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#UNLITTERYourDiet: Following Nature's Calendar

By Scarlet Hopper

Growing up, my sister and I were expected to make a family dinner once a week. Those evenings became an adventure. Copious hours were spent searching for recipes that excited us both and once we settled on a dish, we would compile our ingredient lists and head to the store. Walking into the grocery store felt like stepping into a world of possibilities, where rows of fresh produce made our task seemingly easy and quick. However, there were times when our enthusiasm was met with frustration. 

Tomatoes on a stand at the farmer's market

I vividly recall one instance when we purchased tomatoes for a sauce, only to discover they were rock hard when sliced. My mom, who knew more than my sister and I did, would chuckle and remark, "well, of course, it's hard to cut; it's February." Her words confused me. I couldn't understand why the store would stock tomatoes that weren't ready to be enjoyed.

Fast forward to last year, I was enrolled in a class at the University of Washington called Sustainable Society. Towards the end of the quarter, our professor assigned us a final project, and grouped us together to brainstorm our own research question. My group’s project dove into the different produce and their growing seasons in the Pacific Northwest, as well as the multitude of health benefits associated with eating seasonally. The concept was straightforward: eat what naturally grows during that time of year. 

As we researched, I became fascinated by the advantages of this lifestyle. Living in Seattle afforded me the chance to visit various farmers' markets, where local goods, harvested at their peak, were readily available. It was here that I began to appreciate the superior taste and vibrant colors of seasonally grown foods. 

Nutrition – Natural vitamins!

Eating seasonal produce ensures that the levels of antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients are at their peak, allowing us to reap the full benefits straight from nature. For instance, it's healthier to consume fruits and vegetables that have fully ripened on the plant, compared to those picked prematurely to ripen during transport. Educating oneself about seasonal produce can reduce the need for the numerous and diverse supplements that are common in many peoples’ diets. The diverse array of supplements commonly taken can be effectively replaced through education on which seasonal foods provide those essential nutrients.  By rotating your diet to match the seasons, you maximize your intake of essential nutrients. Brussels sprouts, peaking from October to December, are an excellent source of vitamin C, while tomatoes, in season from May to October, offer their own benefits.

A graphic displaying seasonal produce

Sustainability – Help make a difference!

Fresh strawberries in a carton

Embracing a seasonal diet inherently supports the "farm to table" movement, significantly reducing the need for imported goods. This, in turn, cuts down on emissions from transportation. Remarkably, it's estimated that about half of the emissions from road vehicles are due to food transportation. By choosing seasonal, locally-sourced foods, we can collectively make a substantial impact on our environment. Along the lines of sustainability, eating seasonally allows us to reduce our global food waste which is a huge contributor to climate change. In addition, food sourced elsewhere that is being transported into local grocery stores is far more likely to be wasted than food that is in season locally.

Cost – Your wallet will thank you!

Seasonal foods are often more affordable because they are abundant and do not require the extensive transportation and storage that out-of-season produce demands. Crops grow better with good soil and sunlight, making it easier for farmers to produce in large quantities. By aligning our diets with nature's cycles, we not only enjoy fresher, tastier food, but can also save money. It can also feel more fulfilling to fund local farmers who care about what you are consuming.

Green tomatoes at the farmer's market

Reflecting on those childhood evenings spent with my sister, searching through countless recipes only to encounter a hard tomato, I now realize the wisdom in eating with the seasons. It simplifies meal planning, narrows down ingredient choices, and offers the most nutritional benefits. Not to mention, it is fun to switch up the recipes you can make. 

Sliced red and green pepper

Recently, some of my favorite seasonal recipes this summer have been a strawberry rhubarb pie and marinated heirloom tomatoes. Give them a try and tell us if you like them!

Adopting this approach has transformed my perspective on food, allowing me to support local farmers and savor the best that each season has to offer. Making a conscious effort to #UNLITTERyourdiet will make for more appreciation of the fresh, nutritious, and foods and we can mend our relationship with food as it has become industrialized. Food consciousness  allows us to enhance our health, support sustainable practices, and relish the natural flavors of each season. 

Images courtesy of #UNLITTER

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3 Σχόλια

04 Ιουλ

This is such an important topic for the health of our bodies and our planet!! Thanks for highlighting this topic!

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03 Ιουλ

Farmers markets are such a good way to do this!

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03 Ιουλ

Wow! This is such good information.

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