You’ve probably heard me talk about how buying local produce is good for you, but do you know why it is good for you?
1) It tastes better
Local produce tastes better because it is allowed to ripen longer before harvest. Most of the produce in your local grocery store is harvested before full ripeness, irradiated, among other treatments, which affects not only taste, but nutrient content as well.
2) It’s fresher
Local produce has just been picked; it hasn’t been sitting around in a warehouse waiting for pickup and then traveling thousands of miles to get to your local grocery store.
3) It is healthier
Due to the treatments mentioned above, the nutrient content in store bought produce is a lot lower than in locally grown and harvested produce. Our soil is suffering from nutritional depletion; this makes it even more imperative to find produce that has not been treated and is fully ripened before harvest.
4) It costs less
Local produce costs less than its equal counterpart in the grocery store. In some cases, you may pay more per pound for a tomato at a farmer’s market than the grocery store. But in the long run it is still cheaper because that tomato will taste better and pack more nutrition per pound which will massively impact your health.
5) It helps the economy
Shopping locally for anything helps your local economy improve, but shopping with your local farmers will assist to keep a precious resource around for a long time to come. Local farmers are an important part of our economy and keeping them in business helps us all.
6) The food is safer
Three words–food borne illnesses. Those three words are another reason why shopping with local farmers is critical. Just recently sprouts, spinach and Romaine lettuce were all recalled for food borne illness. Bigger does not always mean better. Bigger is harder to control than smaller. You are far more likely to get sick from a corporate farm than from your local mom and pop farm.
We get our produce from a food co-op! It’s 50% fruit, 50% veggies, and it’s amazing! We’ve gotten our kids to try stuff like eggplant (which I never would have bought under normal circumstances). It’s great. Also, there are several farms around my town that sell fruits and veggies to the public. And they have U-Pick areas where you can go in and pick your own fruits and veggies. The kids LOVE it, and they love being able to pick up a snack and say, “I picked this!” So it’s a bonus!
This article might give better advice than you would guess. I was reading my current issue of Prevention magazine and was shocked at an article they included that tells just what we’re missing in our produce that we’re buying from the grocery store. In 1950, we were able to get 130 mg. of calcium from our serving of broccoli, but today we’re getting a mere 48 mg. of calcium from that same serving! They went on and on naming all the deficiencies in much of our produce. However, one of the solutions they offered was to shop from our local Farmer’s Markets. Although items 1, 2, 3, and 6 didn’t list all the facts from the Prevention article, they support what I just read and it all goes together to make sense. Buy local whenever you can or buy frozen because it’s processed very near where it’s picked, but the local produce is still usually better for you – especially if it’s certified organic. It made me wonder if the government’s food pyramid has taken these deficiencies into consideration and if not, then just how many servings of fruits and veggies per day do we really need? Just think of it – the broccoli example shows that we’re getting just slightly more than 35% of the calcium that we used to. If that were to hold true for most produce, you’d have to eat 3 times as much as expected!
Some of the other solutions were to: look for bold or brightly colored produce, look for new colors (think purple cauliflower or yellow tomatoes), buy smaller items (plants don’t understand super-sizing, buy a reasonable size and the nutrients will be concentrated), pay attention to cooking methods – broccoli and carrots release more nutrients when steamed rather than raw or boiled, tomatoes release more lycopene when lightly roasted or sauteed, keep produce whole (skip the pre-cut salads, carrots, etc.), eat within a week, and seek out old-timers – heirloom varieties that were bred prior to WWII are naturally hardier because they were established before the modern fertilizers and pesticides (I never would have thought of that one on my own!).