Do You Know Where Your Food Is Coming From?
We read labels and look for all the right things; organic, grass fed, gluten free, and so on. What does it really mean and how far did this food travel before it came to your plate? These are all questions we recommend considering when making food choices. We know that eating organic and “clean” foods can help support a healthy lifestyle, but now everything is marketed this way. With many labels not defined legally by the government it can be challenging to know you are making the best choice. One way to easily improve the quality of your food is eating locally. This article will help improve the quality of your food which will help you improve your health.
Find And Consume Nutrient Dense Food
Whether it is produce or meat or seafood or fruit, it always tastes best when it is fresh. Think of a tomato, mid-winter, from the grocery store. It is hard, unripe, and bland. Then think of a tomato, straight from the garden, in the middle of the summer. It is fresh, juicy, and bursting with flavor. Underneath that beautiful exterior are nutrients and antioxidants that degrade over time. Ideally our food would be picked and eaten immediately for the best taste and nutrient density. Produce that travels thousands of miles are prepared for shipment by being picked early. This leads to not only a suboptimal taste experience, but it is more challenging for us to absorb the desired vitamins.
Followers of Dr. Gundry and The Plant Paradox will tell you that un-ripened plants will have higher levels of lectins, a protein that is challenging for our digestive system to break down properly. A Harvard study found that these fruits and vegetables shipped far distances have a decrease in vitamin C content over the time it takes to get to the destination. In addition to the long trip, foods coming from other countries are irradiated to “sterilize” and prevent food borne illness. This treatment also prevents sprouting and ripening. Now you know why that avocado sat on your counter and never got ripe.
The Benefits Of Eating Local
Beyond the consumer’s experience with the food, there are farther reaching benefits to eating local. When you purchase food from a local farmer, you are putting money directly into your local economy. This supports the community since the money goes to the local producer, which in turn pays its employees, that then spend more money within the region. This equates to more local jobs and greater funds for community needs. Food that is fresh and seasonal has a shorter shelf life, which means that what is grown needs to be sold. This allows competitive pricing via farmer’s markets and CSA (for more info on CSA share check out https://www.localharvest.org/csa/) shares. If the farmer can eliminate the middleman and sell directly to the customer, they can do so at a better price.
Finally, purchasing food locally gives the consumer power. The power to control what is in your food, who produces it, but also how it is produced. The how is important because choosing small, environmentally friendly operations can make a big impact on your local environment and health. Farmers like Joel Salatin or Geoffry and Sally Fallon Morell are choosing to use “regenerative” methods of farming. This creates healthy, delicious foods, but it also improves the local environment with a focus on soil and water conservation. These practices are in harmony with the animals and land that they care for, which reverses the impacts of climate change. Animal manure is naturally spread where the animals travel on pasture which acts as fertilizer. When animals are rotated on different pastures, the land is allowed time to thrive, and the quality of the soil improves. The byproducts are increased water absorption and carbon sequestering. This means less erosion, decreased nutrient loss, and improved air quality on a local scale. This form of farming is actually good for the environment as well as the consumers.
Purchasing food directly from the producer allows the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback. There are no labels to interpret, but instead a human to discuss the inner workings of the farm that brought the food to the consumer. Many of these operations are going “beyond organic” to provide truly healthy and regenerative products. By supporting these operations, it shows the desire for cleaner food production and a cleaner environment; both of which support a healthy community. For more information on farms, CSA programs, and regenerative farming visit the resources listed below.
Wunderlich, S. M., Feldman, C., Kane, S., & Hazhin, T. (2008). Nutritional quality of organic, conventional, and seasonally grown broccoli using vitamin c as a marker. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 59(1), 34-45. doi:10.1080/09637480701453637
Mesenburg, M., Says:, B., Says:, C., Says:, J., Says:, A., & Says:, J. (2019, April 25). Why local food is better for you. Retrieved March 08, 2021, from https://rodaleinstitute.org/blog/why-local-food-is-better-for-you/
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (n.d.). Food irradiation: What you need to know. Retrieved March 08, 2021, from https://www.fda.gov/food/buy-store-serve-safe-food/food-irradiation-what-you-need-know
Buying local makes economic sense. (n.d.). Retrieved March 08, 2021, from https://fairfoodnetwork.org/from-the-field/buying-local-makes-economic-sense/
Gundry, S. R., & Buehl, O. B. (2018). The plant paradox: The hidden dangers in "healthy" foods that cause disease and weight gain. New York, NY: Harper Wave, an imprint of HarperCollins.