You are what you eat. Invest in your health.
One of the simplest ways to do this is to shop and eat local. Here’s why:
1) Seasonal foods pack the most nutrients. Buying fresh, local foods means that foods were harvested at peak ripeness- containing the most nutrients. Tomatoes available in December are picked well before they are ripe in order to sustain the long distance travel. Because the food was harvested before it was ready, it was not fully developed and is lacking in a number of key nutrients. Additionally, the food just does not taste very good. Our bodies crave foods that are in season- fresh berries in the summer when it’s warm or comforting squash in the fall and winter. Climate impacts what our bodies require at different times of the year and eating seasonally means you are giving yourself the best of what it needs when it needs it.
2) You know what you are eating. Buying local- especially through a farmer’s market or CSA, means you can learn about how your food was grown and harvested by talking with the farmers. You can be confident that these foods have been farmed ethically and in an environmentally-friendly manner. In NYC, farmers that sell at local farmer’s markets, or green markets, are required to produce food in a particular manner in order to sell at these markets. The foods are also sold in their whole forms- minimally processed grains, dairy and meat products are often offered at local markets. Buying from a larger grocery store means you might be buying foods from large manufacturers who are less concerned about quality and the environmental impact of how their food is produced. If the food you are looking for is not produced locally- ask if you really need it.
3) The animal products are produced with a conscience. The meat, eggs, and dairy available through local markets and CSAs are usually free of the antibiotics, hormones, and the mistreatment that factory-farmed animals succumb to. Animals raised eating the foods they evolved to eat, and living in comfortable environments means healthier food on our plate. While this food can be more expensive than the more cheaply, mass-produced animal products, the quality of these products and the impact on the environment make them well worth the additional cost. Spending money on diseased animals that were fed unknown or unnatural feed in unethical and unhealthy when alternative options are available.
4) It helps to support farmers growing fresh fruits and veggies. The majority of farmers throughout the country produce corn and soybeans. The majority of these crops produced are used to feed livestock on factory farms or become key ingredients in processed foods. Farmers have an incentive to produce corn and soy because the government has provided subsidies for their production. Unfortunately, the vegetables and fruits we need most to be healthy are produced at a greater cost to the farmer who elects to grow fruits and vegetables. There are no subsidies for these nutrient-rich foods, means they are more expensive to buy. Buying from local farmers means you are supporting the movement toward increasing the available healthy food in our food supply.
The more we focus on the quality of the food we eat and the impact of the dollars we spend, the greater influence we can have on the availability of healthy, fresh food options for our families and communities.