Why Support Your Local Farmer?

You’ve heard the saying “If your grandmother wouldn’t recognize it, it’s not real food.” Eating farm fresh food grown by your local farmer is making it’s way back into mainstream society. It simply makes good sense, and it’s how everyone ate not so long ago—before heart disease, diabetes and obesity had managed to wheedle their way into every corner of North America.

The benefits of eating locally grown, seasonal food are many—it’s ultimately cheaper and better for small farmers and your community’s economy, and it’s a great way to keep in step with the natural world. Perhaps more compelling, though, eating seasonally is an especially excellent way to boost nutrition.

Here are just a few of our favorite reasons to keep it local!

Best Flavor, Best Nutrition
Most fruits and vegetables reach their nutritional peak around the same time they ought to be harvested—which, conveniently, is also when they taste the best. The redder a red tomato is, for example, the more beta-carotene it contains. Same goes for peppers: As the pepper progresses from green to red, a bell pepper gains 11 times more beta-carotene and 1 1/2 times more vitamin C.

So we know fresh-from-the-source is best. And we also know that papayas sitting on a grocer’s shelf in Idaho in December are far from it. That “fresh” produce you’re buying has traveled days or weeks on its journey from far-away harvest to the store near you. And that often means it’s been harvested before it hit that important nutritional peak, to boot.

Take the delicate peach: If picked before it’s ripe, a peach will continue to soften after being plucked, but it’ll never ripen any further. Picking produce before it’s ready to be eaten is a sacrifice farmers must make if their produce is intended for long-distance shipping and extended shelf life. But long-distance shipping isn’t a concern for producers who sell their food to their neighbors. The best way to get superfresh food in winter (if you don’t grow your own cold-hardy garden) is to buy it directly from local producers.

For Your Health
Study after study documenting the benefits of eating an in-season, plant-focused diet—reduced risks of cancer and heart disease, increased longevity, improved cholesterol, improved vascular health, increased bone density and weight loss, to name a few.

Eating locally grown, in-season food offers yet another nutritional benefit: Supporting farmers who manage their land sustainably is an investment in more nutritious food for all of us. Modern commercial farming, with its focus on quantity over quality, often at the expense of soil quality, is giving us less and less nutritious food all the time. To do something about it, buy food from producers who nurture the soil and select crop varieties based on flavor and nutrition, rather than yield or shelf life.
Our potential for optimal health encompasses more than our day-to-day diets, but eating nutritious, in-season food produced conscientiously is an excellent step toward becoming part of that something bigger than all of us.

Spice It Up
“Eat locally, spice globally.” You can enjoy the best cuisines from around the world and still rely on local farmers by buying locally grown for the bulk of your purchases and limiting imported goods to flavoring ingredients. Winter’s best spices and herbs include allspice, bay leaf, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, ginger, nutmeg, rosemary, sage, star anise, turmeric and thyme.

Using fresh herbs and spices also provides health benefits: If you flavor your meals with nutritious herbs and spices, you’ll be able to rely less on added fats, salt and sugar. Plus, herbs and spices are chock-full of health-promoting compounds that tackle everything from elevated blood sugar levels to high cholesterol and cancer.

Courtesy of MotherEarthLiving.com

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