The Impact of Seasons on What We Eat

Fruits in SeasonWe’re finally beginning to see signs of spring with the return of rain and increased sunlight. As we transition to much warmer weather, there are a variety of interesting activities to look forward to like spending more time outdoors, saying hello to longer days and enjoying the fresh produce that’s available this season. As the seasons change, so do the foods that are available. With the arrival of spring, we’re presented with an opportunity to enjoy fruits and vegetables like Rhubarb, Asparagus, Kiwi, Beets, Strawberry, and Cherry. You can take a more detailed look at what else is in season in Ontario here. Additionally, there are many economic, environmental and health benefits that can be derived from eating foods that are produced in their respective seasons. In this post, we’ll explore how the seasons – with a little emphasis on spring – change the foods we make and eat.

One of the realities for us with foods today is that we have near unlimited access to a lot of fruits and vegetables no matter what season it is, including the ones that aren’t harvested in their respective season. This can happen for several reasons, like our need for convenience, impatience, and a high consumer culture. In spite of how we feel about these reasons, we can still make efforts to stay in season when it comes to the foods we eat and make. By doing this, we’ll begin to develop a more meaningful connection to the food that ends up on our plates. We hope this post inspires you to explore the true meaning of seasonal eating and see it as something that is greater than the average food trend or fad.

How’s What We Eat Affected?

We mentioned earlier how each season has an effect on the foods we make and eat. It’s time to take a deeper look. First off, the climate typically dictates the dishes we make. This may also be caused by the weather also affecting our mood and how we feel, so it makes sense that it plays a role in determining what we want to eat. For example, in the colder months, we may tend to favor foods like soups, root vegetables, dark leafy greens like Kale, and citrus fruits like Lemons and Grapefruit while in the warmer months, we gravitate towards fruits like Summer Squash, Berries, and Watermelons.

How else are the effects of the seasons manifested in our food choices? The fall/winter season is typically a time when people tend to get sick because the climate is much colder, meaning there’s a much higher vulnerability to getting the flu during this season. With this, we’re prone to heavier, more warmer foods that keep us full and warm us up during those cold months. As we transition into warmer temperatures, our eating habits will change to adapt as well. Additionally, people from different geographical locations are most times conditioned to eat what they eat based on the weather they are predominantly known for. On top of this, we tend to crave different flavors based on what the season is. It’s crazy to think that nature has a way of balancing the environment and taking care of us by providing us with food. The variety that is available to us in all four seasons is truly amazing!

What Benefits Can Be Derived?

When it comes down to it, there are numerous benefits that can be derived from the foods that are available during each season (fall, winter, spring and summer). Each season offers up a variety of tasty produce, and presents a great opportunity to include seasonal fruits and vegetables into our recipes. One great benefit that can be gained from eating seasonal foods is that the in-season foods are typically fresher and tastier, which means they’ll much likely taste better than they would if you had off-season. Think about it, when foods that have been harvested at the right time are consumed, you’re gaining more nutritional value from those foods. If we get into the habit of eating foods harvested in their respective seasons, we’ll begin to reduce our dependency on foods that have traveled overseas to get to us because there aren’t any guarantees about the kinds of sprays and chemicals that may have been used to get them to specific destinations. The practice of reducing the mileage of food travel really highlights the environmental benefits of seasonal eating – there are several factors at play here and each one has the potential to be influenced positively (i.e. reducing transportation of food from overseas might reduce fuel use which reduces environmental impact and pollution).

An added benefit of eating what’s in season is support for the foods that come out of our local communities. If you buy locally at a Farmer’s Market, you’re not only supporting local farmers, you’re also playing a role in building up the local economy. If we’re able to reduce dependency on shipped foods, we won’t have to pay high costs for fruits and vegetables, we’re also going to be supporting farmers that are more in tune with the foods that they produce which in turn increases the level of trust that consumers have with what they eat.

The Big Picture

It’s really important to point out that eating seasonally isn’t something that happens overnight, it’s a practice that’s going to take a bit of time to get used to and effort to stay consistent with it. We realize that everyone is different and it’s not always possible to buy local or eat seasonally all of the time. Looking at the big picture though, there’s value in deeply examining your current eating and food shopping habits, and finding ways that you can improve those habits wherever there’s an opportunity to do so. For instance, you don’t have to deprive yourself of certain fruits or vegetables under the guise of seasonal eating, however, taking little steps to be educated on the purpose and benefits of seasonal eating can be a great starting point.

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