I am so thankful it’s almost fall. Growing up in Northeastern Ohio, summers weren’t quite as hot as they are in Cincinnati. To me, once the neighborhood pool is closed, I am done with super hot weather. Not to mention what it does to my hair. Not pretty.

In addition to the difference in weather growing up, our grocery stores didn’t stock the same produce you see now. Today, you can get strawberries in winter and citrus fruit in summer. Food is available regardless of season. It just doesn’t seem right! When I was a kid, the change in weather was just one sign the season was changing. The biggest one for us was what was brought home from the store.

While strawberries are plentiful, they’re also going to be much higher priced and not as sweet as their season fades. The same holds true for asparagus. Bananas are available all year round since they are shipped from Central America anyway. This time of year, take advantage of apples, pears and melon as they’re at their peak season to be picked and consumed. Other seasonal produce includes beets, peppers, tomatoes and squash.

The beauty of changing seasons is experiencing different flavors as well as the nutritional benefits of various produce. Apples are an excellent source of fiber and eating one daily has been found to reduce the risk of stroke. Oranges and other citrus fruit are high in vitamin C as well as potassium, a nutrient found to lower blood pressure and aid in muscle recovery. Tomatoes and bell peppers are also a good source of vitamin C, so don’t limit yourself this season.

If you need different ways to season fruits and vegetables, keep a few spices on hand like cinnamon or nutmeg for apples or pears, ginger for butternut squash and green beans or garlic for kale and fresh tomato sauce. Peppers are delightful when sautéed in olive oil with onions or garlic. Add them to sandwiches, pizza or pasta to add color and nutrients to your meal.

Whatever you choose to eat (seasonal or not), go for a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. It’s your best defense to prevent chronic diseases like obesity, cancer, diabetes and heart disease that plague our society.

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