Well, there are many benefits for you and for our planet to eat locally grown food. And by the way, when you eat local food you always eat “in season”.
Let’s take a closer look at these benefits:
- More nutrients and flavor. Locally grown food can be harvested when it’s ripe compared to produce that has to endure long shipping and has to be harvested long before its prime time. Fruits and vegetables that were allowed to ripen on the vine are more nutritious and flavorful. For example, vitamin C content is much higher in produce ripened on the vine compared to produce picked before ripening. Local farmer’s markets can sell produce within a day or two of harvest.
In addition, when you eat food that’s been harvested recently, the vitamins and phytonutrients are still preserved. The longer vegetables and fruits sit around, the more vitamin loss occurs and quality deteriorates.
- No Post-harvest Treatment. Chemicals may be applied to maintain freshness and endure shipping. Locally grown fruits and vegetables don’t have to be treated. You can also learn about the harvesting methods and handling procedures of your food from your farmer. Do they rinse the greens in chlorinated water? Do they apply a solution to potatoes, onions and garlic so that they don’t sprout? Do they wax the apples?
- Carbon footprint. Buying locally will also reduce your carbon footprint. On average, most food travels over 1,500 miles before it reaches our plates. To travel these “food miles” a lot of fossil fuel is burnt and the environment is polluted. Not to mention, transportation costs are added to the retail price that we pay.
- Diet variety. Eating seasonal foods not only ensures we get the most nutritious foods – it also brings variety to your diet. For example, instead of eating apples all year around, you might choose to eat strawberries at the end of spring, peaches and apricots in the summer, watermelons and melons in the early fall and persimmons and pomegranates in the winter.
- Cycles of nature. Even if you don’t love it, you cannot escape Mother Nature. The days get shorter in the fall/winter season, it gets cold and we tend to spend more time inside. Plants are in tune with Nature’s seasons. Foods have different “energetics” and help us connect with seasonal cycles of nature and provide us nourishment we need at a particular time of the year. For example, root vegetables (sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, potatoes) are harvested in late summer and early fall. They are rich in complex carbohydrates and extremely nourishing. When we eat root vegetables our bodies prepare for the long cold winter by storing a bit of subcutaneous fat for insulation. By contrast, in early spring it’s the green leafy vegetables like lettuce that sprout first. These bitter vegetables stimulate our digestive and liver function encouraging detox after winter’s heavy eating and lack of movement.
If you would like to download my complete Healthy Shopping Guide please visit Food Remedies.
Stay tuned for my monthly posts on What’s in Season.
By Olga Afonsky, LN, CNS, MS Nutrition and Integrative Health