Look, we get it. You’re hungry, you don’t feel like cooking and between studying for finals and trying to actually hang out with other humans, you just can’t find the time to eat healthy food, much less cook a healthy meal. In fact, you probably haven’t touched a vegetable since the beginning of October and by now your middle name just might be Ramen. And what is seasonal eating anyway? Is it a fad diet? A rich soccer mom diet? Something your grandparents did because they had no other choice! No, no and yes!
Before the food industry exploded and we began chartering tomatoes from Mexico to Alberta, people survived on meat, wheat products and whatever vegetables still grew in their gardens, as well as the pickled and canned versions of these foods like pickles and jams. People ate what was accessible based on their surroundings, not always what they wanted.
Seasonal whole foods vs. processed foods
Just because technology has made it possible to eat guacamole in December doesn’t mean it’s good for our bodies. In fact, our bodies may have been revolting against this huge change in our diet for decades in the form of intolerances and allergies. According to the Daily Mail, a study done by Dr. Rob Lilywhite of the University of Warwick has shown that the relative prevalanceof food intolerances in the west could be tied to eating more highly processed foods, rather than to an intolerance of wheat or gluten.
“The evidence seems to suggest the problems stem from the amount of additives used in the processed foods,” he said. “The natural benefits from food starts to disappear.”
While the evidence is still emerging, he suggests that when “you destroy the natural structure, you destroy the natural health benefits in the raw food.”
Six more reasons to eat seasonal
This doesn’t mean that you have to give up chips and guac completely and go crazy on the pickles, but incorporating as many seasonal and fresh foods into your diet as possible now could help you avoid health problems later in life—and help you get the nourishment you need to think properly for that exam tomorrow. Here are 6 reasons to eat seasonally in university.
- You will save money
Believe it or not, eating seasonally isn’t as costly as you might think. Seasonal eating usually equates to local eating, which supports farmland, kindles the local economy and builds community. When food is local, it doesn’t have to be flown in from oversees and is usually picked when ripe. This means the apples you buy at the farmers market or grocery store are easier to harvest and sell than the grapes flown in from California.
It all makes local fruit cheaper by the kilogram. Of course, not all seasonal food will cost less. Go with what’s affordable and more abundant each year. Cheaper food = more money for books and burritos, which is always a good thing.
- It’s better for you
Just listen to grandma, ok? Eat your fruits and vegetables! If you’re in Western Canada, eat your apples, pears, cranberries, beets, brussel sprouts, butternut squash, cauliflower, celery root, chard, collards, fennel, garlic, leeks, parsnips, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potatoes and wild mushrooms. These are some of the foods that are at their height of freshness in November.
According to the Chicago Tribute, a study from the University of California shows that “vegetables can lost 15 to 55 per cent of vitamin C, for instance, within a week after harvest.” Therefore, the longer the transport time from farm to table, the more nutritional value a food item loses. Worried about catching a cold? Grab some local bell peppers or Brussels sprouts!
- Seasonal food tastes better
Think about juicy, firetruck red tomatoes in July. Now think about tomatoes in December. Could you ever really compare the two? Foods that aren’t in season arrive at the grocery store either still green or half-ripe, and they never quite ripen right at home—leaving you with boring flavors and textures. Food that’s picked when ripe and ready to eat, or immediately pickled or canned is brighter in flavor. You might want to eat peaches badly, but October plums are just as delicious and will almost always be juicier.
- Finding and eating seasonal foods is easy
First of all, there’s a farmers market held in the Student’s Union Building every two weeks, which makes sustainable, seasonal shopping a breeze whether you have a break between classes or just want to buy some produce in your pyjamas. The farmers market is also a great way to support local farmers and business people while hanging out with your friends.
To spot seasonal foods at the grocery store, simply look to the very front of the produce section where these foods are clearly marked. Foods that aren’t in season are usually hidden or off to the side.
Recipe planning also becomes a breeze because you’re not faced with so much variety when eating seasonally, which for some of us is a really great thing. Those beets on sale? Those would make a great salad with some goat cheese and almonds!
- Seasonal is more interesting
They say variety is the spice of life and this is true for food as well. Once you start eating seasonally, you get introduced to a myriad of fruits, vegetables and protein sources you wouldn’t otherwise have eaten. Did you even know kale had more than one variety? Or that there are eight types of squash typically sold in Canadian supermarkets? Expand your gastronomical horizons and go for that glazed carrot recipe with toasted cumin seeds, or roast some pears with maple syrup and top with vanilla ice cream. Who knows, by trying new and local foods, you might even stumble upon a new favorite!
Finally, and most importantly…
6. Seasonal eating is sustainable
When you buy local produce or Canadian made food products, especially on university grounds, you are helping the environment and creating new dialogues about sustainable eating. When food is mass produced and transported to us, mass amounts of greenhouse gasses are produced which enter the atmosphere and create air and water pollution. When food doesn’t have to take so long of a trip from farm to plate, less energy is needed and more energy is conserved in the food. Learning how to eat sustainably (and seasonably) in university will contribute to your sustainable future and make you a better earthling in the long run.
About the author
Maja Staka is a Campus Sustainability Volunteer with the Office of Sustainability. She began blogging in high school and has been actively pursuing ways to continue writing ever since. Currently, she is both a graduate student at the University of Alberta and a part time French translator. She loves cats, warm carbohydrates and listening to rap on her way to the farmers market.
Photo by Larry on Flickr