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Why Eating Local Takes the Cake

Posted Oct 25 2013 7:00am

By Hillary Monroe, MS RD LDN

With fad foods and diets coming and going at a clip that leaves even the most seasoned foodie in a tizzy, it does give us a good opportunity to highlight what has not changed: local food. The local food movement is not necessarily new but has taken a stronger hold over the past few years. Take my hometown, Boston, where at first the market downtown, Haymarket, was one of a kind but now farmers markets are as common as fast food restaurants! I for one am a big fan of this increased accessibility.

I should disclose that in college I worked on an organic, family owned farm and lived first-hand the daily hard work that went into producing beautifully pink cherry tomatoes, crisp lettuce and perfectly oblong zucchinis. Sitting down to a farm fresh meal was nothing short of heaven and now many years later I – and you – can enjoy those same meals with ease. Let’s be clear – no gimmicks, no special food plan – this is simple whole food eating as it was intended. In case it wasn’t clear, eating local is a good idea for so many reasons:

  • Environment. By definition, local food is produced and sold within a smaller radius than conventional foods. By choosing local, you are decreasing the carbon footprint caused by transporting foods great distances. Not to mention the responsible farming practices most local farmers abide by.
  • Support local farmers. Since you’re not paying a premium for shipping food across the country, your food dollar goes directly to the farmer. Local farmers producing a variety of products are also protecting biodiversity and preserving a larger agricultural gene pool, which is important for ensuring long-term food security.
  • Eating Seasonally.  Raspberries in January and asparagus all year? While we love having our favorites fruits and veggies all year round, it’s a convenience that as we already said isn’t environmentally friendly or inexpensive. The alternative is eating seasonally. Local farmers can only offer seasonal produce and are more likely to grow a wide variety of local crops so by joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and getting the best of the week you’ll have an exciting opportunity and challenge to try and use a wide variety of produce. The produce you pick up from the local farmers is usually picked within 24 hours of purchase – can’t get much more fresh!
  • Locally grown food can promote better health.  While there is no study specifically linking local food to better health, we can infer it for a few reasons. If you’re eating locally, you’re more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables versus processed foods. We know that a diet high in plant foods is associated with better health and less calories, meaning decreased obesity. Check for yourself and compare a veggie-filled meal and processed foods and meats at Everyday Health’s My Calorie Counter. It has also been noted that fresh foods may have more nutrients compared with produce picked weeks ago.

As the growing season gets into full swing, I hope you think about how you can add more locally grown foods to your menu. By doing so you are supporting the many benefits of locally grown food. I hope that you have the pleasure of sitting down to a farm fresh meal as I have, and while it may not be in a farmhouse, your house may be almost as close!

Hillary Monroe, MS RD LDN, is a Registered Dietitian and writer for Everyday Health Calorie Counter.

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