Eating seasonal fruits and vegetables has many benefits. For starters, fruits and vegetables are often cheaper and tastier when in season. Turns out, they may be more nutritious too.
Seasonal Eating: What to Eat for Summer
Your Vegetable’s Voyage
It is not uncommon for produce to travel over 1,500 miles to reach your dinner plate. Produce is often picked as early as possible to withstand the bumps and bruises associated with long distance travel before arriving at your supermarket. Unfortunately, if plants are picked before they are truly ripe, their nutrient content can suffer. Nutrients can also be affected if travel conditions are not ideal during transit.
Tomatoes, peaches and apricots are often prematurely picked, which does not allow for the vitamin C content of the fruit to fully develop. Other nutrients, such as folate, are very sensitive to light and temperature; if produce is stored at the wrong conditions—for only a few days—significant nutrient losses can occur. In the case of folate, spinach stored at 50 degrees can lose 50% of its folate content after 6 days, higher temperatures cause more rapid nutrient loss.
Watch for “Locals”
Farmers growing local produce don’t need to worry about their fruits and vegetables traveling long distances. Their produce is usually picked when ripe and is often sold within 24 hours after being harvested. You can find locally grown produce in your area by visiting farmers markets and frequenting stores and restaurants that offer locally grown products.
Emily Gelsomin, RD, LDN, is a clinical nutrition specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital. As a registered dietitian, she counsels on medical nutrition therapy on an outpatient basis and works extensively with Be Fit, the hospital’s employee wellness program.
Jointly sponsored by The Clubs at Charles River Park and MGH Nutrition and Food Services, the 10-week program focuses on helping participants “Be Fit and Eat Right.” Every ten weeks, employees from different departments within the hospital compete with each other as they make a commitment to Be Fit. Through the creation of a social environment at the workplace, participants are supported to make progress in personal lifestyle changes with the help of a unique support system that includes a dedicated nutritionist and personal trainer.
Be Fit strives to create a milieu of wellness that extends beyond the 10-week curriculum by offering features to those who are not part of the intensive program. This includes the creation of Choose Well, Eat Well, a rating system designed to help both employees and patients increase awareness of healthy choices at retail eateries within the hospital. It also includes a monthly e-mail with a timely nutrition tip.