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Health Benefits of Eating Seasonal Produce for Older Adults

Making the right choices to manage your health increases in importance as you age. Improving your diet is a painless way to get more energy and even ease the symptoms of chronic diseases that become more likely as time goes by. The benefits of eating seasonal produce extend well beyond fresh flavor and into the realm of wellness. 

Why should you head to the farmer’s market, local roadside farm stand or berry patch this summer? Here are seven health benefits of eating seasonal produce that will inspire you to dig into that salad.

Why Choose Seasonal Produce? 

Few things taste sweeter than a juicy pear fresh off the tree. One of the benefits of eating seasonal produce is, hands-down, better flavor. Canned slices simply can’t compare. 

However, taste is only the tip of the iceberg of perks. Did you know that fruits and vegetables start to lose some of their nutrients only three days after harvest? That doesn’t mean that canned and frozen versions aren’t healthy, but you get an even bigger nutritional bang for your buck when you buy fresh. Likewise, your grocer ships in out-of-season produce from long distances, meaning nutrient loss occurs during transport. 

Plants don’t get as much research as they should, as pharmaceutical companies fund investigations and necessarily devote more resources to drugs. However, many of today’s medicines originate from plants, and countless formulations draw inspiration from the chemical structure of natural ingredients. Eating seasonal produce means consuming more molecules that may prevent disease and ease the symptoms of existing health conditions. 

7 Health Benefits of Eating Seasonal Produce 

If you have health woes, eating more seasonal produce may help you manage them. It also maintains your wellness and decreases the risk of developing diseases that may interfere with your quality of life. 

1. Fight Unseen Nutrient Deficiencies

People in the West rarely consider nutritional deficiencies as a cause of their health woes, but they can do a number on your body and mind. Today’s reliance on ultra-processed foods can mean missing out on key nutrients, even if you consume more than enough calories, leading to trouble. For example, a magnesium deficiency may cause or worsen depression and trigger migraines. 

2. Guard Against Sun Damage and Dehydration

Many fresh fruits contain a ton of water and other nutrients that prevent dehydration and decrease susceptibility to the damaging effects of the sun, the risks of which increase over the summer. For example, citrus fruits are 87% water and chock-full of vitamin C. Some research suggests that consuming ample vitamin C may protect against damaging free radicals caused by sun exposure, and absorbing it through food may work even better. 

3. Reduce Your Cancer Risk 

The phytonutrients in fresh fruits and vegetables may protect against cancer. For example, the zeaxanthin found in kale and cantaloupe may impair the development of glioblastoma, a deadly and difficult-to-treat type of brain cancer. The phytoestrogens in soy and cruciferous veggies like broccoli may protect against breast cancer by likewise keeping unhealthy cells from proliferating. 

The anthocyanins that give berries and other red and blue fruits their vibrant hues may lower lung cancer risk. These phytonutrients are also particularly healthy for heart and brain health. 

4. Improve Your Cardiovascular Health 

Anthocyanins are types of polyphenols. Polyphenols come from fresh fruits, veggies and grains and protect your heart through several means. They are vasodilators, which means they expand your blood vessels to lower your blood pressure. They also protect against oxidative stress by regulating certain proteins that damage heart tissue. 

A recent review notes that your gut metabolizes anthocyanins, which may explain why getting these phytonutrients from eating seasonal produce reigns supreme over taking a supplement. Those healthy gut bacteria also need to eat to do their jobs well, and they feast on dietary fiber, such as the pectin in apples. Fresh fruits may contain the ideal blend of fiber and phytonutrients to benefit your body best. 

5. Stay Sharp Mentally

Oxidative stress also decreases how sharp you feel mentally, as can nutrient deficiencies. One of the benefits of eating seasonal produce is addressing both issues in one fell swoop. 

For example, a diet high in anthocyanin-rich foods has a neuroprotective effect against the damage seen in Alzheimer’s disease. Getting plenty of minerals like the magnesium, copper, zinc and selenium found in leafy greens, bananas and blueberries promotes healthy neurotransmitter levels, decreasing mood disorders and aiding focus. 

6. Increase Your Energy Levels 

Your body needs B vitamins to convert food into energy. Another benefit of eating seasonal produce is getting plenty of what you need to keep spring in your step. For example, spinach provides 15% of your RDA for folate, and asparagus contains 25% of your thiamine needs. Deep, leafy greens are also low in calories, letting you enjoy a guilt-free pick-me-up snack when you lose your pep. 

7. Decrease Aches and Pains 

The antioxidants in seasonal produce may protect against age-related aches and pains. For example, the sulforaphane in cruciferous veggies may slow the cartilage damage typical of osteoarthritis. The anthocyanins in tart cherry juice reduced pain in osteoarthritis patients. Vitamin C, an antioxidant found in red peppers and citrus fruits, may lessen gout severity. 

Where to Find the Freshest Seasonal Produce 

You’re ready to reap the benefits of eating seasonal produce. What’s the best place to shop? Skip the grocery store if possible and head to the farmer’s market. The fruits and veggies you’ll find there grow in nearby farms, meaning they’re in season and shipped in from right down the road. 

You can also grow seasonal produce at home, even if you don’t have a garden. Some species, like peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers, grow beautifully in containers — you could even plant a lemon tree in a pot to shade your patio. 

Benefits of Eating Seasonal Produce 

Summer is the season to indulge in fresh goodness. Digging into the fruits and veggies you grow in your garden or pick up from the farmer’s market does more than provide fabulous flavor. 

Reap the many health benefits of eating seasonal produce by piling your plate high with the rich abundance Mother Nature provides. 

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