The Health Benefits of Eating in Season

Our local farmer’s market opens today and will be open every Wednesday through October. I enjoy browsing the market when I can to purchase fresh produce as well as cheese, fish, eggs, and wine! What I like most about shopping at a farmer’s market is seasonal fruits and vegetables that are produced on local farms. They often are fresher, tastier, and more nutritious than food consumed out of season or at a commercial grocery store. Studies have shown that fruits and vegetables contain more nutrients when allowed to ripen naturally on their parent plant. Nutrient content changes in foods depending on which seasons they were produced in. Local food also benefits the environment and supports the local economy.

Other benefits of eating what’s in season is it supports your body’s natural nutritional needs. In winter, nature provides an abundance of  citrus fruits, which are high in Vitamin C and important for preventing infections such as colds and the flu. Winter vegetables offer comfort and are perfect for hot meals, healthy stews, soups, casseroles, and other warm meals. Summer foods such as stone fruits, provide us with extra beta-carotenes and other carotenoids that help protect us against sun damage. They also have natural sugar that provide extra energy for increased outdoor activities. And seasonal summer vegetables are perfect for cool salads when it is too hot to cook.

How do you choose seasonal produce? It depends on where you live. MyPlate, MyState is a great resource to learn the foods grown in your region. For instance, in Massachusetts, the following fruits and vegetables are locally grown and produced:

Fruits: Apples, Apricots, Blackberries, Blueberries (tame and wild), Cantaloupes and Muskmelons, Cherries (sweet and tart), Cranberries, Currants, Grapes, Honeydew Melons, Nectarines, Peaches, Pears, Persimmons, Plums and Prunes, Raspberries, Rhubarb, Strawberries, Watermelon

Vegetables: Asparagus, Beans (green lima and snap), Beets, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage (Chinese and head), Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chicory, Collards, Cucumbers and Pickles, Eggplant, Garlic, Kale, Lettuce (head, leaf, and Romaine), Mushrooms, Mustard Greens, Okra, Onions (dry and green), Parsley, Peas (Chinese and green), Peppers, Potatoes, Pumpkins, Radishes, Spinach, Squash (summer and winter), Sweet Corn, Sweet Potatoes, Tomatoes,  Turnip Greens, Turnips

Choosing seasonal foods, even if you did not grow them yourself, helps you reconnect with nature’s natural cadences. So, enjoy your summer peaches and corn while you can before it’s time for fall soup weather.

Quote of the week:

Shop where you live to support your local businesses.

Recipe of the Week: One Pot Farmer’s Market Pasta

This is an easy, quick meal that will feed the whole family. You can add a variety of different veggies for this dish, whatever you have on hand and/or in season. You can also add carrots, zucchini, and cauliflower to super-size the vegetables. 

Ingredients:

12 oz spaghetti (I use Barilla Protein Pasta or Whole Wheat Pasta)

1 medium red onion, peeled, halved, and sliced

1 small Japanese eggplant, halved lengthwise and sliced

5-6 stalks asparagus, cut in 2-inch pieces

a handful of broccoli florets, cut in half

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (some for the pot, then the rest for after the dish is cooked).

1 colorful bell pepper, chopped

2 cloves garlic peeled and minced

2 handfuls baby greens (I used baby kale or fresh spinach)

1 tsp salt and fresh cracked pepper

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 cup dry white wine (or vegetable/chicken stock)

3 1/2 cups water

1 Tbsp white wine or sherry vinegar

1 cup shredded hard Italian cheese

Shredded fresh basil (for garnish)

Put everything in a large pot except the cheese and fresh basil. Add the wine and water (measure exactly since you will not drain the pasta) to the pot and bring to a boil. If your pasta doesn’t fit completely into the pot, nudge it down into the water as it softens. Cover the pot while it comes to a boil then uncover and boil for about 7-9 minutes, until the pasta is just al dente. Watch the pan to make sure the pasta doesn’t stick. Do not over cook the pasta. There will still be some water left in the pan.

Toss the pasta with the cheese, and serve with the extra tomatoes and fresh basil.

Published by

Leslie Ouellette

Listening and learning about nutrition, exercise, and health-related issues has been a life-long passion turned into action. I am most passionate about my family, friends, and good health. I am a business professional with over 30 years of expertise in marketing, market research, communications, writing, and editing. @balancedhealthblog

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