Seasonality and dietary requirements: will eating seasonal food contribute to health and environmental sustainability?

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Abstract

Eating more seasonal food is one proposal for moving towards more sustainable consumption patterns, based on the assumption that it could reduce the environmental impact of the diet. The aim of the present paper is to consider the implications of eating seasonal food on the different elements of sustainability (i.e. health, economics, society), not just the environment. Seasonality can be defined as either globally seasonal (i.e. produced in the natural production season but consumed anywhere in the world) or locally seasonal (i.e. produced in the natural production season and consumed within the same climatic zone). The environmental, health, economic and societal impact varies by the definition used. Global seasonality has the nutritional benefit of providing a more varied and consistent supply of fresh produce year round, but this increases demand for foods that in turn can have a high environmental cost in the country of production (e.g. water stress, land use change with loss of biodiversity). Greenhouse gas emissions of globally seasonal food are not necessarily higher than food produced locally as it depends more on the production system used than transportation. Eating more seasonal food, however, is only one element of a sustainable diet and should not overshadow some of the potentially more difficult dietary behaviours to change that could have greater environmental and health benefits (e.g. reducing overconsumption or meat consumption). For future guidelines for sustainable diets to be realistic they will need to take into account modern lifestyles, cultural and social expectations in the current food environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)368-375
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Nutrition Society
Volume73
Issue number3
Early online date21 Nov 2013
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014

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Keywords

  • seasonality
  • health
  • environment
  • sustainable diet
  • food culture

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