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.

Tips for the party season

Christmas is so close now! I’m sure many of you are already in the full swing of parties and gatherings, but I thought I would still post a few little healthy tips for the party season.

Keep eating your 5-a-day

Even though there are so many festive treats around at the moment, try to still eat 5 portions of fruit and veg a day. Maybe try having a couple of portions with breakfast (e.g.: a banana and berries on your cereal) and aim for at least a third of your plate to be covered in veggies. As long as they are not covered in a lot of butter, all vegetables count towards your 5-a-day.

Snacks

With all the delicious foodie bits, it can be easy to over-indulge, but remember that certain snacks can be healthy and filling:

  • Unsalted nuts, plain popcorn sprinkled with cinnamon, and fresh veggies with low fat dips are good ideas for party nibbles.
  • Satsumas are a fantastic source of vitamin C (as are other citrus fruit), and are in season this time of year so are really sweet and juicy! Keep a bowl of them in the kitchen – and don’t forget one for the bottom of your stocking!
  • Dried fruit such as dates and apricots contain fibre which helps your digestive system, and count as a portion of fruit.

 

Remember the drinks

Don’t forget that alcohol has calories in too. Maybe alternate your drinks on a night out for one alcoholic drink then one soft drink or water. If you are drinking soft drinks, try drinking lower sugar varieties, or try sparkling water infused with fruit. Don’t forget to ask for a jug of water for the table if you are eating out – it will stop you drinking alcohol when you’re thirsty.

Get enough sleep

This time of year, can feel particularly busy with work parties, drinks with friends and family dinners. Try to keep to a fairly regular sleep pattern if possible as lack of sleep can affect your mood and concentration as well as potentially causing you to overeat the next day. If you know you will be having a late one, maybe try to have a 30-minute nap during the day at some point. This has shown to be the optimal length of nap time to increase concentration and productivity (1).

Keep active

Maybe take to the dance floor at the office party, find your local ice rink or going for a bracing winter walk. Keeping active over the Christmas period will help your health and general wellbeing.

Have fun!

Most importantly, enjoy yourself! You may end up putting on a couple of pounds over Christmas but eating mindfully and enjoying the period is more important.

You might also want to have a look at the ideas on these websites;

https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/christmas.pdf

http://www.kindredbloguk.com/?p=246

P.S. I’m so lucky to be able to go ice skating every Christmas at Somerset House as a King’s College student. The cheesy grins are from this year’s trip!

Sources

  1. Dhand R.;Sohal H., 2006. Good sleep, bad sleep! The role of daytime naps in healthy adults.