I love the change of season. Its revitalizing seeing the weather patterns shift and trees change colour, little signs to let us know that a new cycle is ready to begin. What most excites me though, is the availability of a whole new batch of beautiful seasonal produce. Time to experiment with different foods and flavours or rehash old favourite recipes that were enjoyed this time last year.
Synchronising your diet with the seasons is certainly not a new concept. It was a necessity for our ancestors who obtained most of their food from the land -hunting, foraging, farming and preserving. In these technologically advanced, busy times things are a little different. Our food supply reflects these changes; food has been engineered for efficiency and convenience, rather than entrusted to nature and the seasons.
There are many benefits to eating a diet based on seasonal availability. Here are the top reasons why I prefer to eat this way:
- Taste: It’s pretty hard to argue with this point. Foods that are grown and picked when they naturally should be are fresher and contain just the right balance of flavour producing chemicals and nutrients to taste absolutely delicious. You have probably experienced this first hand… a juicy mango or slice of crisp watermelon always tastes better in summer than the other seasons. A fresh juice made from naval oranges or mandarins in winter are sweet, juicy and bursting with antioxidants.
- Nutrient content: foods that are available out of season have generally been stored for long periods or shipped from halfway around the world to ensure a steady supply year round. Certain nutrients like vitamin C and cell-protecting phyto-chemicals are particularly susceptible to losses from prolonged storage and transportation. All fruits and vegetables start to lose nutrients immediately after they are harvested, so the best produce is the freshest. This is why I love shopping at market gardens or at my local greengrocers – they let me know what are the best foods in season and where they come from.
- Diversity: We are encouraged to eat a variety of foods to provide our bodies with the full spectrum of essential nutrients needed for health and vitality. Most of us also enjoy a change every now and then. Personally I love nourishing my body with warm foods when the weather gets a little colder, making delicious soups or broths enriched with minerals and anti-inflammatory nutrients. It’s also the best time to enjoy fresh made juices from raw fruits and vegetables that are bursting with vitality and goodness.
- Price: Seasonal produce tends to be more abundant and come from local sources. This means reduced production, distribution and storage costs that generally get passed on to the consumer. Healthy cooking and eating doesn’t mean you have to spend lots of money buying food – it just comes down to a little planning and making the effort to fit it into your busy lifestyle.
- Environment: food miles are a major issue impacting the sustainability of our food supply. Take a moment to consider the time, labour, resources and energy put into producing a food that is then flown around the world to totally different country. Food wastage is another huge concern. Last season in Australia, peach growers had to dispose of thousands of plump, ripe peaches and bull doze down their trees. What a waste of perfectly good produce due to the fact that canneries had reduced their supply quota and supermarkets had enough imported products already lining the shelves. Their peaches had nowhere to go.
- Culture: I love nothing more than rising early every few weeks and wandering the aisles of my local farmers markets. It is the perfect way to stay in touch with what is in season and build relationships with the amazing people producing my food. The community atmosphere at the markets is electric, local producers being supported by people who share their love of fresh, seasonal produce. For me, the farmers markets truly encompass seasonal eating and the paddock to plate philosophy.
It’s important to know where you’re food has come from and treat it with the love and respect it deserves. This doesn’t always mean it needs to be organic, but rather ethically produced, honest and clean. I like to know that someone has cared for and nurtured my food, allowing it to grow naturally so that I can enjoy a lovely meal that will nourish the body and promote health and wellbeing. This is important for everyone, developing a food conscience and paying attention to the hard work that has been put in to produce clean food.
Six steps to eating seasonally:
- Change Habits: Eating healthily and seasonally comes down to changing habits. Take small steps and choose one new habit each week to implement into your daily life. Once the new habit is ingrained, the new behaviour pattern becomes easy and automatic.
- Have a plan: Strategic planning is crucial if you want to succeed. I love to plan out my meals at the beginning of the week. Knowing pretty much what you’ll be eating at least four - five days in the week is a good start.
- Don’t’ make it complicated: The oft-delivered excuse for people not cooking is that they don’t have the time, but the best recipes are often the easiest to make. Try out a new ingredient or a recipe each week to add to your repertoire and stay away pre prepared food than is often high in sodium, sugar and trans fats. Take a few hours on the weekend to plan out your meals according to what is in season and create a shopping list based around it.
- Buy Fresh: Check out your local farmers market or support your local green grocer. I find getting there early is better to avoid the hustle and bustle. Strike up a conversation and get to know the people behind your food. They have a great knowledge of seasonality and I always get inspired to create new and interesting recipes.
- Shop Smart: Suss out local food co-ops or produce delivery services with an emphasis on local foods. They are out there and growing with popularity each day! Alternatively, you can grow your own produce. This gives you complete control while you witness the cycles of nature firsthand. Plant some balcony herbs, backyard vegies or our join your local community garden.
- Eat Smart: To control what you eat and drink every day and to be able to get out of bed and exercise regularly, as well as getting enough sleep, are the key ingredients if you want to be healthy. Think about what you put into your mouth every time you eat and drink. Is what you’re consuming making a positive or negative difference to your body?
The doctor of the future will give no medication, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.