How to Shop Seasonally in Autumn/Fall
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Have you ever wondered what someone meant when they say, “Just buy _________ , it’s in season right now and so much cheaper than normal!” I study nutrition each day and I can't even tell you which produce is in season currently off the top of my head. While it takes a little bit of skill and research, it can save you a lot of time, money, energy and resources in the long run. Shopping seasonally is simply a way to shop smarter.
Why Buy Seasonal in the first Place?
Seasonal produce has often been less processed, which helps to encourage both communities and the individuals that comprise them to eat more fresh produce and as a result a healthier diet. Buying seasonal also helps to support local economies and create connections with seasonal suppliers and consumers. Fruits and vegetables cost less when they are “in season” because the growing process and transport of these produce items occurs more naturally and according to regular harvest cycles. When someone says, “this food item is going to be expensive because it is not in season right now”, this is what they are referring to. In other words, the short answer to this question is that seasonal produce purchase is not only more cost-effective, it also helps to connect individuals in a community to their best quality of life.
Seasonal shopping also benefits the environment. Eating what is in season is more sustainable because the production of the food occurs within the natural production season. Some production seasons are local, and others are global (1). This means that some produce can be grown in one place and eaten anywhere around the world, and other produce is produced naturally in one season and eaten within that same climate zone. While many factor into costs taxing the environment, eating more seasonal food and being more aware of the production process going into our groceries is one way to add an element of sustainability to our diet-- while also benefiting our individual health. In essence, we can be the change we wish to see in the world.
How do I know what is in season right now? Are there variations by location or other factors?
Pumpkins are probably what most obviously would come to mind if I asked you what was in season during fall, right? Pumpkins are autumn item not just due to the fact that they are in high demand around Halloween, but because they are seasonally available in fall and winter, and as a result you will see recipes with pumpkin (and of course pumpkin spice) everywhere this time of year.
While there may be small variations in what is available based on location, climate, and other factors affecting your local community, for the most part suppliers work to make sure they supply what is seasonally in demand. The United States Department of Agriculture has a great resource to consult in addition to the FREE guide I've provided for download later in this article. The USDA's guide is interactive, so not only can you see what is in season during the current season, you can also click on “Apples”, for example, and find recipes, lesson plans, and more.
Where can I find seasonal produce?
Seasonal produce can be found in a variety of places, including farmer’s markets, local farms, or as advertised during seasonal promotions at your local grocers, especially natural grocers. If you are having difficulty finding seasonal produce, consult a registered dietitian (RD) for more information. I’d also be happy to answer any questions you have. Simply send me an email or fill out the contact form on my contact page, which is linked below.
Are there health benefits to eating seasonally?
The benefits to your gut
Research shows that the human gut microbiome, or our intestinal environment, responds to many environmental factors. Two of these factors are diet (the food we choose to eat) and seasonal variations. A recent study found that while the gut can remain relatively stable throughout the year, there are significant shifts that happen seasonally. These changes include (2):
The abundance of bacteria
Correlations between typical foods consumed during a certain season and the rise or decline of bacteria
Image (from Reference 2 (listed below) Produce consumption varies with the seasons. In summer months when fresh produce is available, consumption rises to a higher level than in winter. In winter, higher amounts of canned or frozen fruits and vegetables are consumed because fresh produce may not be as accessible as in the summer. Both fresh produce and canned or frozen produce can be nutritious options.
The benefits on your wallet
Produce is less expensive when it is in season. You can save money and eat nutritiously by using the guide below (3):
How to Shop Seasonally in Autumn/Fall
FREE download 👇🏼
The benefits on your body
Shopping for seasonal fruits and vegetables can having the following positive effects on your body (3,4):
Promotes healthy heart and memory
Lowers the risk of certain cancers
Promotes healthy vision, immune systems, and strong teeth and bones
Supports healthy eyes, skin, and digestion
Promotes healthy aging
Lowers the risk of stroke
Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels
Become a Seasoned Seasonal Shopper
Armed with the knowledge and resources from this article, you have everything you need to become a pro at spotting seasonal fruits, vegetables, and other fall favorites. What are your favorite dishes to bake this season? Share your answers with me in the comments, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or tag me @anniweeks and with the #anniweeks on social media (I'm on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, too). Excited to see what you'll whip up for fall!
FREE Patient & Provider Resources
How to Shop Seasonally in the Autumn/Fall
Macdiarmid JI. Seasonality and dietary requirements: will eating seasonal food contribute to health and environmental sustainability? Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 2014;73(3):368-375. doi:10.1017/S0029665113003753
Davenport ER, Mizrahi-Man O, Michelini K, Barreiro LB, Ober C, et al. (2014) Seasonal Variation in Human Gut Microbiome Composition. PLOS ONE 9(3): e90731. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0090731
UnidosUS. Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables and their Benefits. The Walmart Foundation. 2020 Accessed at http://vps6291.inmotionhosting.com/bitstream/handle/123456789/1580/8.5x11_seasonalfruits.pdf?sequence=3&isAllowed=y.
Snap-Ed Connection. Seasonal Produce Guide, Fall. 2020. Accessed at https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/seasonal-produce-guide/fall.