Eat Fresh, Eat Artisan
We can’t be entirely sure what started the near avalanche shift, but it seems we Brits are now a nation of self-confessed ‘foodies’. It used to be something our continental cousins were known for – they could enthuse about the quality of their produce or the depth of flavour they were able to wring out of the simplest of ingredients. But now, owing to our buzzing restaurant scene and ever-increasing awareness of our food’s providence, we really do seem to care more about the field to plate process.
What’s so important about eating ‘seasonal’ food?
In-season produce is fresher and tastes better, sweeter and perfectly ripe. When fruits and vegetables are picked for consumption that have been naturally ripened on the vine or the tree and harvested at the right time, it will have much more flavour and nutrition. Just compare British strawberries available in June with their Spanish counterparts – there simply is no comparison!
Seasonal food is also much higher in nutrients, especially if it is from a local radius. The moment something is picked, it begins to lose its freshness and nutrient values and some anti-oxidants such as Vitamin C, folate and carotenes will rapidly decline when stored for periods of time. Large markets and grocers may buy out-of-season produce that has been gassed, irradiated (a burst of radiation to kill germs) and preserved in wax to extent the shelf life. Buying seasonal food from a local farm shop or greengrocer is far less likely to have been chemically treated and will taste all the better for it.
Seasonal fruit and veg is cheaper too! When something has had to travel only tens of miles instead of thousands, the whole cost of production and transportation is dramatically reduced.
It’s really important to note that it’s not always possible to eat locally and seasonally for everyone all of the time. It’s more about the importance of making decisions where possible that are better for you, your wallet and your health where you can.
Why eat fresh?
This seems obvious, but sometimes it is surprising what the supermarket buying mentality can do to all of your best made plans to buy good, fresh produce. Have you ever taken a look at the ingredients list on some of the processed foods you can buy in the shops? It’s boggling. I challenge you to take a trip round and to find your favourites, and then to see how many of them contain eye-watering levels of sugar, salt and preservatives.
Scientists have just confirmed that instead of the five-a-day principle we’ve been aiming for, ten-a-day is closer to the goal. The best way to get this high vegetable requirement into your diet is to amp up the veg portions in your favourite meals – use a food processor to finely dice onions, carrot, celery and leeks to add to your classic dish bases like shepherd’s pie or bolognaise. It’s easier than you think to add to a whole range of dishes.
The same principles apply to buying bread and other baked goods directly from the baker. Good, natural bread shouldn’t last for 10 days, and supermarkets pack their breads with preservatives and a bucket-load of sugar to get that unnatural freshness. How about buying bread less often, but knowing what you buy is all the better for you, rather than a starch and sugar-laden quick fix?
Why buy local?
We know it is not always possible to get your weekly shop from all the independent producers in an area – we are all busy and sometimes convenience wins out. Instead of heading straight to the supermarket aisles though, how about contacting your favourite local producers and asking if you can set up a regular order with them? The benefits are many-fold.
- Local produce has generally travelled less far to your plate and is seasonal, making it fresher, tastier and more nutrient rich.
- You are helping to boost your local economy by supporting independents.
- You can order a week’s worth of shopping in one go and carefully meal plan around it – reducing wastage and the likelihood that you will make unhealthy choices.
The Dirty Dozen VS The Clean 15
The dirty dozen and the clean 15 refer respectively to the fruits and vegetables that are the most and least contaminated by pesticides.
Pesticides are toxic by design! Different pesticides have been linked to a variety of health problems, including hormone disruption, cancer and brain toxicity. But for most people, switching to organic produce is a gradual process. Because organic foods tend to be more expensive than their counterparts, making informed choices in the produce aisle helps minimize pesticide consumption while keeping the budget in check!
All of us have to work within our budgets, which is where the dirty dozen and the clean 15 come into play. The list is a resource to help you make the best choices for your health and for the earth, whatever your current budget or state of greenness. Whatever you can afford, remember fresh fruits and vegetables are always a healthier choice than processed foods. Besides, non-organic processed foods are sure to contain a whole host of chemicals too! Instead, let the guide dictate your allocation of organic vs. non-organic purchases.
The Dirty Dozen (in order of contamination) Aim to always buy these organic
Apples, Celery, Sweet bell peppers, Peaches, Strawberries, Nectarines, Grapes, Spinach, Lettuce, Cucumbers, Blueberries, Potatoes
The Clean 15 (in order of least contamination) less risk buying non-organic
Onions, Sweet corn, Pineapples, Avocado, Cabbage, Sweet peas, Asparagus, Mangoes, Aubergine, Kiwi, Cantaloupe melon, Sweet potatoes, Grapefruit, Watermelon, Mushrooms