By Marcus O’Neill MSc RD
Even in Egypt, it’s generally pretty easy to get any type of fruit or vegetable you want at any time of year. However, there’s something to be said for eating produce when it’s at its most fresh. The best way to do that; eat local and in season.
It is a general belief that locally produced fruits and vegetables are healthier because imported alternatives must be harvested before they are ripe and thus will not have their full complement of nutrients. It is also believed that irradiation and other preservative measures sometimes used can negatively impact the nutritional quality of the produce. There is one characteristic, however, where local, seasonal produce wins hands down every time – TASTE! My contention has always been if something tastes better you’re likelier to eat more of it. And frankly eating more fruits and vegetables is something we could all stand to benefit from doing.
Here are some other ways to get the most out of your seasonal produce.
- Cooking methods count – Avoid methods that can cause the loss of nutrients, like boiling. Eat your produce raw or choose methods that minimize nutrient loss, like steaming, baking or grilling.
- Hold the fat (and sugar) – It’s also important to minimize the use of added sugars and fats in your preparation of fruits and vegetables. For example, the negatives associated with eating battered, deep fried zucchini sticks (ie. high fat and calories) outweigh any potential benefits gained from eating the zucchini.
- Serve it with Salad – Egypt produces an incredible variety of lettuces and other greens. Try serving a salad with most meals. They’re tasty and make for a simple side dish or appetizer.
- Experiment with New Recipes – Don’t be afraid to try something new. When you see a seasonal fruit or vegetable you’re not familiar with, buy it. It’s easy to find a recipe for almost anything on the Internet. Who knows, you may just find your new favorite food!
- Skin On – When you’re preparing your fruits and vegetables, if possible, leave the skin on. Oftentimes the skin has the highest concentration of nutrients.
- Go Vegetarian – If you want to get the most out of your seasonal produce, try incorporating more vegetarian dishes into your weekly menu. It doesn’t mean you need to become a full vegetarian or vegan, but eating more vegetarian meals will give an opportunity for your seasonal produce to be the star.
- Get to know your local vendors – This is something I really love about Egypt because it’s so much easier to do than back home. If you’re unsure what’s currently in season, ask them. Find out where your produce is coming from. They’re usually happy to answer these types of questions.
- The Brighter the Better – Choose fruits and vegetables that are bright, deep colors (reds, oranges, purples). This indicates they are high in antioxidant nutrients. Dark green vegetables are also packed with vitamins and minerals critical to good health.
Marcus O’Neill is a Registered Dietician from Canada, currently residing in Maadi. He can be reached by email at [email protected], or you can follow him via Twitter (@marcusoneillrd), or his website (www.dietitianabroad.com).