemic. Nature intended for us to eat these foods seasonally. Every year, there was a short window of opportunity when we ate sugar and built fat stores for the coming winter. Now, we consume sugar daily, but our body still thinks we need to store it for leaner times. That’s not good!
If you haven’t figured it out by now, we should eat seasonally and locally for better health. Does this mean you should never eat an avocado or banana in the winter? Of course, not. It means that you should make an effort to eat the freshest fruits and vegetables available. Here’s why:
Have you ever noticed the difference between a grocery store tomato and a fresh-picked from your garden one?
In-season produce just tastes better. Any fruit or vegetable that appears fresh on your grocery chain’s shelf was picked green, transported a long distance, and warehoused before hitting your tastebuds. This process can take weeks and involves chemical treatments in most cases.
A garden or farmer’s market tomato lived on the vine days or hours before you ate it. This juicy, flavorful tomato had time to ripen and develop all of its nutritious goodness.
Industrial farming leads to mono-crop production using the same land and soil. Big food companies know what we like, and they produce a lot of it. A local farmer rotates their crops, allowing the ground to recover nutrients that plants deplete. Every plant has different soil nutrient requirements, and using land for multiple crops is better nutritionally.
Going back to our friend, the banana, do you know that today’s banana is utterly bereft of any nutritional value. If you ever get the chance to pick a wild banana, it won’t taste anything like the bananas you’re used to eating. Over the years, the banana, like almost every mass-produced crop, has been genetically modified for taste over nutrition.
Several studies show that produce grown seasonally has almost twice the nutrient density as those grown out of season. These same studies also concluded that the growing season has a more significant impact on nutrition density than whether the produce is organically grown.
We realize that some farmer’s markets can be a bit pricey but purchasing local, seasonally grown food is good for the wallet. When fruits and vegetables are in season, more supply is available, resulting in lower prices.
Want to beat inflation and supply chain issues? Visit a local farm.
The most affordable way to eat seasonally is by joining a local food co-op. In a co-op, a farmer or group of farmers provide meat, eggs, produce, and dairy directly from the farm. This system usually involves a monthly membership fee with a limited ability to select your items. You get what they harvest.
Whether or not climate change is your thing, you have to admit that eating anything transported thousands of miles on ships or trucks can’t be good for the environment.
According to intactforests.org, agricultural expansion accounts for roughly 28% of the 7 billion trees cut down each year.
When you decide to eat seasonally, it provides the opportunity to support your local farmer instead of some international food conglomerate. Cargill, ConAgra, Nestle, and ADM don’t need your money, and your local farmer does.
Besides financially supporting your community, eating seasonally gives you a chance to interact with your neighbors. Community involvement is vital to our health and well-being. Research conducted on the world’s Blue Zones shows one commonality is a sense of community. Another characteristic of these places where people live into their hundreds is growing their food and eating seasonally.
Shopping at a farmer’s market or visiting a farm just feels right. Why spend time under the fluorescent lights and aisles full of processed foods when you can get back to nature and shop in the fresh air?
Eat better. Live better.
Take care, even down there.
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