Savor the flavors of summer - Why we should eat seasonally…and locally
Did you know that summer is the best time of year to start eating seasonally? This means eating fresh produce (vegetables, fruits or herbs) that is harvested during the same season you consume it. Out of season produce is often shipped from farther away, more expensive and can be processed in order to extend shelf life. When you eat with the seasons, you receive many benefits, such as:
- Higher Nutrient Content: When you consume a food that is closer to its harvesting date, it is higher in nutritional value, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Produce that is stored for long periods of time tends to be lower in phytonutrient content.
- More Affordable: The prices are usually lower due to farmers having an abundance of freshly harvested items. Eating local means the food does not have to be shipped across the country and in turn decreases total food cost.
- Enhanced flavor: We all love a perfectly ripe fruit that tastes like it was picked just yesterday. The texture will be crisper and often juicier than in the off season. This would be a perfect time for those who are picky eaters to try a new fruit or vegetable!
Here are a few places to find local and seasonal foods:
- Grow your own: If you live in an area that allows you to grow your own food, go for it! It is a great way to eat fresh fruits and vegetables on a budget. If you have children, get them involved in the gardening process and they may be more likely to try the items they grow!
- Local Farmers Markets: More of these are opening each year. They are “the next best thing” to growing your own. Not only will you get fresh, naturally ripened produce, you will also be helping your local farmers and overall economy in your town. It is also a great way to learn more about what grows in your area, and those who are growing it because knowing where your food comes from should be important to each of us. Also, most farmers markets now accept EBT cards. Find a farmers market near you.
- Food Co-Ops: These are grocery store-style markets that purchase high quality produce directly from local farmers. They have similar hours to a regular grocery store unlike weekly farmers markets and even provide food education handouts and classes to their shoppers. They typically sell local, natural and organic produce as well as local dairy products and meats from family-owned farms. Find a co-op near you.
It is important to mention that eating locally might not be possible for everyone. If you shop at large supermarkets you can still make smart choices by choosing in season produce and by asking questions about where the produce is grown.
Vanessa Heatwole is a registered dietitian nutritionist at Sentara RMH Medical Center working with outpatients by appointment. Her passions include helping patients meet their weight loss goals, empowering those with eating disorders and teaching how to control diabetes with diet.