A Guide to Eating Seasonally
It’s that time when the leaves are changing colours, and we’re diving into the darker months of the year. With these changes, I’m here to guide you through why we should try to eat seasonally and encourage you to “eat the rainbow” for a healthier, more vibrant you.
Why Eat Seasonally?
‘Eating seasonally’ refers to eating foods that are naturally in harvest at a specific time of year. Before science played a part in agriculture, you could only find fresh produce during the season it grew best because of natural growing conditions and weather. But we’ve now gotten used to having any food at any time of the year.
Eating local and seasonal produce means that food is often at peak ripeness, packing more flavour and nutrients. The longer a fruit or vegetable takes to get from farm to table, the more nutrient loss occurs. For example, a study found that leafy greens lost almost 50% of their vitamin C content after transport, storage and 3 days of sitting on a supermarket shelf (1). What’s more, the vegetables’ levels of potassium, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, and chlorophyll were also affected.
Branching out to eat different foods seasonally will diversify your diet with different vitamins, minerals and fibres you might not usually consume.
Moreover, the quality and freshness of in-season produce are better than out-of-season. Modified crops grown in bulk all year-round so modifications can take away some of their nutritious benefits. Seasonal foods can be grown during their natural timeframe where they will grow without the need for additives.
Finally, it is much more sustainable for the environment and often a budget-friendly option as the produce hasn’t had to be imported.
Eating the Rainbow
Seasonal produce offers a range of colourful foods for us to choose from. “Eating the rainbow” emphasises a diverse diet with colourful fruits and vegetables, each of which bring a unique set of nutrients to your plate. Let’s break down each colour:
- Red: Think tomatoes, red peppers, and strawberries. The red coloured pigment is a powerful antioxidant called lycopene, which is excellent for heart health and has been linked to the reduced risk of certain cancers.
- Orange and Yellow: Carrots, sweet potatoes, mangoes… They’re rich in beta-carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A. Therefore, carotenoids are essential for maintaining healthy vision, skin and immune function by protecting your cells from damage caused by free radicals.
- Green: Load up on dark leafy greens, spinach, broccoli kiwis, and much more. These greens offer an abundance of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients like chlorophyll that support immune health, and nitrates which are beneficial for both blood pressure and heart health.
- Blue and Purple: Blueberries, aubergine and blackberries fall into this category. The bright colour indicates that it’s packed full of anthocyanins, which may improve memory and cognition and have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
- White: Cauliflower, garlic, and onions make up the white group. Despite the lack of colour, they’re still packed with plant compounds like allicin and quercetin, which can help lower blood pressure, and support your heart health and immune system.
A Feast for your gut too
Not only does a colourful diet provide you with a range of phytonutrients, but it also provides a feast for your gut microbiome. Your gut houses trillions of microorganisms that play a crucial role in digestion, immunity and even mood. When you consume a diverse range of fruits and vegetables, you provide a variety of fibres, prebiotics and nutrients that nourish the beneficial bacteria in your gut. So, by eating the rainbow, you’re not only pleasing your tastebuds but also promoting a flourishing, healthy gut.
How to Eat more Seasonally
November brings a bountiful selection of seasonal produce to support your health. Here’s what’s in season:
- Brussel sprouts
- Wild mushrooms
How to incorporate seasonal goodness
Here are some tips to incorporate seasonal produce into your meals:
- Start your day colourful: Add sliced apples or pears to your morning porridge or yoghurt
- Snack wise: Apples, pears, or cranberries make for a great on the go snack
- Squash savvy: Try different squash varieties in your dishes, from creamy squash soups to roasted butternut squash with crumbled feta and dried cranberries
- Kale power: Add kale to any salad or saute it with garlic for a quick and nutritious side dish
- Brussels bliss: Roast brussel sprouts with a drizzle of balsamic glaze for a delicious, nutritious side dish.
There are many Veg Box schemes that provide easy ways to try more local and seasonal fruit and vegetables. Getting a local box scheme delivered to your door is a great way to eat fresh and seasonal produce, be more eco-friendly, reduce food waste and support your local farmers. Find your local veg box here.
Embracing seasonal ingredients not only enhances the flavours in your meals but also ensures you’re getting the most nutrients from your food. Why not get creative and think about how you can eat more seasonally this winter to get the most out of your diet for both your health and the environment.
Ready to learn more? Check out Nutrition Coaching available at Virgin Active.
- Managa, M. G., Tinyani, P. P., Senyolo, G. M., Soundy, P., Sultanbawa, Y., & Sivakumar, D. (2018). Impact of transportation, storage, and retail shelf conditions on lettuce quality and phytonutrients losses in the supply chain. Food science & nutrition, 6(6), 1527-1536.