We hear so much about how the secret to staying young is to eat fresh fruit and vegetables, but is there a difference between seasonal produce and produce that is available all year round?
This question got me thinking – how fresh is the apple really when I buy from the local super market? Do I know where it was grown or when it was picked? How long has it been sitting in cold storage or on the shelves? Today as consumers we are so used to seeing a wide variety of fresh produce available in the supermarket all year round. Fruit is being picked early, before it is ripe so that it doesn’t bruise easily when transported. Is the nutritional value really preserved or just the appearance of the fruit?
Nutrition experts have been advocating forever that buying local and seasonal is the best option. And their voices are growing louder once again.
These experts say that only when you buy in season and local, can you know where the food has come from. You can also find out from your local farmer how it has been produced. But that is by far not all. Research points towards the fact that fresh fruits and vegetables are richest in natural goodness when it is in season. Here are a few reasons for this:
· When fruits need to be shipped to far off destinations, they need to be picked early so they don’t rot while being transported. This is not the case with local seasonal fruits. They are left to sun ripen on the tree or vine which allows them to mature fully while still gaining nutrition from their roots.
· When fruit or vegetables are grown and sold locally, they get onto your table much quicker. No long shipments via boat, plane, or truck, and this means that what you eat is much fresher and hasn’t lost most of its goodness already.
· The nutritional value of some foods is much higher in one season than in others. Professor Igarashi showed cases, in which the vitamin C content of spinach was three times higher in summer than in winter. Similarly, Precision Nutrition found that out of season broccoli had only half the level of vitamin C that broccoli grown in season had.
· Seasonal ripe fruit is simply delicious! Have you ever eaten a ripe apple or a banana fresh from a tree? Yumm. They taste so different, so full of flavor and much richer than the fruits that have been logged around and refrigerated for weeks.
· And don’t forget, food that is in season and local also tends to cost less than others.
You might think that this all sounds great … but … can eating seasonally actually help you attain better health and look younger? You bet! And it doesn’t take too much to make the connection between nutritional value, health and staying young either.
Our bodies (and minds) are craving vitamins, minerals, enzymes, … nutrients in many different forms. Just look at phytonutrients like carotenoids, flavonoids, resveratrol, and phytoestrogens. They belong to the most powerful anti-aging antioxidants that help you to stay young, healthy and beautiful.
And when you buy fruits and vegetables in season and locally, just at the point when they are ripe, they have the highest nutrient density. Shiva Ram Bhandari and his colleagues showed that only harvesting at the right time, not too early and not too late, ensures the highest value of phytonutrients.
So, make sure that you buy your fruits and vegetables at the perfectly ripe stage, ideally you can pick them yourself and if that’s not an option, a farmer’s market is a great choice too. Your health and beauty will thank you.
 Igarashi O. The Significance of the Issuance of the 5th Revision of the Japanese Standard Tables of Food Components on Study and Research on Vitamins and Diseases. 36th Vitamin Information Center Press Seminar. Tokyo, Japan. 2001.