Making healthy and sustainable food choices only really appeared on my radar over the last couple years. We all appreciate the virtues of balanced, healthy eating for disease prevention, but what about healthy sustainable eating? We care about the health of our body but do we really consider the health of planet Earth?
Being a nutritionist, I fully admit to shopping smartly for good nutrition but only recently have I changed my ways to be a little bit kinder to the environment. One main change I’ve made is making an effort to shop local and eat foods that are currently in season.
Why Eat Seasonal Food?
Seasonal food is fresher, tastier and more nutritious than food consumed out of season. Seasonal fruits and vegetables produced on local farms are often fresher as are not transported long distances to reach us (reducing carbon emissions). Also, unlike out of season produce which is harvested early in order to be shipped and distributed to local supermarkets, crops picked at their peak of ripeness are also better tasting and bursting with flavour. The longer fruit and veg can ripen naturally before picking, the more nutrient rich they will be(1,2). This is one of the reasons why fruit and veg taste so much better on holiday.
Getting our 5-A-Day should be on everyone’s agenda. Evidence highlights that diets high in fruit, vegetables and fibre are associated with healthier body weights and contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals which may reduce the risk of cancer at several sites(2,3,4).
We can consume diverse and moderate amounts of fibre from fruit and vegetables. It is recommended that we consume 30g of fibre or more each day(5). Thirty grams may sound a lot but you may be surprised to know that an average apple has around 4.5g fibre and a cup of blackberries has 7.6g(6). Eating our 5-A-Day puts us well on our way to meeting our fibre targets. Evidence suggests that high fibre diets are associated with reduced risk of colorectal cancer, by the actions of fibre increasing stool bulk, diluting faecal carcinogens and decreasing transit time, reducing the contact between carcinogens and the lining of the colorectum (7).
Eating a variety of fruit and veg is key, as there is no one ‘super’ fruit or vegetable that is protective. So, if variety is key, why not help protect yourself and the environment by eating a range of in season fruit and veg?
It is important to keep ourselves hydrated, so let’s not forget about drinks. We don’t really tend to think about where our drinks come from. For example, the manufacturing and processing, transportation and refrigeration of carbonated drinks such as colas and lemonades are much more costly to the environment (8) (and your purse) than drinking good old tap water or fresh vegetable juice. These options are more beneficial for your health, with sugary drinks linked to weight gain, overweight and obesity in children and adults (9).
I hope this can inspire you to give you food for thought whilst sifting the supermarket shelves and planning your next weekly shop. Why not make a pit-stop first at your local green grocer to see what nutritious goodies they have. If this works for you, why not tell your friends and be vocal about shopping local?! After all, each one of us can make a difference and together we can make a change.
- Howard, L., Wong, A., Perry, A., and Klein, B. 1999. β-carotene and ascorbic acid retention in fresh and processed vegetables. J. Food Sci. 64: 929-936. http://lib3.dss.go.th/fulltext/Journal/Journal%20of%20food%20science/1999%20v.64/no.5/jfsv64n5p929-936ms0259%5B1%5D.pdf
- Joanne L. Slavin and Beate Lloyd., 2012. Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables. Adv Nutr, 3(4) 506-516 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3649719/
- Aune et al., 2011. Dietary fibre, whole grains, and risk of colorectal cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ 2011;343:d6617 https://www.bmj.com/content/343/bmj.d6617
- World Cancer Research Fund, 2019. Cancer Prevention Recommendations. Eat a diet rich in wholegrains, vegetables, fruit and beans. [online]. Available from: https://www.wcrf-uk.org/uk/preventing-cancer/cancer-prevention-recommendations/enjoy-more-grains-veg-fruit-and-beans
- SACN, 2015. Carbohydrates and Health [online]. Available from: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/445503/SACN_Carbohydrates_and_Health.pdf
- Dreher, 2018. Nutrients, 10 (12). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30487459
- Masrul M, Nindrea RD., 2019. Dietary Fibre Protective against Colorectal Cancer Patients in Asia: A MetaAnalysis. Open Access Maced J Med Sci. 2019 May 31; 7(10):1723-1727 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6560290/
- British Soft Drinks Association, 2018. Carbon Reduction. [online]. Available from: https://www.britishsoftdrinks.com/Roadmap/Carbon-reduction
- Malik et al., 2013. Sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain in children and adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 98 (4). pp. 1084–1102. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23966427