Nutrition expert: Boots your health

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Boots your health by eating seasonally with Amanda Hamilton’s top shopping tips

 “Seasonal eating and its benefits for your health have long been recognized by ancient medical systems, in particular Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). As we move from winter into spring, now is the perfect time to consider how the food you eat plays a role in balancing your body with your environment. Climate, the seasons and weather conditions can all have an impact on wellbeing.

According to TCM spring is the time of year for energy and regrowth. We see this in nature; the countryside literally comes alive with flowers and crops, the hedgerows are filled with new buds and lambs cavort in the fields. It’s time to reduce the warming foods our bodies typically crave in winter, such as hearty soups, salty foods and filling grains.

For your body to benefit from the renewed energy of springtime, foods should be eaten raw or lightly steamed to maximize their health benefits. Fresh leafy greens (kale, chard, bok choi), celery, sprouts and young root vegetables should feature the most on your plate. These foods will energise you, rather than leave you feeling too full or heavy. Serve them as a colourful salad or stir-fry with a quick flash in the pan to retain their nutrients.

Ancient medicine is not alone in recognizing the importance of seasonal eating. Nutritionists and dieticians are increasingly advocating this way of eating in a bid to encourage us to eat a more varied diet in the UK.

It’s easy to stick to the foods you enjoy eating all year round, but by limiting your food choices you are putting yourself at risk of food intolerances and fatigue. Supermarkets make all kinds of food available, regardless of the season, so if you gravitate towards your favourites, you’re less likely to experiment with new fruit or veg. But just because something is available, it doesn’t mean it’s the healthiest choice. For example, why are strawberries available in December? Have they been transported long distances, or irradiated to keep them fresh? If the answer is yes, their nutritional value is probably compromised.

And if for no other reason, eat seasonally to protect the environment. It can be a hard task to fill your shopping trolley with local produce at the supermarket, but it’s worth giving it a go. Choosing not to buy foods that are “out of season” will cut down food miles, reducing carbon emissions and the amount of energy consumed storing the food, plus you could save pennies. Eating seasonally is easier if you look for locally grown produce. Visit local-farmers-markets.co.uk, to find producers near you.

Amanda Hamilton is a nutritionist, health expert and author of three wellbeing books, who regularly features on BBC television and radio, GMTV and UKTV. She’s the founder and director of a retreat company. See amandahamilton.co.uk

Description: Eating seasonally will vary your diet.

Eating seasonally will vary your diet.

Top tip!

Stumped for dinner solutions but have a fridge full of delicious seasonal veg? Why not try the Riverford Organic Recipe app for the iPhone. It’s free and there are over 770 recipes at your fingertips. Simply scroll through to find the items of veg you have in your kitchen, for example carrots, leeks and broccoli. Click “Results” and a list of recipes will appear using those three ingredients. You can also save your favourite recipes so they’re always close to hand! Itunes.apple.com/gb.

Q+ A

I have an organic vegetable box delivered to my house on a weekly basis, which contains seasonal and local veg, but is it possible to buy fish seasonally as well?

Buying fish seasonally applies to wild rather than farmed fish. The easiest way to eat seasonally is to visit your local fishmonger, because supermarkets tend to sell a smaller range of seasonal fish. Mackerel is available almost all year round and isn’t endangered, making it a good option. Favourites such as salmon, available from mid-February until mid-September, and cod, available from July until January, are worth buying seasonally to protect their population in the wild. The Marine Conservation Society has lots of advice for buying fish seasonally. Visit mcsuk.org for more information.

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