Nutrition Benefits of Seasonal Vegetables

Organic tomatoes have arrived at the farmer’s markets. One can tell by their distinct smell and taste so different from tomatoes we find for sale in the winter.

Out of season, tomatoes are grown in hothouses, hydroponically or imported from other countries. Some are genetically modified to withstand shipping and storage while others are picked green and allowed to ripen with ethylene gas.


Nutritionally, these tomatoes are inferior. They contain some vitamins and minerals, but their phytochemical profile is lacking because the plants grew without sun; therefore, they lost the opportunity to develop health-promoting antioxidants through photosynthesis.

Tomatoes on local growers’ stands are a far cry from these. They are the real vegetable, or fruit as far as the tomato is concerned, ripened by the sun on the vine and grown in healthy, well-fertilized, organic soil. These tomatoes offer their nutritional wealth to fight cancers, protect the heart and bones and prevent neurological diseases.

Tomatoes have numerous health benefits. In addition to vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin E and manganese, tomatoes contain antioxidants such as lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene, which are extensively studied.

Lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene protect eyes from macular degeneration. The benefit of lycopene for prostate health has been studied and substantiated in scientific literature.

To quote from PubMed’s study, “numerous other potentially beneficial compounds are present in tomatoes, and, conceivably, complex interactions among multiple components may contribute to the anticancer properties of tomatoes. They consistently lower risk of cancer for a variety of anatomic sites that is associated with higher consumption of tomatoes and tomato-based products adds further support for current dietary recommendations to increase fruit and vegetable consumption”.

Tomatoes also contain rutin and quercetin in their nutrient make-up. Rutin preserves and strengthens vascular health whereas quercetin is routinely used during allergy season to reduce inflammation. It is also used for conditions of the heart, gout, chronic infections and cancer.

All vegetables and fruits contain phytonutrients, in particular polyphenols, similar to the ones in tomatoes. Red, blue and purple colored fruits and vegetables are especially high in this group of antioxidants.

Phytochemicals are biologically active compounds in plants that have been found to have different actions. For example, isoflavones in soy, also called phytoestrogens, prevent natural estrogen from binding to receptor sites. As plant estrogens, isoflavones mimic natural estrogen and thereby can reduce the risk of cancer in estrogen-driven breast cancers.

Plant chemicals act as enzymes that make estrogen less effective and by that also reduce risks of breast cancer. Others prevent stimulation of cancer cells and strengthen the immune system by neutralizing free radicals. There are thousands of them, but the complexity of plants leads us to believe that there are even higher levels of these nutrients yet to be discovered.

Nature offers an abundance of plants to preserve and maintain superior health. To be adventurous and experiment is the only requirement necessary to find ways for incorporating their use as food when the seasons present them.

The food we eat fills all of the body’s needs. This includes the gamut of our emotions as well, both positive and negative. Chemical messengers and electrical impulses stimulate organ systems to produce different chemicals that affect our emotions. The release of endorphins makes us feel happy when we experience joy, but overstimulation of endorphins is never a problem. When the event has passed, the body stops the endorphin output and emotions have calmed.

Negative feelings caused by continuous stress, grief, anxiety, anger and depression will release adrenalin, cortisol and nor-epinephrin producing the fight or flight response. While these chemicals course through the body, we are on high alert causing blood pressure and heart rate to rise while breathing becomes heavy. When stress is reduced and conditions return to normal, these chemicals subside. But if stress remains, the process continues. Sometimes, even when normalcy has returned, the body cannot turn off because negative emotions are remembered and leave long-lasting scars.

Fear, anger, grief, shame and disappointment create lesions along neural pathways that disrupt normal energy flow. Holding on to these feelings eventually produces toxins, which lead to disease. It is easy to believe that all illnesses have their source in negative emotions and over time, if left unresolved, settle in the physical body as disease.

It is not a new way of thinking that negative emotions cause sickness and premature ageing. Galen, a physician during the Roman Empire called diseases from emotions “non-naturals” or “the passions or perturbations of the soul”.

Even emotions that we think of as having been created in some part of the brain are biological reactions of a chemical nature. The body uses food for its metabolic processes everywhere including the brain. Even in cases of dementia, food containing B vitamins is recommended and B vitamin supplements used as treatment.

Whether we feel happy or sad comes down to the kind of fuel put into the body. Sugary foods can make us temporarily feel good, but not for long. Vegetable and fruit carbohydrates, good proteins and fats sustain energy. When energy is produced with real food, the body works like a well-oiled machine. A well-fed body can weather negative emotions, resolve them thus avoid devastating diseases. Life does not always run smoothly. We are equipped to handle stress and even a little stress is good on a daily basis. But it becomes a serious issue when negativity lingers unresolved. Look to the power of real food as a first step toward healing.