When choosing fruits and vegetables for my family, are there health benefits to selecting in-season produce?
Bailey Noble is a registered dietitian at Cardon Children’s Medical Center.
Question: When choosing fruits and vegetables for my family, are there health benefits to selecting in-season produce?
Answer: First, you should be applauded for paying attention to your family’s diet and making it a priority to include fruits and vegetables in your meal planning. Very few people actually eat the recommended five to nine servings of produce daily, and these are foods that provide essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
That said, there is value in choosing in-season produce. Fruits and vegetables reach peak nutritional value when ripe, but many are harvested in off-seasons because of consumer demand. Unfortunately, as soon as produce is harvested, it begins to lose nutritional value each day it is off the vine or out of the ground. Considering that many fruits and vegetables are transported long distances before reaching the supermarket, off-season produce takes a particularly significant nutrition hit.
In-season produce at its peak has better texture, flavor and color, which encourages kids and adults to eat more of it. A diet heavy in fresh fruits and vegetables provides added fiber and a source of energy for active, health-conscious families. And foods that are in-season may even complement the seasons themselves. Watermelon is a summer fruit that provides hydration in hot weather, and fall and winter vegetables like pumpkin generate warmth in cooler months.
In Arizona, winter brings us the best broccoli and kale, and carrots and cabbage remain vibrant. Artichokes, cauliflower, asparagus and radishes are spring’s top in-season choices; peaches, melon, summer squash and corn are perfect summer options; and carrots, cabbage, pumpkin and spinach are ideal in the fall. Our warm Arizona climate keeps citrus in season year-round.
For more information on this topic, consult with your doctor or call 480-412-KIDS.