Determining what a healthy diet means for you can be confusing. Marketing tactics and sensational headlines abound, promising the next miracle fruit will give us unending vibrancy, and claiming one specific way of eating as best for all of us. It makes sense; life is busy, so we crave simplicity, while businesses want to sell, so they generalize our needs. Yet each of us has unique needs, and these needs change, quite literally, with the weather. It’s one of many ways that our biography becomes our biology. The irony here is that when we skip the “health check” assurances and magazine headlines in grocery store aisles, going instead to the farmer’s market to purchase local, organic, seasonal whole foods, we take the guess work out of nutrition and give our planet a chance.
Our bodies need specific foods in correlation to time and place, which is why nature made sure they’d be ripe at all the right times. In the spring, our body craves gentle cleansing, and fresh greens abound. Summer brings juicy, sweet fruits and vegetables to keep us cool and hydrated. Fall’s bounty includes immune-building foods such as pumpkin, squash, kale, garlic, and onion, to prepare us for winter. With the arrival of winter’s chill, we crave warming, salty soups and stews, full of bone broth, root vegetables, squash, meats, and healthy fats to keep us warm and grounded.
Any sailor will tell you we don’t need more plastics taking over remote islands, leaching into our food, or filling the bellies of whales. Bring a basket or cloth bag to the market and skip the plastic clamshells and double wrapped packages found elsewhere.
Fruits and vegetables begin to lose nutrients once picked, and a typical conventional carrot travels 1,838 miles to land in your grocery bag. Fruits and vegetables sold in Canadian supermarkets today contain far fewer nutrients than they did 50 years ago, with new studies reporting up to 40% fewer antioxidants in conventionally grown food when compared to organic. Factory-farmed meats have been shown to contain fewer nutrients and less Omega-3 fatty acids than organic, grass-fed meats.
Taste and variety
Eating seasonally is exciting. Seasonal crops can be a treat to savor and celebrate. That first sweet little strawberry or juicy peach is a beautiful summer moment. Challenging yourself to try new vegetables such as rutabaga or celeriac, because they’re in season now, can expand your culinary skills, add variety to your diet, and keep you inspired. There are roughly 6,000 North American tomato varieties known, yet you will see the same ones at the supermarket all year (these ones are bred to withstand shipment, be uniform, and have greatest yield). When you support local organic produce, you get to experience heirloom varieties that tickle your senses.
Tending our tapestry
The health of our food depends on the health of our soil. Chemical fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides, and pesticides devastate soil microbiota essential to plants’ health and ability to assimilate nutrients. Phytonutrients are responsible for the colour, hue, scent, and flavor of plants. They are essentially a plant’s immune system, meant to protect them from environmental threats, such as insects. The use of pesticides and herbicides negates this need, reducing phytonutrient content, in turn reducing flavor, colour, and health benefits.
Reducing toxic burden
Pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers pollute our lands, degrade soil, destroy habitats, waste freshwater resources, and create loss of biodiversity. Conventional foods have been tested to contain much higher levels of harmful pesticides and the heavy metal cadmium, a known carcinogen. Factory farmed meats contain antibiotics and hormones that disrupt our endocrine and immune systems.
The bee’s needs
We need bees. They pollinate our food, helping plants grow, breed, and produce food. Bees need us to stop supporting the use of pesticides which are causing bee extinctions, and to ensure crop variety by supporting the growth of organic heirloom plants. “Like the honeybee, the sage should gather wisdom from many different scriptures.” – The Bhagavad Gita