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Eating Seasonally for Good Health

Fruits and vegetables on a table

Although it might not seem this way in today’s global food economy, certain foods have certain growing seasons. Tomatoes love summer heat, winter squash take a while to mature and are ready to harvest in the fall; strawberries thrive in the temperatures and sunlight from spring into early summer. If you’re of a certain age such that it’s time to remember to get your prostate checked, you may also be old enough to remember the excitement of waiting for end-of-summer corn on the cob!

Now, with reasonably affordable refrigeration and transportation, foods can often be shipped from all over the world (remember, when it’s winter in Boston, it’s summer in New Zealand!). But there are still lots of good reasons to choose seasonal produce. Note that seasonal foods will vary depending on where you live and what growing conditions your local climate will support.

Six Benefits of Seasonal Eating

  1. Taste – Fresh food tastes great! Is there anything better than a garden salad with vine-ripened tomatoes and fresh herbs? Much of the produce in supermarkets today has been picked before it was ripe and/or sprayed with chemicals to prevent spoilage. This results in acidic-tasting fruits and bland vegetables. Choose local, in-season foods for the best taste.
  2. Nutrition – Seasonal food is fresh, and fresh-picked foods offer the most nutrients. Studies have shown that freezing, canning, transport and pesticide-based farming can reduce nutritional value.
  3. Gut health – Eating seasonally ensures your diet is diverse, and food diversity promotes the growth of “good bacteria” in your gut. Studies have shown that a decline in “good bacteria” in your microbiome may be responsible for many modern diseases. To support your microbiome and foster overall good health, eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and beans. Consider organic foods so you can eat your produce with the peel – since sometimes the most gut-healthy parts of a food are on the outside or all the way inside (seed).
  4. Cost savings – Seasonal food is abundant and generally will be priced lower than produce that has been imported from another state or country. It’s simply supply and demand!
  5. Eco-friendly – Seasonal food has a lower carbon footprint since it is locally produced and implies reduced shipping times.
  6. Community – Eating seasonally helps support the farmers in your community and build a sustainable future. Purchasing food from your local farmer’s markets, Community Supported Agricultures (CSA) and local co-op are great ways to build community and connect with where your food is coming from and who is growing it.

While spring and summer are the best time for fruits and most vegetables, there’s also plenty of fresh foods that are available (more or less) all the time. Here’s just a few year-round vegetables that you can also find listed in the Prostate Cancer Foundation Periodic Table of Microbiome-friendly Foods. Note that cruciferous foods are in green font. These may especially beneficial for lowering risk of prostate cancer, so be sure to get your daily dose!

Year-round Fruits and Vegetables

[C=cruciferous]

  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Beets
  • Broccoli (C)
  • Brussels Sprouts (C)
  • Cabbage (C)
  • Cauliflower (C)
  • Carrots
  • Celery root (celeriac)
  • Celery
  • Coconut
  • Dates
  • Eggplant
  • Fennel
  • Kale (C)
  • Leeks
  • Lemons
  • Mushrooms
  • Olives
  • Onions
  • Parsnips
  • Potatoes
  • Radish (C)
  • Spinach
  • Snow Peas
  • Swiss Chard
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Yam

In addition to the year-round fruits and vegetables listed above, remember that there are plenty of grains, lentils, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds that are microbiome-friendly and are available all year.

For more tips and the latest research on wellness, lifestyle and cancer, subscribe to our Health and Wellness newsletter at pcf.org/livewell.