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4 Feb 2022

Five seasonal foods that are good for you and the planet

The foods in season now that pack a nutritional punch, and recipe inspiration for how to use them

Fruit and vegetables that are grown in season, harvested and consumed locally have the lowest greenhouse gas emissions, so are one way of helping to reduce the environmental impact of your diet.

Eating seasonally can also be healthier - evidence suggests that the nutritional value of fruit and veg is highest straight after harvesting. After this the level of water soluble vitamins B and C gradually declines, so local seasonal produce that hasn't travelled far is likely to be higher in nutrients.

It can save you money too, as seasonal fruit and veg can be cheaper when it's in abundance.

We've rounded up some seasonal superstars to help you pick in-season and healthy food in the month ahead, along with recipe ideas to inspire your cooking.

Tips for living well - get our free Food & Health newsletter: shop savvy, eat well, stay healthy

1. Brussels sprouts, kale and spring greens

Brussels sprouts aren't just for Christmas. Along with kale and spring greens these seasonal veg are packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre.

They contain vitamin C which is important for immune health, and green, leafy veg are also a good source of vitamin K which our bodies need for bone health and blood clotting.

Can't face the thought of sprouts post-Christmas? You'll find plenty of inspiration for alternative recipes online.

One easy way to sneak more veg in is via a mixed vegetable soup, or fried with some other seasonal greens as a side dish.

Recipe inspiration:

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2. Apples and Pears

While you might spot strawberries and raspberries on your supermarket shelves at this time of year, they're not in season in the UK at the moment which means they're likely to have been flown or shipped in.

British apples and pears, however, are currently in abundance and snacking on them will help you reach your five-a-day.

Both are a good source of potassium, which is important for healthy blood pressure and muscle function. They also contain folate, another nutrient that's vital for immune health.

If you're craving something warm and comforting, it's a great time to make a classic fruit crumble.

Recipe inspiration:

Pear also works well in a crumble, or you can explore a wide range of pear recipes, BBC Good Food has a dedicated section: see BBC Good Food pear recipes.

Save money by growing your own veg - if you've got some outdoor space, here's how to grow your own

3. Oats and porridge

Oats are high in fibre, specifically beta-glucan, which has been proven to lower cholesterol levels. They are a good year-round option, as they can be grown between other crops and stored.

Porridge is a great way to pack them in, an affordable and filling breakfast choice, and a warming way to start cold, dark mornings.

You can make porridge with just water and oats, but if you make it with milk (or a fortified plant-based milk) you'll also be getting a good dose of calcium which is vital for bone health.

Avoid pre-prepared porridge packs if you can, as buying a bag of oats and making it yourself is likely to be healthier and cheaper.

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4. Dried and tinned pulses, lentils and beans

Beans and pulses are a great, cheap source of plant-based protein and fibre - something which most people don't get enough of.

Experts recommend you eat 30g a day, but research shows typical UK intakes are actually closer to 18g.

Fibre helps feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut, helping your digestive system to function properly. It also helps you to feel fuller, which can stave off snack cravings.

You can use beans and pulses to bulk out meals such as curries, Bolognese sauces or chillis, as well as soups. If you're looking to cut down on meat consumption, they can also replace meat in these sorts of meals.

Recipe inspiration:

5. Sardines and herring

These are both oily fish, which we should all aim to eat at least one portion of a week, according to experts.

It's easy to fall back on salmon as an oily fish choice, but sardines and herring are also packed with healthy omega-3 fats that are beneficial for brain and heart health and vision - and they are a more sustainable choice too.

Tinned sardines can make for an affordable lunch, and you'll find them available pre-prepped with tomato sauce and other flavourings. Both fish benefit from pairing with tarter flavours (such as tomato or vinaigrettes) to cut through the richness.

Recipe inspiration:

How to buy sustainable fish - get the lowdown on fish to choose and what to avoid if you're looking to make environmentally friendly choices