By Cynthia Sass, M.P.H, R.D. for Shape.com
Have you ever bought veggies with the intention of eating healthfully, only to bite in and taste, well, nothing? Many of my clients tell me that the disappointing flavor and texture of fruits and veggies has led them to toss out a healthy meal or snack and replace it with an unhealthy, but more flavorful, choice.
The reason for the lackluster produce is that often, it was out of season. This happens because it was grown far away, harvested before it was fully ripe, and traveled pretty far before it made its way onto your plate. Underripe produce isn't allowed to develop the natural substances responsible for its flavor, aroma, nutritional value and even the sound, like the "snap" of a string bean or "crack" of a crisp apple.
If you've ever plucked a tomato from your garden minutes before adding it to a salad, you've experienced this difference in quality and taste intensity. In short, eating local, in-season produce maximizes your enjoyment, and can lead to more fruits and veggies ending up in your body, rather than in the garbage disposal.
Furthermore, ripe produce that's bursting with antioxidants may be a secret weight loss weapon. In my newest book "S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim" I talk about some breakthrough research, which shows that people who consume more antioxidants from whole foods weigh less, even when they don't eat fewer calories. Pretty exciting news.
If you don't have the space or time for your own garden you can take advantage of the bounty in your area with these great resources:
Use this site to find your local farmer's markets, and community supported agriculture programs (CSAs) so you can find out what's in season in your area, meet the farmers who grew it or get it delivered to your door.
Pick Your Own
This resource lists where you can go in your region to head outdoors and harvest fruits and veggies yourself. When you visit farms you truly understand why it's not natural to eat watermelon in the winter.
This website and app allows you to find and/or share local fruit (veggies and herbs too) from backyards in your area and from public lands, so they won't be wasted. Cool idea!
Edible Communities is a publishing company that formed in response to the rapidly growing locavore movement. Through locally focused newsletters, websites, magazines and events, each publication celebrates local food and culinary treasures, with an emphasis on sustainable agriculture, small family farms and artisan foods. From Edible Queens in New York to Edible Westside in Los Angeles there are over 60 fantastic publications across the US. Check out the list here.
Finally, eating seasonally also allows you to grow your imagination. I love thinking up different ways to use a fruit or veggie while it's available. And by the time it's out of season, I'm ready to explore the next set of crops.
Do you savor in-season goodies? Have you ever picked your own?
For more on diet and nutrition, click here.