Monday, December 30, 2013

Why You Should "Eat Local"

Eating locally and seasonally has been given a lot of press lately, and for good reason.  There are numerous benefits economically, and for your health when you eat foods that have been grown closer to home.  And who doesn’t like benefits?

Better Nutritional Content and Taste
When food is transported, it has to be harvested early and refrigerated to keep it from going bad before it can get to it’s destination and be sold.  That means that your food hasn’t had the time to fully develop, which means fewer nutrients, and then is chilled, which further depletes the nutritional value.  On top of that, very often produce is irradiated to kill germs, which means it is exposed to radiation.  Top that off with the use of preservatives like wax (to keep in moisture), time on the grocery store shelves, and the nutritional value goes down even further.  Now, don’t get it wrong, eating any fresh fruit or vegetable is good in my book, but nutritionally speaking, locally beats out something that has been flown in any day.  And a bonus: The same reasons that make locally grown produce nutritionally superior, makes them taste better.  Early harvesting, transport, refrigeration, preservatives, and time all deplete the natural flavor of produce.  When fruits and vegetables have a chance to ripen naturally, and are on your plate sooner, you are getting the full potential of flavor!

More Cost Effective
Everyone likes money, and the less you have to spend on groceries, the better!  When you eat locally, you are eating seasonally, which means the fruits and vegetables that are available will be ones that grow in your area abundantly, and in line with the laws of supply and demand, they will always cost less.  Couple that with minimal transportation (which also cuts costs), and your pocketbook will thank you. 

Better for Your Body
Our bodies were designed to eat the food that grows in our immediate environment, season to season.  Imagine an Eskimo moving to Arizona.  In a freezing environment, a diet high in animal protein and fats like whale blubber helps to provide energy and keep body temperatures up.  But if that Eskimo imported food from his homeland instead of adjusting his diet for a warm desert environment like Arizona, what do you think would happen?  If he continued eating the way he had in negative degree weather, his body would most likely become overheated, and the chances of developing heart disease or a range of other health complications sky rocket.  Now, this is obviously an extreme example, but think if you were to only consume fruit, salads, and popsicles all winter, you would probably have a hard time staying warm due to the high water content and the cooling nature of those foods.  On the other hand, those same foods are great in the summer to help you stay hydrated and cool.  A meal or snack that is out of season certainly won’t do you any harm in moderation, but sticking to the foods that grow more locally and that are in season on a consistent basis is definitely ideal for your health.  

Variety in Your Diet
When you eat seasonally, your diet tends to be more diverse.  You are literally changing with the seasons, which means a vast array of nutrients from many different sources throughout the year.  It also helps to keep things fresh in the kitchen, not only with fresher, tastier, more nutritionally dense ingredients, but also with new recipes and meals, which can help make eating healthy a fun, exciting, and easy lifestyle choice.

So grab a friend and go pick your own fruits and vegetables at a local farm, or drop by the local farmers market and stock up on healthy, seasonal, and delicious food choices.  Leave a comment and let us know what seasonal items are your favorites!

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