Our nutrition expert weighs in on the benefits of eating locally-grown food.
Locavore (noun): A person whose diet consists only or principally of locally grown or produced food.
These days, the average produce item travels about 1,500 miles from farm to table. Locavores try to shrink that distance to about a 100-mile radius. Since we're all supposed to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, summer is a great time to be a locavore. Produce grown at local farms – or your backyard – abounds.
"Consumers are more interested than ever about where and how their food is produced," according to Audrey Fleck of Healthy Directions Nutrition Therapy and Counseling. "Shopping at a farmer's market or local farm provides an opportunity to talk to the people who are at the center of bringing food from the farm to your plate."
There are several benefits of "going local," says Audrey.
Taste the Difference
Many people swear by the taste of local produce. One reason is the freshness – foods picked within 24 hours simply taste fresher.
Better Taste, Better For You
Produce loses nutrients and enzymes the longer it sits. Since local produce has a shorter time between harvest and your table, it is less likely the nutrient value has decreased.
Conventional farms generally grow fruits and vegetables they can mass produce and that will last a long time on the shelf, says Audrey.
Audrey adds, "Because quantity and durability is a goal, conventionally grown food is more likely to use genetically-modified seeds (GMOs). There is controversy surrounding whether GMO foods are safe for human consumption. Because there is no long-term research on humans and negative health effects shown in animal studies, I caution against consumption of these foods. Local farms produce food with the goal of selling to the local and direct market (such as local restaurants and farmer's markets), so nutritional quality and taste would be more of a priority than durability."
Local Food Is Good for the Local Economy
Spending money at local farm markets keeps those dollars in your community to be reinvested with other local businesses. There are lots of farm markets in our area.
Every year, Penn State Extension publishes its handy guide "Fresh from Bucks County Farms: Guide to Roadside Markets & 'Pick Your Own' Farms" that includes a chart of what's in season, a list of 64 area farm markets (their location, contact info and hours of operation), a listing of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA's), community farm markets and more.
Benefits for the Environment
Keeping local farms in business means keeping farmland and open and/or green space preserved. With local food traveling a shorter distance (and using less fuel), locavores may also help conserve energy and reduce pollution. And, small farms often adopt environmentally-friendly practices.
"Many local farms are transparent in the way they grow their food and are happy to answer your questions," notes Audrey.
Seasons and the Value of Variety
From early summer strawberries to fall favorites like apples, local crops offer a variety of seasonal tastes at their peak of flavor. Local farmers are often able to try different crops and offer interesting varieties you might not find elsewhere.
Hungry for More?
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About Nutrition Counseling of Doylestown Hospital
Nutrition Counseling of Doylestown Hospital offers personalized nutrition plans for those with a current medical condition or those interested in preventive health and weight loss. Doylestown Health Nutrition Services specializes in nutrition therapy for diabetes, weight management, cardiovascular disease, digestive and eating disorders, pregnancy, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.
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