Have you ever thought about where your food comes from? Ever wondered if it can have an impact on your health? An increasing number of people are beginning to realize the many benefits associated with eating locally-grown foods. Not only does it help support a healthy local economy, but eating foods grown locally can have tremendous benefits that can positively impact your health as well.
What is local food?
Before we get into some of the benefits, it’s important to understand what ‘local food’ really means. Typically, local food implies one of a few things since there is no standard definition. One, the food was grown in the same state. Two, it was grown in the same region (within 90 miles). And three, it was grown within the same county. Some even consider local foods to be food grown within 250 miles.1 Regardless, local food is typically associated with sustainable forms of agriculture versus industrial, commercial agriculture.2
Some benefits of eating locally-grown foods
You will be eating foods in season
One of the best benefits of sticking to locally grown foods is the ability to bring a level of diversity to your diet based on eating what is available at the time. By sticking to foods that are in season, it is going to help you avoid the temptation of eating your favorite foods year round and getting in a limited diet as a direct result. By sticking to what is in season, you are going to essentially force yourself to implement a diet full of variety. Not to mention, any food that is in-season is going to be much fresher and retain much more nutritional quality as a direct result. A study on broccoli showed that the vitamin C content of broccoli was much higher when consumed in-season as opposed to out of season.3 Along with this, it is likely much safer to consume foods that are in-season because sometimes out of season fruits are artificially ripened to meet high demand.4
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A side benefit of sticking to in-season foods is the ability to consume foods when they taste the best. Because you are going to be eating the food directly after it was picked, you will be able to eat many fresh foods that haven’t been through miles and miles of transportation.
You are going to end up finding that local foods taste much better. By sticking to locally grown foods, you will be able to enjoy produce that has been picked sometimes within a day of buying it. You simply won’t be able to do this when it comes to buying your food from large marketplaces and retailers. They typically have mass quantities of food shipped in from various locations throughout the country and even out of the country. In fact, in America, fruits and vegetables can spend up to 5 full days in transit following harvest prior to even arriving at a distribution center.5 Because of this, you are rarely going to find fresh food in the supermarkets unless you head over to specialty supermarkets that have a commitment to selling locally produced foods. To add to this, they might spend an additional 1 to 3 days on display at a grocery store prior to being purchased by a consumer. That consumer might wait up to 7 days prior to consuming them.6 This means that there is a significant gap between harvesting and consumption that can result in flavor degradation.
Also, any food that is required to go through extensive storage and transportation is going to have to be processed to be able to handle the entire process. As a result, processing ends up changing everything from the texture, color, flavor and even the nutritional quality of the produce.7 Being able to enjoy the better flavor they offer is one of the reasons why it is worth investing extra money towards buying locally grown food, to begin with.
Local foods retain more nutrients
Another significant benefit that comes from consuming a majority of foods grown and harvested locally is the ability to eat foods that retain more nutrients. The fact is, just about any food is going to lose nutrients the longer it is stored and the more time that goes by due to transportation. Local food is the easiest way to ensure that you are getting the shortest time from actual harvest to your plate. Because of this, you are going to enjoy food that has retained a majority of its original nutrients and that hasn’t gone through significant amounts of oxidation. Any food that you find that is in the grocery store is likely days if not weeks old. Because of this, it has gone through significant oxidation which can decrease attainable nutrients.
Another reason locally grown foods likely retain many more nutrients is because of the method of harvesting. Both fruits and vegetables that are available at your local farmer’s market are typically going to be harvested by hand. This alone can have a significant impact on the nutrient retention of the vegetables and fruit. This is primarily because mechanical harvesting can cause significantly more stress to the plant tissue and it can result in much more damage than when done by hand.8
Support your local economy
When it comes to spending your money, it would be wise to consider the local impact that it can make on your respective local economy. It is not even a question as to whether or not buying locally grown food would help support a better local economy. Not only will it help keep your money flowing in the local economy, but it can help local growers and food producers advance their farming techniques to help keep them competitive with bigger growers.
