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Here’s Why Eating Foods That are in Season is Better for Your Health AND Your Wallet

Health experts and chefs alike often say you should eat seasonally, or include foods in your diet that are grown at the same time of the year you eat them.  For example, that means squash in the summer and fall, and artichokes in the spring.  Eating foods that are in season is more than just a trendy food movement, it carries benefits to your health, the planet, and your wallet.  Here are only a few:

1When you buy what’s in season, you buy food that’s at the peak of its supply, and costs less to farmers and distribution companies to harvest and get to your grocery store.

It may seem like common sense, but it’s one of those things many of us ignore when we’re shopping.

2. You get the best tasting, healthiest food available.

The same reasons that keep the cost of seasonal food down also drive its quality up: The food is grown closer to you so it doesn’t spoil on its trip, it’s harvested at the peak of its season (although there’s no real guarantee that it’s picked at the peak of freshness), and sold during its season, before it spoils. Ideally, this means you’re getting fruits and vegetables that haven’t had time to lose their flavor or their health benefits by sitting in a shipping container for a trip across the ocean.
The inverse is true for foods that are out of season. They have to be shipped from around the world to get to you, usually picked before the peak of their flavor in order to survive the long trip (or be allowed to mature while they travel) to your local grocery store. As a result, they’re much more expensive because of the time, the distance, and the sheer number of people involved with getting those food items to you that need to be paid.

3. You end up supporting local & more sustainable farmers

If you buy locally, you’ll have a better chance at getting foods that are seasonal, fresh, and support local farmers and businesses in your community. Shop at a nearby farmer’s market or food co-op, or support a local farm by signing up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project (or other fresh food delivery service.) Many of those farms and businesses also likely offer organic or sustainable options if you’re looking for them.

4. You get a wider variety of foods in your diet

A pleasant side-effect of eating what’s in season is that you get a broader variety of foods in your diet. Those foods can broaden your palate, for one, but they may also expose you to dishes and ingredients you may not have otherwise explored, and while it doesn’t go for every location, it can also help you eat a more well-rounded and balanced diet as well.  Expanding your horizons a little more can open the door to way more delicious food that you can get and prepare cheaply.

TIP: How to tell what’s “In Season” near you.

The Cleveland Clinic has a guide to seasonal eating here that’s worth a read for more information, and if you live in the United States or Canada, this map from Eat Well Guide lets you click on your location to see what’s in season at what times of the year. This chart is a good visual guide, as is The Leon Chart, both of which we’ve shared before. Finally, previously mentionedEat the Seasons is another good reference for all things seasonal, no matter where you live.

Even if you’re at the store and don’t have a list of what is in season at hand, just take a quick glance at the produce section of your grocery store. Pay attention to the way prices are trending. Have you noticed that berries, peaches, nectarines, and other stonefruit get really expensive at the end of fall? Or that the ones that are available just don’t look as good as the ones during the spring? That’s a good indicator. Also, if you notice there’s an abundance of something specific, and they’re on sale (like potatoes in fall, for example,) that’s another good indicator.

Finally, don’t go overboard.

Still, like any food movement, don’t go overboard with it. If you can get apples year round and you love apples, enjoy them. If you doctor suggests you get more leafy greens in your diet and kale or collards are out of season but in stock at the store, don’t turn them down just to say you’re “eating seasonally.” That’s silly. Just be mindful that you’ll spend more in the process and there may be a seasonal or local alternative that’s just as good, and good for you.

Article by Rachel with contributions from lifehacker.com

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