Seasonal foods has its own charm. And we all have a strong association with every season – it can be a general atmosphere, weather, smells, or food. Even I have a close connection with the season; hence will explore the seasonal fruits available from mid-May to mid-July.
The Benefits of Eating Seasonal Foods
Today, we have access to most seasonal fruits and vegetables at all times, but we’re often told that it’s better to eat the foods in season. Is it true?
Well, there is a concept known as ‘Ritucharya’ in Ayurveda. It states that the food we eat and our lifestyles should adapt to the seasons because of the changes they bring to nature and the human body.
However, clinical studies are yet to evaluate this concept in more detail. But so far, somewhat research studies validate it. Ritucharya might help with seasonal changes that affect our energy levels. But adherence is required for the gut microbiome.
But with, the evidence-based benefits of eating seasonal foods can be known: Here are a few of them.
- Nutritionally dense: The total content of the nutrients is consumed if foods are eaten in the appropriate season. For instance, a study found that vitamin C was significantly higher in spinach. It was sampled in the winter (which is the proper season for spinach (436 mg/kg )) compared to when it was tested in the summer (180 mg/kg).
- Naturally ripened: Most seasonal foods undergo a natural ripening process. However, foods grown out of season undergo artificial ripening. Hence they often don’t match the taste or nutrition of naturally-ripened produce.
- Environment-friendly: The greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) as high-energy input from artificial heating or lighting are not required for ripe fruits. It even supports local farmers and markets in the consumption of seasonal food.
The different season comes with their own set of potential health risks. Hence consumption of seasonal food at its peak level of nutrients is good for our health. And the nutrition found in each season helps us protect ourselves from them. One of the real risks is dehydration, but summer foods tend to have high water content.
Likewise, monsoons have an increased risk of bacterial infections – and the produce at this time gives us more elevated levels of nutrients that improve our immunity.
Here is the list of seasonal foods I am recommending between mid-May to mid-July to be eaten.
Though we don’t need a reason to eat Mangoes, if you do, then- let me tell you, medium-sized mango is rich in vitamin C, which aids our immunity, iron absorption, and tissue growth and repair. A great source of beta-carotene also (visually identifiable because of its yellow-orange colour), which gets converted to vitamin A – an essential vitamin for eye health. It even contains folate (vitamin B9), which helps the body form red blood cells and DNA and even supports cardiovascular health. In addition, mangoes have anti-inflammatory effects with a decent amount of dietary fibre. And the antioxidants (mangiferin, catechins and quercetin are the names of some of the major ones) give digestive health benefits, which affect our overall health.
Lychees is 82% pure water; hence it keeps us hydrated. It has a rich profile of nutrients like vitamin C and some truly potent antioxidants.It consists of polyphenols- a plant compound that has antioxidants. The competent helps improve the health of our liver and spleen, along with better blood circulation.
Melons are a beneficial fruit on a hot day – their water content is over 90%! Besides keeping us hydrated, melons are a great source of carbohydrates, dietary fibre, vitamins and antioxidants. Melons’ nutrients include vitamins C, B1, B3, B6 and B9 and beta carotene. Since melons belong to the family of flavonoids, they have other antioxidants.To get their rich vitamin E content, consume the seeds of melons.
A great source of antioxidants is these dark, juicy plums! The darker, the better, as the pigment comes from polyphenols (like anthocyanin), a powerful antioxidant. Moreover, consuming plums has improved allergies as the antioxidants may also help reduce inflammation. It has also been found that the dried form of plums enhances bone health and cognitive function. Therefore plums are a good source of dietary fibre. It’s an excellent option for patients with diabetes since fibre helps prevent a spike in our blood sugar and keeps our cholesterol in check.
Tart yet sweet cherries are rich in polyphenols and vitamin C sources. It has both the properties of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Loaded with potassium, cherries help lower our blood pressure. Cherries are also bursting with antioxidants. The latest studies have highlighted their ability to help improve our sleep and cognitive function, relieve muscle soreness after intense exercise, etc.
Packed with several powerful nutrients, Peaches are as healthy as delicious. Peaches contain potassium, choline and dietary fibre – all of which support our heart health. The antioxidants called lutein and zeaxanthin in beauty are great for eye health. At the same time, they also have a range of other antioxidants (from ‘anthocyanins’ to ‘catechins’) that might help in lowering the risk of obesity-related diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Another monsoon favourite of ours, Jamun, is packed with antioxidants (mainly flavonoids) and vitamin C, making them excellent at fighting free radicals. Jamun also helps improve our immunity and liver health. Not only the fruit but the seed too is beneficial as it contains Jambosine, gallic acid, ellagic acids help, and corilagin, which reduce high blood sugar levels in diabetes patients in some early research.
Know as ‘teasel gourd’ or ‘spiny gourd’, Kantola is a green, cactus-like vegetable full of nutrients! Full of B vitamins, potassium, iron, zinc and several other compounds that may help fight multiple diseases. It also includes many antioxidants (flavonoids contained) – that help protect from diabetes to neurodegenerative diseases. It isn’t surprising that this great vegetable has been used as a medicinal plant in Ayurveda for many purposes, including as a painkiller and to bring down a fever.
Bitter gourd comes with a vibrant profile of nutrients that induces a strong feeling in you either love it or don’t. Along with its significant beta carotene content, vitamin C, B9 and potassium, bitter gourd also offers plenty of magnesium and phosphorus. Magnesium is a mineral needed for over 600 reactions in the body – it’s imperative to our health! Consumption of high phosphorus is essential as its a requirement of our body cells. Some plant compounds (alkaloids, glycosides, and triterpenes) give bitter gourd anti-microbial properties. It’s used to purify our blood and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects (due to its presence of cucurbitacins).
Chula (Amaranth Leaves)
Popularly known as ‘red Chawli’ and ‘Math’, amaranth has been cultivated as a grain in India for millennia. Its leaves are a potent source of many nutrients like manganese, beta carotene, vitamins K, B9 and C, iron and magnesium. The leaves are generally consumed as a tea to counter several health issues (like indigestion, piles, and purifying blood, as examples) that are now being studied by clinical research. Nitric oxide levels increase in our body with Amaranth extract, which increases blood flow. This further enables more oxygen supply to reach our muscles and heart. It is quite beneficial for athletes and individuals involved in sports, as it may help with improving their performance.
Colocasia Leaves (Taro Leaves)
It is a well-kept secret ingredient in Indian households. Since the taro plant leaves are filled with soluble dietary fibre are incredibly healthy.It is found to help regulate digestive health (some of its effects include improving bowel movement and the consistency of stools). Even otherwise, taro leaves provide an impressive quantity of nutrients like calcium, potassium, vitamins C and B9, and antioxidants like beta-carotene and other polyphenols.
Yet another fascination, research suggests that even the activity of our genes tends to change in the seasons, which corresponds to broad shifts in the type and quantity of immune cells our body produces. It’s not a mere say – there are many proven and theoretical benefits to eating seasonal fruits and vegetables! We recommended a list, do try ought & let us know if that helped you.