Help the environment
Another significant reason why you should make the consideration to purchase your food locally is to do your part in saving the environment. While you might not necessarily think or assume that it would do much to save the environment, there is a lot that goes into getting the food brought to your local grocery store. When you buy food from the grocery store who buys it from a big food distribution company, you are supporting their transportation from all over the country and a lot of the times even outside of it. This means that you are supporting an industry that is causing severe pollution through fossil fuel and poor farming practices. Instead, you can simply alter your product purchasing habits to buying locally. When you purchase local produce, you know that it needed a much shorter time in transportation and that the harvesting and transportation did not cause severe pollution along the way.
Along with minimizing the impact of CO2 emissions, you are going to be helping to preserve green space much more effectively. Local farmers are going to be much less likely to give in to commercial demands and to sell off their land to developers. Local farmers care deeply about their land and it is going to keep much needed green space as a result.
Speak directly to farmers
Another significant benefit that you are going to be able to enjoy when you make the decision to purchase foods that were grown locally is the ability to speak directly with the farmers that are growing the food that you are eating. This alone is a huge benefit because it enables you to effectively communicate with the farmers and ask them any questions that you might have about their farming practices. When you are buying from a supermarket, you have no clue who is growing your food and what kind of farming practices they are implementing. Even “organic” labels don’t mean much nowadays as it offers significant exemptions that make the title virtually meaningless.9 This means that the only real way to figure out the type of farming practices your food is being grown with is to actually speak with the people growing it.
The food that you are going to be purchasing locally is generally going to be grown with a lot safer farming and transportation practices. Not only is there less time for something to go wrong from harvest to plate, but smaller farmers typically use fewer pesticides (if any at all). Along with this, they are going to be much more interested in the end result and the taste of their foods because they know that they are going to have to rely on repeat customers rather than huge distribution companies demanding more supply than is available. Thus, they are typically going to have much safer farming practices without attempting to create dangerous shortcuts.
Another big reason you might want to stick to shopping for local food is that it is going to help you resist roaming around your local grocery store through the processed food section. By shopping only at local markets, you should be able to significantly reduce the amount of temptation that you are forcing yourself to endure because you will essentially be limiting your exposure to foods that are considered bad for you. This alone might be reason enough if you happen to be someone that has trouble resisting temptation.
Another benefit that you are going to be able to get from switching to predominantly eating foods grown locally is the ability to enjoy a lot more variety when it comes to the produce that you have to choose from. Those that are looking to produce fruit and vegetables in mass quantities are likely going to be driven primarily by profits. Therefore, they tend to choose varieties of plants that offer the highest yield, the fastest growth rates, and the longest freshness times.10 Along with this, because local farmers that stick to selling locally don’t have to worry about transportation at all, they can stick to choosing varieties of produce based on taste rather than profit-driven factors like high-yield.
Another significant benefit is the ability to get produce that was picked ripe from the plant rather than prior to ripening. Because the produce that is sold in the grocery stores ends up having to go through long transportation and storage periods, it has to be picked a long time prior to ripening. This ultimately means that the produce was picked soon after it reaches physical maturity. This means that the produce never had enough time to develop and this ends up resulting in a less tasty produce with less nutrient content. Produce picked ripe has shown to have much more vitamin C content than when it is picked directly prior to ripening.11
Overall, there are many different reasons you will want to consider switching your purchasing habits to local farmers and local farmers’ markets. Buying your food locally is one of the best things that you can do not only for your local economy but also for your health. You are bound to enjoy much fresher produce and food with fewer nutrients lost. Therefore, you are going to be getting more from the food that you eat. Perhaps most importantly, it is going to allow you to experience fresh produce and food the way that it should be. It is going to taste much better than produce that has been through a significant period of transportation and storage. This alone can help encourage you to eat more fresh foods because it is going to taste so good that you will want to continue to fill your diet with it. It is one of the best ways to ensure that you stick to eating healthy options.
A healthy diet does wonder for the body’s health, and one of the best diets around happens to be the paleo diet, with its emphasis on naturalness and nutrient-rich foods. Additionally, MONQ’s Healthy Blend cleanses the airways and makes you feel better with each breath.
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