There seems to be a different diet trend coming out every other week. But it's time to go back in time, to the first diet trend that humans ever followed. No, it's not the Paleo diet. It's seasonal eating.
Seasonal eating is key to being happy and healthy at any time of year.
What is Seasonal Eating?
Seasonal eating is about working with the world and nature to source the best foods for your body. It's focusing your diet on what is in season.
We were never meant to eat blueberries by the pound in winter, when they should still be growing. Nor were we supposed to be eating soups full of root vegetables in the heat of summer.
Back before we had hot-houses, fridges and freezers, we had to work with what the earth gave us. That meant that we only really ate what was in season. Some things were preserved, particularly meats. But overall, our diets were focused on what we could pick off the nearest tree or bush, and what animal we could catch.
What is So Powerful about Seasonal Eating?
What makes a seasonal food so good? There are a few ways that they are superior to out-of-season foods.
Everyone loves a greater nutritional bang for their buck! When foods are grown in season, they are naturally more nutrient-dense. This is because everything is ideal for growth and nutrition – the right temperature, the right soil conditions and the right environment.
When a plant is in its ideal environment, it can produce plenty of health-giving vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. This means that you get to benefit from these extra nutrients.
It make sense that if a food has more nutrients in it, it's going to taste better. Have you ever tried a watermelon at the end of summer? They start to become watery and look almost anemic, as the rich lycopene fades.
But if you munch down on watermelon at the height of the summer season, it's an explosion of flavor and juice. Foods were made to taste good, but when they are meant to be consumed.
Have you ever bought an avocado in winter, only to wait for three weeks for it to ripen? It's torture! But it's also a sneaky sign that it's not a natural food to consume at that time of year.
When a food is seasonal, it ripens quickly. This is because the weather conditions are ideal for the food's ripening process. However, it does mean you have to consume it pretty quickly. You definitely don't want to waste a ripe avocado!
The Secret Bonus of Seasonal Eating
There's one major upside to seasonal eating that we can all enjoy. Yes, it bestows plenty of health benefits on us… but it also is far more affordable than the average fad diet. In fact, it may be more affordable than almost any diet out there.
Why is this? When foods are in season, they grow in abundance. Some years, there will even be bumper crops. Have you ever seen a fruit or vegetable drop down to $1-2 per pound, or even less? I can guarantee you that was a seasonal food.
When foods are in season, it becomes more affordable for everyone involved, including the farmer, the seller and you. The farmer has to use fewer resources to grow the plant, as they don't need to force it outside of its natural pattern. The seller can access plenty of the food to pass on to the consumers. Finally, you can buy it at a more affordable price because there is plenty to go around.
How many diet trends can you think of that are ancient, natural AND easy on the hip pocket? You'll find that seasonal eating is unique in this.
How to Know what is in Season
So you know that seasonal eating is the way to go. But you're not a farmer. How could you possibly know what's in season and when? There's a few simple things to consider that can help you decide.
Check the price
As we know, seasonal means more affordable. So if you're walking around your local produce section, have a look at the price differences. If the cost is in the double digits per pound, and it's not an exotic fruit – it's not in season. If a huge bag is only going to cost you a couple of dollars, it probably is.
Shops will also stock cheaper produce at the front of the section on promotion. This is particularly true when it comes to bumper crops that they need to sell before over-ripening.
The one exception to this rule is staple root vegetables, such as carrots and potatoes. The popularity of these vegetables mean that they are always been grown by multiple farmers. That's why you move to the next step of learning what's in season.
Look at farmers markets
Have a weekend free? Head down to your local farmers market. This place is packed full of people who know exactly what's in season. What's more, they will be pricing their produce to sell, so in-season food will be dirt cheap.
Most farmers are more than happy to have a chat about their products, and what's in season. So if you want to find out from an expert, this is your place to start.
Consult a local in-season guide
Don't have time to hit the markets? There's still help for you. Most states and countries will have resources on seasonal foods. Simply jump online, and look up '(your country/state) in season guide', and one should pop right up.
Often, markets and health food stores will also stock a written guide of seasonal produce. All you have to do is ask!
Trust your taste buds
If you're still not 100% sure about a food, it's time to taste-test. Generally, if it's out of season, your tongue will be able to tell you.
If it's naturally sweet, juicy and rich with flavor, it's a winner. If it's more watery than juicy, or the flavor is average, it's probably not. Out-of-season foods may also have a bitter or tangy taste where it doesn't belong.
Although they might be able to make things look the right color and size, they have not mastered making it taste amazing. Trust your instincts – after all, it's all we had before markets and shops existed.
So are you ready to start the most natural diet of your life? Head on over to the produce section, and choose seasonal foods today.