Ask the Diet Doctor: Eating Out-of-Season Superfoods
How powerful are a food's health perks when it's not harvested at its prime?
Q: We've all heard you should eat produce that's in season, but what about superfoods? Should I stop eating kale in the summer and blueberries in winter, or will I still get benefits from consuming them?
A: Our current food system gives us the luxury of having foods all year despite certain ones not being in season where you live. But research shows that prolonged storage of food can lead to decreases in the nutritional content of the food, specifically vitamin C. So while the kale you eat in the summer that was shipped to your local supermarket from an average of 1,500 miles away won't be as nutritionally robust as the kale you buy locally in the fall, it is still a superfood.
Regarding blueberries, when you use frozen berries as many people do in smoothies, you are getting the full benefit of in-season fruit out of season. Most frozen fruits and vegetables are picked at their peak ripeness and flash-frozen. This locks in the nutrients so you can reap the benefits months after the fact.
Still, you should eat as much fresh local food as you can. In-season produce from the farmers' market is your best bet for getting fresh, nutrient-packed food, plus you'll enjoy it more: A research paper published in Appetite showed that people choose to get food from farmers' markets because the flavor is better, and superior-tasting food is food that you will want to more of.
Finding that flavorful produce shouldn't be a problem because we are currently in a great time for fresh local food. From 2004 to 2009, the number of farmers' markets in the U.S. increased by 45 percent. And whether your closest farmers have their food certified as organic or not isn't much of a concern, as many local small-time farms can't afford the certified-organic stamp. Just join the locavore trend-and when your favorite foods aren't in season, buy them frozen.