Summer is a time when we look to fresh, vibrant produce for salads, smoothies and easy afternoon snacks. Whether you realise it or not this is seasonal eating - something many of us are naturally drawn to do when the weather warms up.
When it comes to eating fruit, however, there’s been a lot of confusion in the past few years. Are some fruits “good” and others “bad”? Should you even bother trying to eat seasonal fruit? It’s a question I’m asked a lot, so I thought it was worth a proper discussion. Keep reading to find out what types of fruits I recommend to my patients and friends in the summertime and why.
Why is eating seasonally important?
Eating seasonally refers to including fresh fruit and vegetables in the season it grows in. This means that the food is locally grown and hasn’t had to travel far from its place of origin. This has enormous benefits to your health and to the environment.
As a result of changing your weekly produce shop to include only seasonal and locally grown, your produce will be brimming with nutrients and vitality. As an added benefit, local produce is picked close to its perfect ripeness so it’s always at its most delicious.
As you alter your pick of produce with each shift in season, you’re also providing a wider variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and different forms of fibre. Variety is key to a healthy diet - eating seasonally just gives that extra little push to include more variety.
The more you move towards a seasonal produce-based diet, the more you will also be supporting local businesses and your local economy - from farmers to pickers and their stockists.
Eating out of season
On the other hand, eating out of season and therefore imported food that has had to travel long distances causes it to lose its nutritional value significantly. It’s also likely to have been picked at a less than ideal time and refrigerated during transport - so it’s not going to be as delicious and enjoyable as locally grown produce.
What about high-demand produce that has been grown close to home but is out of its natural season? This puts farmers in a situation where they must grow genetically modified crops to withstand seasonal changes. If you are trying to avoid genetically modified ingredients then this is all the more reason to immerse yourself in a seasonal way of living and eating.
Is eating fruit bad for you?
It’s really important that I address some issues around fruit. No, eating fruit is not bad for you! If it’s filled with antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and fibre then I am absolutely going to recommend it. That is unless you are currently working on addressing dysbiosis (a gut bacteria imbalance that sugar, even fruit sugar, can feed), or you are type II diabetic or pre-diabetic.
For those with dysbiosis, it can depend somewhat on the severity of the dysbiosis and reactivity of the gut - but to play it safe, it’s important to stick with low fructose (fruit sugar) fruits and limit it to one serve per day. The same goes for diabetics, with a limit to one serving of fruit per day.
Low fructose fruits to include are:
Higher fructose fruits to avoid include tropical fruits such as pineapple, mango, banana, watermelon, as well as grapes and pears.
Does seasonal fruit also have to be organic?
There are a few things to keep in mind when eating seasonally. While seasonal produce is going to contain an abundance of nutrients, it’s still worth considering what falls into the “clean 15” and the” dirty dozen” categories.
If you haven’t heard of these lists before, they are a really helpful guide created by the Environmental Working Group to help consumers decide what to always purchase organic or conventionally grown.
Of course, if you can choose all organic then go for it - but for anyone who has to be a little more discerning, this is a great list to refer back to.
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas
- Honeydew melon
Fruits to enjoy this summer season
As you can see from the list below, you can get a lot of enjoyment and nutritional benefits from eating seasonal fruits. Aim to eat a variety of seasonal fruits to get the whole spectrum of vitamins and minerals. The list below also has suggestions for the best pairings for each fruit - so you will never get bored!
- Aroma: sour-sweet, cream, floral character with tropical notes.
- Pairs well with: almonds, cinnamon, rosemary, ginger, vanilla, turkey, cranberries and chicken.
- Nutritional benefits: great source of antioxidants, including flavonoids and betacarotene, as well as vitamins C and E.
- Aroma: grassy with a buttery texture
- Pairs well with: lemon, lime and other citrus fruit, garlic, chilli, salt, pepper, olive oil, fish and seafood, sourdough or gluten-free toast, onion, tomato, salad greens, cucumber, prosciutto, bacon, chicken, coriander, mint, dill, cheese and balsamic vinegar.
- Nutritional benefits: healthy fat, fibre, protein, potassium, magnesium, betacarotene, folate, vitamins C and B6.
- Aroma: astringent, slightly grassy when green, otherwise sweet, fruity and creamy.
- Pairs well with: chocolate, cream, ice cream, yoghurt, cinnamon, coconut, peanut butter, mango, passionfruit, kiwi, berries and pineapple.
- Nutritional benefits: green (unripe) bananas have a much lower glycemic index and are high in resistant starch - a type of prebiotic fibre that helps to keep the gut bacteria in a healthy balance. Bananas are also high in vitamins B2, B3, B6, C, folate, magnesium and of course, potassium.
- Aroma: sharp, musty and spicy
- Pairs well with: other berries, almonds, apples, pears, rhubarb, vanilla, chocolate, duck, beef, chicken, cinnamon, star anise, vanilla and honey.
- Nutritional benefits:vitamins C and K, fibre, manganese, high levels of antioxidants, including anthocyanins.
- Aroma: tart and sour to sweet and floral when very ripe
- Pairs well with: other berries, almonds, apples, banana, milk, yoghurt, cream, lemon, mango, melon, coconut and oatmeal.
- Nutritional benefits: antioxidants, including anthocyanins and quercetin, fibre, iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, manganese and vitamins C and K.
Eating locally and seasonally is in our DNA as human beings - you can never go wrong strolling through your local markets and picking up produce that entices you. Find out who is growing your food, how far it’s travelled and whether it has been conventionally grown, grown without pesticides or completely organic. Then you can relax and enjoy the fruits of your (shopping) labour!
Want to learn more about Summer Eating, join our Summer Cleanse Online Program