News | Published March 15, 2018 | Written by Danielle Michael, MS, RD, LDN

Five benefits of eating seasonal produce

Danielle Michael, MS, RD, LDN, Mount Nittany Medical Center

There’s something comforting about eating an apple in the fall, or a juicy orange in the winter. Nothing is better (or more economical) than walking out to the garden and picking the ingredients for your next meal. Recall the crisp, sweet taste of corn on the cob that you get at a roadside stand in mid-August; sometimes you don’t even need condiments because it’s so fresh. The wholesome, taste and nutrient richness of this treat are at their peak, because the corn is picked right from the stalk as a seasonal, late-summer vegetable.

Seasonal eating may seem like a recent trend, but it was the norm for generations, long before big grocery stores and farming advances. In today’s market, it’s normal to see the same produce available 365 days of the year. However, it does not mean that the produce quality is the same throughout the seasons. Here are four benefits of eating seasonal produce:

  1. Richer flavor – Produce that is picked when it’s fully ripened tastes amazing. If your produce is coming from across the US or another country, it is picked before it’s ripe. As it travels to your local grocery store, it ripens in a cardboard box, often after being sprayed by chemicals to prevent it from ripening too quickly.
  2. Better nutrition – When produce is picked before it’s ripe, the nutrients do not fully develop in the flesh of the fruit. Plants need the sun to grow, and picking them before they are ripe cuts off the nutrient availability. Genetic modification is also sometimes used, which can alter how the crop was naturally supposed to be consumed. Also, if you eat seasonally, you are guaranteed to consume a variety of produce, which will assist you in eating a balanced diet.
  3. Cost efficient – Supply and demand simply explains how buying produce seasonally saves money. Produce in season is more abundant, so it is less per pound in the store. If you are buying produce that is out of season, there is travel, time and added expenses to grow it in a greenhouse.
  4. Environmentally friendly – As we truck in produce from other areas, it requires gas to get the produce to the store. This fuel charge is something often added to price of the food upon delivery, not to mention what this does to the carbon footprint.
  5. Community benefit – Buying your produce from local farmer’s markets and Community Supported Agricultures (CSA) is a great way to build community, but also allows you to feel more connected to where your food is coming from and who is growing it.

Luckily, eating seasonally does not have to be a 100 percent commitment. Choosing even one seasonal item will improve your nutrient intake, save you money and help to save the planet!