ANA BARANDA, Novel Foods researcher
Any visit to the greengrocers (or fruit sections at supermarkets) reveals a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, many of which are not seasonal foods. As a result, not only have we forgotten which are seasonal and which are not, but we have also stopped considering the benefits of eating seasonal foods.
We suggest four reasons to buy and consume seasonal foods
1: Fresher food and therefore higher nutritional value and better taste
Crop transport often involves early chilling to avoid spoilage on the way to market. When they reach destination, it may be necessary to heat them and force them to ripen artificially before reaching the market. This process degrades flavour and changes texture and taste of the products.
Furthermore, some antioxidants such as vitamin C, folate and carotenes decrease quickly when vegetables are stored for a long period of time.
However, when fruits and vegetables are harvested at the right time, as in the case of seasonal foods, they preserve better their nutritional properties, flavour and aromas. This is because they have grown in their most favourable climate and have been able to complete their natural cycle without being forced to be ready for consumption earlier than they should be.
2: They fortify our body’s nutritional needs in every season
The nutrients in seasonal foods are the ones that our organism needs the most at that time. For example, summer foods are rich in carotenes (vitamin A precursors) and have a high water content, as well as various minerals, which is excellent for protecting our skin against sun damage and for hydration, both of which are important during this season.
On the other hand, during the winter, fruit and vegetables are rich in vitamin C and fish during this season contain more vitamin D. This balances out the lack of sun exposure and strengthens our defences during the colder season, when colds are more frequent.
3: They are cheaper
Yes, seasonal food is cheaper. Consuming products out of season means that they have to be imported from far away areas or countries. Travel and storage costs increase the cost of production, which means an extra cost for the final price of the product. However, if we consume seasonal food, most of these costs are reduced or eliminated.
4: They are more sustainable
Eating seasonal products supports local producers, which means lower transport energy for production and storage. The carbon footprint of seasonal products is also lower, as the distances and transport methods used are different from those of out-of-season products.