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Healthy Eating According to the Seasons

Fruits and vegetables are tastier, more nutritious, healthier, and more cost-efficient when in season. Seasonal produce is harvested locally and does not need to be preserved for long-distance transportation. When fruits and vegetables have to travel far to get to their destination, they lose freshness, nutritional value, and flavor. In many cases, fresh produce is harvested in an immature state to reduce mechanical damage during harvest and transportation to allow time for ripening. Fruits and vegetables have a high water content, at about 70-90 percent. Once harvested, they start losing this moisture, along with their nutrients. Therefore, they must be stored in optimal conditions to preserve quality and avoid spoilage.

You may have noticed the difference in quality of out-of-season produce yourself, even without realizing it. When purchasing watermelon or tomatoes in the winter, you might have noticed that they were duller-looking and tasted blander than when you had gotten them in the summer, when they were more brightly-colored and sweeter. If you like dragon fruit, then you know it can be quite expensive. One fruit can easily cost you around ten dollars. This is because this exotic fruit is not grown in North America; it is found in Asia, Mexico, and parts of South America. It must travel far to get to your local supermarket, which is a long and costly process.

Butternut squash is a low-calorie fruit that is also a good source of potassium and fiber. It is packed with beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body and helps reduce the rate of memory loss in older adults, reduce chronic inflammation, and possibly lower the risk of type II diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and cancer. Butternut squash is in season in the fall and winter. It has a long shelf life and can be kept in the pantry for up to 3 months. It makes a very tasty soup to warm one up during long cold winter days.

You can purchase seasonal produce at your local supermarket or help support local farms by purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables at the farmers market (see what’s in season now).

While fresh fruits and vegetables purchased in season are superior in quality to other types of processed produce, they do require extra time and knowledge to prepare for consumption. If, for whatever reason, eating adequate amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables is challenging, then consuming other types of processed produce is recommended, including those that are frozen, canned, pickled, fermented, and dehydrated. Although the action of processing fresh produce may change its color, flavor, texture and nutritional quality, it can also provide differing nutritional benefits. For example, pickled and fermented foods are a great source of probiotics, which can help you keep your gut and immune system healthy and even promote weight loss.

Fruits and vegetables are a good source of water and fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals that help fuel your body and maintain its function at its best. Fresh produce is always best. But if it's not feasible, then consuming any aforementioned processed-type of fruit and vegetable is better than not eating any at all.

Fill half of your plate with naturally low-calorie vegetables to help you achieve your weight goals and stay healthy!

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