By Sherrie Miller
Often, I see on social media, people saying, “Hey supermarkets! Stop selling overseas fruit and veg. Support our farmers and stock Australian grown only!” What they don’t realise is, if you require asparagus in winter, you won’t find an Australian-grown product. It’s not in season.
For whatever reason, supermarkets are clearly responding to a demand for certain produce to be available all year round, so they import it when the Australian season ends. As consumers, we shouldn’t be demanding produce all year round, as it doesn’t benefit us. If you see fruit or vegetables from the USA, or Peru or Mexico – it’s because it’s no longer in season here in Australia. So just don’t buy it.
What are the benefits of eating seasonally?
Freshness and Flavour
Eating something fresh, crisp and full of flavour is a much more enjoyable experience than eating something that is bland and lacks texture. When something is fresh, we notice how delicious it is, leaving us wanting more. If we eat something that has travelled many miles to get to us or kept in a storage facility for months, it just wont taste the same and puts us off wanting to eat it again. Eating something picked straight off a tree or straight out of the garden bed wins in freshness and flavour, hands down.
As soon as produce is picked from its plant, the nutrients within that food immediately begin to break down. All fruit and vegetables obtain their nutrients from the soil that the plant is grown in. The richer and more nutrient-dense the soil, the more nutrient-dense the produce. Hence when growing our own food, it’s always advisable to first prepare and feed the soil to produce the best yielding crop.
Eating fruit and vegetables that have travelled long distances and stored for weeks or months before hitting our supermarket shelves, are losing their nutrients daily. Heat, light and oxygen also contribute to the destruction of nutrients. Spinach for instance loses two-thirds of its vitamin C within a week of harvest. In many cases, fruits and vegetables are picked when not ripe in order to survive transportation; therefore the nutrient profile hasn’t reached its full potential as it would at the plant ripening stage. We eat fruit and vegetables for their nutrition, to enhance our health, and you won’t reap those nutrition rewards when they have spent weeks and months getting from farm to table.
To get the most out of your fruit and vegetables nutritionally, the best option is to buy locally grown, direct from the farmers. And it helps the farmers financially by taking out the middle-man – the big chain supermarkets. We are so fortunate to live here on the Mornington Peninsula to source locally-grown produce through farm gate sales or local farmers markets.
Varied Diet for Varied Gut Bacteria
Eating seasonally and rotating your fresh produce benefits the microbiome in your gut. Fibre in our fruit and vegetables assist in feeding and strengthening our good gut bacteria, and our gut bacteria may also change as the seasons do. Some bacteria will thrive on raw vegetables that we tend to eat more in summer, whereas in winter certain strains of gut bacteria may benefit from starchy root vegetables.
A healthy gut influences a healthy immune system and a healthy mind. A healthy gut ultimately ensures that all nutrients from our food get to where they need to go within the body for overall optimal wellbeing.
When fruit and vegetables are in season, the abundant supply usually drives the price down. Imported produce will come at a higher price. Supermarket buying power may influence cost compared to local farmer prices, but across the board, seasonal produce is more cost effective than non-seasonal.
Mother Nature Just Knows
Our body requires different nutrients throughout the seasons and Mother Nature knows it. A proper balance of nutrients all year round is of course necessary for health, but our bodies crave or require various nutrients as we live through the seasons. We tend to desire root vegetables, warming casseroles or a bowl of hot porridge in winter, rather than chugging down a cold green smoothie on a 6-degree morning.
Conversely, we enjoy the cooling elements of cucumber or watermelon during the hot summer months.
We know winter to be the season of colds and flu and Vitamin C is an essential nutrient to fight virus infections. Mother Nature provides us with seasonal winter citrus fruits, rich in Vitamin C, because we need to ramp up our intake to fight infections.
In summer, being a lot more active and spending more time out in the sun, we lose water and electrolytes such as potassium, sodium, calcium and magnesium, through sweating. We need to replenish out water and electrolyte loss and summer fruits that include berries, mangoes, cherries, watermelon and bananas, are rich in these electrolytes.
Note: Some seasonal fruits and vegetables are available during other seasons because of greenhouse growing. This may affect their nutritional status during non-season growing. Others will be available later in the spring season, and some will only be available early in spring, coming out of the winter season.
Spring – Fruit
Spring – Vegetables
Sherrie Miller is a qualified Nutritionist with a special interest in gut health. She is passionate about the way in which our digestive health can influence our mental health, skin health and immunity. Sherrie takes the concept of ‘Food is Medicine’ very seriously.
You can find out more on instagram @sherriemillernutrition