/ by Alison Hammond
Written by Alison Hammond, a dietetic intern at UK Markey Cancer Center.
It’s easy to take for granted the fact that we can eat watermelon in January and greens in the heat of August. We have become accustomed to this convenience which has caused us to lose touch with what is actually in season at certain times of the year.
There are many reasons why eating what’s in season is a good practice. When fruits and vegetables are in season they are higher in nutrients and simply taste better, not to mention they are usually easier on the bank account. During cancer treatment, it may be hard to consume a high volume of food, so when cancer patients do eat it’s important they consume as many nutrient-rich foods as possible.
Fruits and vegetables consumed during their normal growing season are fresher, which means they are higher in vitamins and minerals. When they are stored for a long period of time their nutrient content may decrease as they are often preserved to extend their shelf live.
Not only are seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables higher in vitamins and minerals, but they also tend to taste better since they’re usually picked when perfectly ripe. Think back to a freshly-picked ripened tomato. The juicy and sweet characteristics are unmatched by grocery store finds. That’s because the tomatoes found in grocery stores are typically picked early and chilled during transportation to reduce spoilage. This drastically reduces the flavor and also changes the texture.
Finally, eating in-season foods is usually cheaper because the farmers will have an overabundance of produce, which leads to a price decrease. Additionally, there are no transportation or storage costs, which are typically passed along to the customer.
That said, it’s important is to eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible no matter when they were harvested. If access to fresh is difficult, try canned or frozen. What’s great about frozen is that the items are typically picked and flash frozen at the peak of freshness. If canned is more accessible to you, look for low or no salt versions.
Another way to eat seasonally is by visiting your local farmer’s market. If you live in the Lexington area, check out their website www.lexingtonfarmersmarket.com.
The location of the farmers market rotates around town, and it is open Tuesday – Sunday with some locations functioning year-round. This is also a great opportunity to meet your growers and have a better understanding of where your food comes from.
If you don’t live in or frequent Lexington, check out the Kentucky extension website, http://extension.ca.uky.edu/county. Simply click on the county in which you live and browse to learn more about the produce resources available to you.
Additionally, the farmers market utilizes a program called the Kentucky Double Dollars Matching Program, which doubles your amount of SNAP dollars. So, if you have $10 in SNAP benefits, you have $20 to spend at the farmer’s market. Not only does this program help you get fresh and delicious foods, it allows you to boost the local economy!
To learn more about what is in season each month, check out this website by the USDA, http://snaped.fns.usda.gov/seasonal-produce-guide