Mother Nature knows what your body needs. Each season, the Earth produces a different set of produce specific to your geographic location. Of course, with the advent of harvesting year-round and the ability to ship virtually anywhere in the world, you can get just about any type of produce you want, anytime you want, in your local grocery store.
Instead of letting convenience and constant availability dictate what’s on your plate, consider the benefits of eating seasonally. Here are three reasons you might want to consider buying your fruits and vegetables when they are in season:
1. More Nutrients
From the moment produce is picked from the earth, its nutrient value starts to diminish. When fruits and vegetables are available outside of their season, it typically means they are grown in non-optimal weather conditions or shipped from other locations, taking longer to get from the farm to your plate. While there are methods for preserving shelf-life of produce (e.g., refrigerating, canning, and freezing), it is optimal to source your produce in season and locally to reap their full health benefits.
2. More Flavor
When fruits and vegetables are in season, they tend to taste better. Just picture biting into a juicy strawberry or tomato in season that is filled with flavor compared to a flavorless and bitter one that is grown out of season. It is no mystery why so many restaurants now-a-days are switching their menus each season to highlight seasonal ingredients.
3. More Affordability
When produce is in season, there is usually more supply available, which typically decreases demand and prices. Notice that when fruits and vegetables are not in season, your local grocery store will still carry them, but at a higher cost. There is a big difference when a pint of strawberries costs $8 instead of $3.50.
If you are wondering how to find out what produce is in season, visit your local farmers’ market or look at the Sustainable Table online guide. Now that spring is here, Mother Earth has provided lots of cleansing foods and ingredients for you to enjoy. Here are the top 10 picks for spring produce:
Artichokes are rich in antioxidants and have been shown to have cholesterol-reducing effects. Consider adding baby artichoke hearts to your salad or slicing an artichoke in half, then boiling it in water before placing it on the grill.
Arugula is a wonderful green lettuce packed with antioxidants. As a cruciferous vegetable, it can also help to inhibit the development of certain cancers. It brings a bold flavor with hints of pepper and acidity to salads and makes a delicious alternative to other (more neutral) lettuce options. Arugula can be used when making a pesto or as a nice side with eggs.
Asparagus helps the body get rid of excess waste and toxins, acting as a natural diuretic. Since it contains inulin, which is a natural prebiotic fiber, it is helpful for digestion. This fresh spring vegetable is delicious when chopped up in salads or as a roasted side vegetable. Combine with some lemon zest or lemon juice for a delightful flavor duo.
Avocados are primarily praised for their ability to support memory, promote normal blood pressure, help to control oxidative/inflammatory stress, and improve skin health. Along with a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, avocados also provide generous amounts of fiber. An unusual way to use avocado is to add it to your smoothie, making a nice filling breakfast and with a delicious creamy texture. Other ways to incorporate avocado are in your salad, with a breakfast scramble, as a garnish for soup, in a guacamole dip, or with some lemon juice and sea salt for a simple snack.
Beets (also known as beetroot) are loaded with cancer-fighting antioxidants and contain plenty of fiber as well. In addition, they contain many key vitamins and minerals, including:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
Beets are a beautiful addition to any salad, and can also be used to sweeten a fresh juice or smoothie. Don’t forget to use the beet greens – the top of the beets – which are also filled with nutrients and can be used as part of a vegetable sauté or in a smoothie. You can also thinly slice them to make beet chips.
Just one cup of cauliflower provides 86 percent of your daily vitamin C needs. As a cruciferous vegetable, it also has cancer-fighting properties. Cauliflower is one of the most versatile vegetables. It can be used for roasting or in different soups, to replace mashed potatoes, or formed into a pizza crust.
Kale is a nutrition superstar. Its dark green/purple leaves host an abundance of antioxidant nutrients, including vitamin K, vitamin C, and vitamin E. It is also a cousin of cauliflower as a cruciferous vegetable with cancer-fighting nutrients. From kale chips to kale salads, or even adding kale to your smoothies, there are many ways to incorporate this vegetable into your diet.
In Ayurveda, lemons are commonly used to help with proper digestion and for liver detoxification. Starting your day with a cup of warm water with the juice of half a lemon helps to alkalize and detoxify your body. Lemon juice is also an excellent source of vitamin C to support your immune system. You can add lemon slices to your water throughout the day, use lemon juice when making hummus or pesto, and squeeze some lemon over fish and vegetables for added flavor.
Spinach is another nutrition powerhouse that contains plenty of fiber, iron, vitamin A, and vitamin K. The dark green spinach leaves contain phytonutrients that help fight disease. While spinach is most commonly used for salads, other uses include adding spinach to your smoothie, using it in a sauté, as a stir-fry vegetable, in a breakfast omelet, or mixing with beans and grains.
Strawberries are a low-glycemic fruit that contains vitamin C, fiber, and manganese. They are a great fruit to use in salads with a combination of fresh mint and chopped pecans. Frozen strawberries also make for a great addition to a breakfast smoothie. For a healthy dessert, try strawberries dipped in dark chocolate or melted Enjoy Life chocolate chips for a dairy-free dessert.
Eating seasonally will help to create more variety in the types of fruits and vegetables that you consume. It’s time to enjoy all of the wonderful spring produce and the many different ways that you can use these ingredients in your weekly meal selections. Bon appétit!
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.