Why Is Local Food Healthier?
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Did you know that fruits and vegetables pack the most nutrition when they are ripe? Studies show that many nutrients are formed as the food ripens. And the moment they are picked, their sugars begin to convert to starch, their plant cells begin to shrink, and their nutrients begin to diminish. Therefore, the sooner you eat fresh foods, the more nutritious they are.
Why Is This Important?
When we buy foods that have been grown across the country or across the world, it can take weeks or longer for that food to travel from the farm to your table. As a result, these fruits and veggies must be harvested prematurely, which prevents some of their nutrients from forming. The foods are also treated with special gasses to further delay their ripening and ensure they survive their long journey.
And since it takes so much time for the fruits and veggies to travel from the farm to your table, much of the nutritional value it did have before it was harvested has been lost by the time it reaches your plate.
Local food doesn’t travel long distances, so it can be ripened as nature intended, and picked when its nutritional value is highest.
And local foods usually arrive at the supermarket or restaurant within 24 to 48 hours after harvest, so they retain most of their nutritional value and do not require gasses to keep them “fresh”.
You can find local food at the farmer’s market, by subscribing to a weekly food box from Riverford and often through your local grocer or health food store. Some of the large supermarket chains have also begun carrying local foods, so check the labeling on the produce bins to see where the food was grown, or ask the grocer, if you’re not sure.
Buy local food
- Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season. Why? When it’s winter in the northern hemisphere, it’s summer in the southern hemisphere. So fruits and vegetables that grow during the summer can be found in supermarkets during the winter… only when they are shipped from the opposite side of the world. That’s a really long distance for food to travel!
- If you like to eat summer foods in the winter, then buy from the freezer section. The fruits and vegetables are frozen soon after harvest and the cold helps to retain their nutritional value.
- Or buy fresh produce when it is in season and freeze it yourself for the winter — or summer, if we’re talking about winter squash or other cold-weather produce. Clean and pit the fruits and vegetables before freezing them. Then cut them up so they are easier to defrost and use later on. Store the foods in airtight freezer containers, and defrost as needed.
Good To Know
- Farmers Markets offer a wider variety of local foods that are not found in supermarket and restaurant chains. And most farmers offer samples, which makes it fun and easy to try new foods before buying them.
- Most Farmers Market produce is picked within a day of the market, and sometimes the same morning. Not only is the food fresher, healthier and more sustainably produced, but since it is sold directly to the consumer without a long supply chain in the middle, it is often less expensive too.
- The Farmers Market is a great place to teach children about healthy eating habits, and have them participate in tasting and choosing their food. Studies show that when children (and adults) are more involved with their food, they are more likely to eat their veggies and try something new.
Article written by Briana Ryan