We already know that local foods are better for the environment, but did you know there are health benefits of local food as well? Buying from the local farmers market or CSA will certainly get you eating more fruits and vegetables, but there are also more benefits to buying local than upping your greens intake.
Local Food is More Nutritious
One of the health benefits of local food is that it is fresher. The food you get in the grocery likely has been transported longer distances.
One study showed that spinach, even stored at refrigerator temperatures, still lost the majority of its folate and carotenoid nutrients after eight days. A study on lettuce showed major losses of trace minerals during transport.
A study done on the nutrition of vegetables between 1950 and 1999 was completed in 2004 to analyze how nutrient levels have declined over the decades. The Texas study found declines in protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C over fifty years.
There are many reasons for a decline in nutrition in our produce. First, soil depletion is a real problem in our country. In addition, we have bred vegetables for appearance, for size, for storage, not for taste nor nutrition.
Local Food is Tastier
Not only are the sustainably grown heirlooms better for you, they taste better too! If you have better tasting foods, you’re going to enjoy them more.
One of the health benefits of local food is that you will cook tastier meals, and find yourself eating more vegetables. And if you find yourself reaching for a delicious salad rather than the chip bag, you’ll definitely be more healthier for having chosen to eat local.
Heirloom doesn’t just mean vegetables, either. Your local farmers are also growing heirloom animals! They are saving these animals from extinction, and also offering superior nutrition.
Supermarket meat was bred to grow fast, and to grow big. Buying from a local farm that offers more unusual breeds of animals means more time for the animals to add healthy fats, and to accumulate more vitamins and minerals. As with the heirloom veggies, you’ll find them tastier as well!
Apples, bananas, apricots, melons and tomatoes are often picked unripe, so they can be shipped to stores and not spoil in the process. These fruits are then sprayed with ethylene gas to help ripen them at their destination.
This practice is neither harmful nor affects nutrition in any meaningful way. However, it certainly affects the taste. We know what a real tomato is supposed to taste like, if we’ve had it fresh and ripened in the garden. Even “vine ripened” at the store only means barely turning pink before being picked and ripened later.
As with eating vegetables grown for taste, rather than longevity, eating produce that was actually ripened in the field will taste better. And as with the heirlooms, you are much more likely to eat more of it.
Local Food has Less Contamination
Finally, local food is less likely to be contaminated with nasty bacteria. 20% of our food comes from other countries, and their safety standards are different than ours.
In addition, transported foods may come into contact with pathogens if they are transported in an unproperly cleaned vehicle. Eating from your local farmers can help you avoid contamination.
Ultimately, buying local can give you the safest, tastiest, most nutritious foods you can find. Beside the health benefits of local food, eating local is great for the planet, as well as for you. Your meals will be more delicious, and you’ll benefit from eating more of the healthy food you bought at the farmers market!