Instinctively, we crave refreshing glasses of iced tea in the thick of summer and platters full of hot mac and cheese in the winter. But one of the best ways to stay healthy as the seasons change is to embrace the variety of fruits and veggies that are available to us during specific times of the year.
Seasonal produce generally requires fewer pesticides and is less likely to be genetically modified since produce is picked when it’s fully grown and ripe. More sun exposure equals more antioxidants — nutrients that can prevent or delay cell damage. By eating what’s in season, not only will you be consuming more nutrients, but because these foods are abundant, it’s also much cheaper for the farmers to produce and prices go down.
Read on as we get season-savvy and share some of our favorite produce to eat and when to eat it!
The cooler temperatures bring a variety of produce that’s ready for harvest. Apples, root vegetables and pumpkins create the base of our fall meals.
- Not only are apples full of antioxidants, but they also can help regulate blood sugar levels.
- Carrots, a root vegetable, are high in beta carotene, which can slow down cell aging. Studies also show that carotenoids, abundant in carrots, are associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
- When it comes to pumpkins, do you think of fiber? It’s also a low-calorie source of vitamin A, which promotes eye health.
While it’s totally acceptable to indulge in the occasional winter treat, keep it healthy by enjoying winter produce such as pomegranates, sweet potatoes and Brussel sprouts.
- Pomegranates are cholesterol-free, sodium-free and rich in fiber. Their folate helps normalize cholesterol levels and also may reduce the risk of stroke.
- While your memories of sweet potatoes may involve brown sugar and piles of melted marshmallow, sweet potatoes themselves can help regulate blood pressure. With about 950 milligrams of potassium per cup (with the skin), sweet potatoes contain twice the potassium as a medium banana. They are also an anti-inflammatory and can reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
- In just a ½ cup of Brussel sprouts, you’ll get 137 percent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin K. People with high levels of vitamin K are more likely to have improved bone density.
Along with picking flowers, there are various produce options that are also ready for picking in the spring. Beets, asparagus and cherries are abundant during this time of year.
- Beets are rich in nitrates. When converted to nitric oxide in the body, your blood vessels relax and dilate, creating nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood. The result? Improved blood pressure.
- High levels of asparagine (an amino acid) found in asparagus makes this seasonal food a natural diuretic. Consuming asparagus can help remove excess fluid and salt from your body, preventing urinary tract infections.
- Along with high levels of antioxidants, cherries protect against the cellular inflammation caused by exercise. They help support muscle recovery, reducing workout soreness.
Summer meals are full of fruit salads, veggie salads and other cooling foods. It only makes sense that tomatoes, corn and peaches are abundant during these warmer months.
- Large amounts of lycopene, an antioxidant found in tomatoes, is known for fighting off cancer-causing free radicals. It also protects against breast cancer, cervical cancer and others.
- Did you know corn can help maintain nerve health and cognitive function? This is because of its high amounts of thiamin and niacin. It’s also a good source of pantothenic acid, a vitamin that’s essential for the body’s metabolism.
- Peaches have been known to help reduce the risk of Type 1 diabetes, reflecting a significant decrease in blood sugar levels because of their high fiber content.