Fruits and vegetables are available to us year-round, but did you know that each season has its own unique list of fruits and veggies? Well, it’s true! Eating fresh fruits and vegetables when they are in season is more flavorful and nutritious because the fruits and vegetables are not processed or preserved. Fruits and vegetables that are out of season are usually less flavorful because once they have been harvested, they begin to lose their nutritional value.
CitySpidey talked to Nisha Bajaj, a nutritionist and health coach from Dwarka and she said, “The vitamin C content in fresh fruits and veggies is higher than those out of season which can reduce the risk of infections caused by the preservatives used in canned and processed food. Fresh fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants which can be used to prevent diseases.”
She added, “Eating seasonally ensures that we are properly nourished throughout the year by eating the best that the season offers, perhaps a great time to start experimenting and trying new recipes or remaking those old ones to incorporate more seasonal fruits and vegetables. For that matter, your palate will be impressed but there are health benefits too.
The more we know about carbs, protein, and fat, the less we seem to know about what's growing around us in season and how it gets cooked in our kitchens.”
What are seasonal foods and why is it important to eat them?
Seasonal food is the produce that is purchased and consumed at the time that it is harvested. We should eat them because they are fresh, tasty, and nutritious compared to the food consumed out of season. For instance, we all like to eat mangoes and strawberries all year round, but the best time to eat them is when they are in season. Seasonal fruits and vegetables produced on local farms tend to be fresher as they aren’t transported over long distances.
Healthiest ways to cook these seasonal foods:
The healthiest way to cook food is steaming. Steaming is, simply, cooking food in an enclosed environment infused with steam. However, there are a variety of ways by which you can steam your food. You can steam food with a covered basket that rests above a pot of boiling water, with bamboo steamers, or convenient electric steamers. Steaming seals the natural taste and flavor of the food. It also eliminates the need for added fats like oil or sweeteners used during preparing the dishes. It helps in retaining the nutrients better than any other cooking method.
The other cooking option which helps preserve the nutrients of the food is baking. Besides bread and desserts, you can also bake seafood, poultry, lean meat, vegetables like potatoes, and even some fruits. For baking, you can place food in a pan or dish, covered or uncovered. In addition, baking generally does not require you to add any fat to the food.
Similar to baking, but generally at higher temperatures, the process of roasting involves using an oven's dry heat to cook the food. You can roast foods on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan. Roasting helps enhance the flavour of food and retain the nutrients as well.
Healthy cooking methods include sautéing as it quickly cooks relatively small or thin pieces of food. You can use just a drop of oil while sautéing or even better, vegetable broth or cooking spray. Sautéing vegetables like mushrooms, peas, carrots, and chicken can make for an amazing and healthy dish.
Seasonal fruits and vegetables are often told to be very nutritious and healthy. It’s always good to eat what’s in the season.
So, let’s explore why eating seasonal fruits and vegetables is good for you:-
In-season produce is fresher and tastes better, sweeter, and perfectly ripe. When fruits and vegetables are picked for consumption that have been naturally ripened on the vine or the tree and harvested at the right time, they will have much more flavor and nutrition. While the crops have to be transported, they are harvested early and refrigerated so they don’t spoil during transportation. Being in cold storage rooms for long can reduce the flavor. When they get to their destination, they may need to be heated in a hothouse to artificially ripen the produce before it goes onto the shelves, this greatly reduces the flavor, changes the texture and the taste. Think of those floury apples, flavorless tomatoes and limp tasteless greens. You may find that the food may be half-rotten inside or overly fibrous such as an out-of-season pineapple.
When farmers are harvesting an abundance of produce due to the crop being in season, the cost of the produce will go down. When the produce is locally sourced because it’s in season in your area, then travelling expenses and storage are not required, therefore reducing the production costs that are then passed onto the consumer. When we buy produce that is out of season, it’s normally sourced from out of area locations that have a different climate and it can also be stored for long periods of time to offer people a variety of produce all year round, these factors will push the price up.
Higher nutritional value
Produce that is purchased in season is more likely to be fresher, consumed closer to harvesting, and higher in nutritional value; some antioxidants such as Vitamin C and carotenes will rapidly decline when stored for a long period of time. Locally in-season sourced fruits and vegetables will also appear brighter and more vibrant. Fruits and vegetables stored for long due to transportation or to be used at a later date reduce phytonutrient content. Large markets and grocers may buy out-of-season produce that has been gassed, irradiated (a burst of radiation to kill germs), and reserved in wax to the extent of the shelf life.
Support your body’s natural nutritional needs
In winters, we are provided by nature with all things citrus, these are particularly high in Vitamin C which is very important for preventing infections such as colds and flu. Winter vegetables offer comfort and are perfect for hot meals, healthy stews, soups, casseroles, and other warming meals. Summer foods such as stone fruits provide us with extra beta-carotenes and other carotenoids that help protect us against sun damage. They also provide more sweetness for an energetic summer as well as salad vegetables for those tasty cool summer salads.
Eating seasonally reduces the demand for out of season produce which further supports more local produce and supports local farming in your area which means less transportation, less refrigeration, fewer hothouse, and less irradiation of produce.
It’s really important to note that it’s not always possible to eat locally and seasonally for everyone at all times. It’s more about the importance of making decisions wherever possible that are better for you, your wallet, and your health.