Does it benefit our health to eat seasonably?

We now live in a time where we can walk into a supermarket at any time of year and expect to see a huge variety of food available. Whilst this means that we can make any recipe that we want all year, it can sometimes feel as though we’ve become removed from the growth and production of our food. Eating more seasonably could reconnect us with the origins of our food and reminds us that most foods are not meant to be available all year round.

Although many definitions of ‘seasonality’ exist, most people think of it when food is grown outdoors in its natural season, without using extra energy (for heat, light etc.), therefore not producing extra greenhouse gas emissions. (Did you know that 15-20% of all greenhouse gases in the UK are produced from the food system?! [1]) Strawberries grown in the UK in June are seasonal, as are apples grown during the autumn in New Zealand but then eaten in the spring/summer in the UK.

Apart from the obvious environmental benefit (a strawberry grown in England in the usual spring/summertime growing season uses far less energy than those grown in heated greenhouses all year round, for example), eating more seasonably can introduce more variety into our diets. By eating lots of different foods, we increase our chances of consuming all of our essential nutrients.

Some nutrients become more available once the food has been processed. Lycopene and beta-carotene (the inactive form of vitamin A) are higher in tinned tomatoes than fresh ones [2]. Therefore, you can eat tinned tomatoes all year round knowing that they were probably produced in season and can contain lots of nutrients.

Frozen fruit and veg are also a good idea as they are often picked and frozen in season so can have a higher nutrient content than some ‘fresh’ fruit and veg that’s been sitting on the supermarket shelf for a few days. They are also a really cost-effective way of increasing your fruit and veg intake! It can also be cheaper to buy fresh foods when they are in season as it has often cost less money to produce them in the first place.

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Eating seasonal foods has some environmental, and potentially nutritional, benefits, but it is a small piece in the puzzle of having a sustainable diet. Eating only seasonal foods in the winter in the UK can also look a bit dull, so why not take inspiration from the Eat Seasonably Calendar and use it to remind you of which seasons your foods would traditionally have been grown and encourage you to try out different food each month?

 

Find some tips and seasonal recipes on these websites:

http://eatseasonably.co.uk/

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/seasonal-calendar/all

 

Beautiful photographs courtesy of @lauraheck 

 

Sources

  1. Garnett T (2008). Cooking Up a Storm: Food, Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Our Changing Climate. Surrey: University of Surrey, Food Climate Research Network, Centre for Environmental Strategy.
  2. Hwang E-S, Stacewicz-Sapuntzakis M, Bowen PE (2012). Effects of heat treatment on the carotenoid and tocopherol composition of tomato. J Food Sci. 77; 1109-1114.
  3. Macdiarmid JI (2014). Seasonality and dietary requirements: will eating seasonal food contribute to health and environmental sustainability? Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 73; 368-375.

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