As the days start to cool, the abundance of the harvest season begins. And although modern-day shipping and commerce generally allow us to have our pick of foods any time of year, there is still reason for excitement. There are certain advantages to food grown locally and gathered at just the right time and ripeness, which a supermarket can’t necessarily replicate.
Below, find a few reminders of why to include fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet year-round as well as a solid case for seeking out local, seasonal produce while you can. Finally, registered dietitian Laura is back with some information about apples. Far from one-size-fits-all, this popular fall fruit comes in a range of tastes and uses, from applesauce to salads.
September happens to be Fruits & Veggies–More Matters Month, encouraging Americans to get more produce in their diets. Fruits and vegetables are filling, nutritious, diverse, versatile, and come in many forms. And while any type — fresh, canned, frozen, dried, or 100% juice — counts toward your daily intake, fresh does have a slight edge over the others.
The nutrients in fruits and vegetables begin to break down as soon as they are harvested, so the fresher the produce, the higher the nutrient value. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also unique in that many can be eaten raw, with no more preparation than washing. Cooking or preserving produce can somewhat reduce nutritional value (not to mention adding fat, sugar, and/or salt depending on the preparation method), so keeping some servings fresh and crisp delivers the best possible benefit.
Local produce has less far to travel to reach you — using fewer resources to transport, and arriving faster and with a higher nutrient value. What’s more, favoring local produce means supporting the local economy and farmers in your region.
Finding locally grown fruits and vegetables doesn’t have to be an odyssey, if you know where to look. Farmers’ markets and fruit and vegetable stands operate through the growing season; chances are there is something in your area. In the produce aisle of the grocery store, keep your eyes peeled for the word ‘local’ or a name that specifies origin (such as Michigan cherries).
Buying fresh and local doesn’t need to be a hard-and-fast rule — ultimately, the best fruits and vegetables to buy are ones that you’ll actually eat. But exploring local options, especially at this time of year, just may expand your horizons.
Bonus: The Versatile Apple
Laura, a Residential Home Health RD and friend of the Home Health Blog, is especially excited for the onset of another harvest season. She shared with us some insights about the many varieties and uses of apples.
More than simply green or red, apples come in a host of varieties, with new hybrids in development all the time. Many apples are classified as sweet; the best-known of these may be the Red Delicious, but other varieties include Fuji, Gala, and Honeycrisp. Sweet or slightly-sweet apples are delicious for eating, and selected types lend themselves to baking as well.
Apples that have more tartness (sweet-tart, slightly tart, and fully tart) are favorites for baking, pies, and homemade applesauce, although many can also be enjoyed right off the tree. The Granny Smith is a commonly known tart apple, and the McIntosh and Braeburn varieties also fall on the tart side of the scale. However, this is only a small sampling of the many apple tastes and textures; for more apple varieties and their best qualities, click here.
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