Do we ever reflect on the food that we consume daily? Food is meant to energise, revitalise our bodies, detoxify it, improve its immunity and keep us healthy all year round. However, in today’s world when we blindly consume chemical ridden, artificially cultured, processed and the same set of foods, through the year against the very basic tenets of “Seasons” created by Mother Nature, imagine the harm it does to our body by way of diseases and illnesses. Healthy or diseased, “You are what You Eat” and Mother Nature makes no exception.
Gastronomy is the relationship with food and culture. Sustainable gastronomy, refers to an attitude of mindfulness towards the energy consumed and wastage in growing, storing, processing and transportation of food.
Given the huge energy consumption and wastage in the existing processing cycle of food, it is not only a major contributor to global warming, but more importantly it depletes our natural soil resources at unsustainable rates. As per FAO almost one third of all the food produced in the world is either lost or wasted. That amounts to 1.3 billion tons per year. And food isn’t the only thing that is wasted when it goes uneaten: all of the resources like seeds, water, feed, etc., money, fossil fuel and labour that go into making it available are also lost. If “Global Food Loss & Waste” were a country, it would be the third largest nation in the world in “Green House Gas (GHG)” emission. The global food and nutrition security is clearly under threat. This puts the small and marginalised farmers and fisheries at substantial risk.
As consumers, we all can contribute to Sustainable gastronomy by making just 3 simple choices. They are using more local, seasonal and unprocessed foods. Not only is this good for the planet and small farmers, but most importantly, it’s also a very healthy habit.
Listed below are 5 benefits of consuming seasonal, local and unprocessed foods:
1. Higher Nutritional Value: Naturally ripened foods have a shorter shelf life. Additives and genetic modification are used, to aid in artificial ripening and maintain firmness for long distance transportation. Seasonal foods consumed closer to harvesting have higher nutritional value as some anti-oxidants such as Vitamin C, folate and carotenes rapidly decline in storage. Naturally ripened they have more complex and richer flavours. It’s no lie that the juiciest and most vibrant tasting fruits and veggies are those that are in season. Additionally eating seasonally, also guarantees a balanced diet.
2. More Cost Effective: Produce in season is more abundant, so it is less per pound in the store. Buying seasonal produce, saves money because it matches supply with demand. Also buying non seasonal produce, increases cost due to greenhouse costs in farming, costs of storage and freight.
3. Reduced Chemical Consumption: In order for certain fruits and vegetables to be available year-round, post-harvest treatments, known as ripening agents, are used. These include chemicals, gases, film coatings and heat processes. Given the different regulations pesticides, herbicides and fungicides in each country, buying imported foods, expose ourselves to unknown levels of risks. In addition to the environment cost of transportation, pesticides and preservatives have their own risks. For example, garlic is irradiated, bleached and sprayed with methyl bromide to withstand the long haulage period.
4. Boosts Seasonal Immunity: Nature being wiser than we acknowledge, seasonal foods support the season specific needs of our bodies living in their vicinity. In winters, our body demands foods high in citrus and Vitamin-C which are are important for preventing winter. Winter vegetables are best suited for hot meals, healthy stews and soups. Similarly, the summers harvests being juicy keep the body naturally hydrated. Spring vegetables like spinach help to alkalise our bloodstream and energise us for the warmer months when we typically expend more energy being active. Summer foods such as stone fruits provide us with extra beta-carotenes and other carotenoids that help protect us against sun damage. They also provide more sugars to remain active in summer, as well as some vegetables for cooling salads.
5. Supports Biodiversity & Communities: Eating seasonally implies eating locally. Visiting a farmers market is a great way to stock up on healthy produce. It’s also a great way to get to know and support our local farmers. Buying produce from local farmer’s markets not only makes one to feel more connected, but being seasonal, it also contributes to promoting local biodiversity.
Climate change and global warming is affecting us all. We can either protest and wait for Government to legislate on these issues, or take matters into our own hands. Our adoption of Sustainable Gastronomy as consumer is a potent force in supporting the livelihoods of our local farmers, enhancing resilience of people, communities and ecosystems.
By consuming more and more local, seasonal and unprocessed foods, we not only support nature and communities around, but also improve our own health and vitality.
Let’s begin today by making the world more sustainable place, one bite at a time!
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