Written by: Avance Care Registered Dietitian Diane Butler, RD, LDN CDCES
During this last year, many have taken on new hobbies and interests! Some learned new languages or tried new workouts to trim up those pounds gained from not being able to go to our favorite gyms. Some developed a new love and appreciation of cooking. If you developed a new love for cooking-you are among the lucky few that have learned what a treasure trove of produce ingredients we have here in North Carolina that are locally grown and produced.
Here in North Carolina, we live in one of the top agricultural regions in the nation. In fact, agriculture is our major industry. 1We are privileged to have access to many fresh fruits and vegetables-depending on the seasons. In our area, we get the opportunity to take advantage of having the freshest fruits and vegetables that are locally grown and at the peak of the freshness.
You may be wondering what does it mean to eat seasonally? “Seasonal eating refers to the habit of eating fruits and vegetables that are “in season” or at the peak of their freshness and flavor during a specific time of the year.”4
Most of us recognize the fact that eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is key to a healthy diet. Eating this way ensures we get fiber, vitamins, and minerals and many powerful antioxidants which are vital to living a healthy lifestyle.
So, what are the advantages of eating seasonally?
Well, when allowed to ripen naturally, fruits and veggies will have a greater vitamin and mineral content than when picked prior to peak ripeness. 2 Usually if foods are grown off season, the natural path of ripening is inhibited and sometimes ripening agents and or chemicals are used to facilitate this natural path artificially. The fewer the chemicals or preservatives the better!
Also, if produce is purchased during season, it is usually cheaper. The supply is high, which drives down the price as opposed to buying off season when demand is high, and supplies are lower.
Another advantage is that since it is locally produced, it saves on fuel costs (transportation is closer) and as a result, lowers emissions into our environment. It also keeps our farmers and our local economy strong.
A personal advantage- it simply tastes better! There have been numerous studies on the intangible effects of these methods of artificial ripening process and the studies concludes that not only are the nutrient profiles affected-but so are the tastes of these various fruits as opposed to the ones that are naturally ripened. 3
If you are wondering what is in season in North Carolina or any state you may be visiting, just check out the local farmer’s market. On display you will find the best of the best of the season. Here is also a perfect opportunity to try a fruit, vegetable, or herb you have never tried. Here in North Carolina, you will experience southern hospitality at its finest as most vendors are happy and willing to give you a sample.
Since agriculture is so vibrant here in North Carolina, try to take advantage of it year-round. For additional resources on what is in season here in North Carolina, check out this website: https://www.ncagr.gov/markets/chart.htm
Here are some tips to use items purchased at the peak of ripeness:
- Try in recipes-the simpler the better to let the natural flavors shine through.
- If not using immediately, try freezing or canning. Some fruits and veggies may even be dehydrated to be used as snacks later!
- Browse your favorite cookbooks or food websites for inspirations on recipes and ideas using the ingredients.
For some tips on freezing and canning, please visit or blog https://www.avancecare.com/preserve-the-taste-of-summer-in-your-freezer/
Have fun exploring and developing your new-found loves or new favorites while they are at the peak of ripeness. Do not forget to share with friends and family.
- https://oshr.nc.gov/media/1266/download1, assessed June 7th, 2021.
- https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4807/10-Reasons-To-Eat-Whats-In-Season.html2 assessed June 7th, 2021.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6521425/3 assessed June 7th, 2021.
- https://www.mainlinehealth.org/blog/seasonal-eating, assessed June 7th, 2021.
- https://www.ncagr.gov/markets/chart.htm, assessed June 7th, 2021.
Diane is a registered dietitian working at the West Cary locations. She enjoys reading, walking outside, biking, spending time with her family, friends and two fur babies. Diane is loves baking and is a self-proclaimed foodie.