Not only does food grown on a nearby farm leave a smaller carbon footprint and support the local economy, but I believe it also tastes better and is better for you than food trucked in from faraway places. As a nutritionist, it makes sense to me that fruits and veggies eaten within a few days of being picked would be more nutrient dense than those that are weeks old from traveling thousands of miles and being in storage.
More researchers are now supporting the health benefits of “local” like Kathleen Frith of the Harvard School of Public Health, who found these four ways eating local is good for you in her study Is Local More Nutritious? It Depends…
1. Local fruits and veggies boast more nutrients. It really is all about the journey. The longer fruit and veggies spend on a truck or in storage before being delivered to you, the greater the loss of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. The moment a piece of produce is picked or cut, its enzymes begin decomposing and feeding on precious nutrients. Researchers at Montclair State University revealed that the vitamin C content of broccoli was cut in half when it was shipped from out of the country compared to when it was sourced locally.
2. Local produce vine-ripens naturally to build even more nutrients. Since harvesting and traveling long distances can be a stressful, damaging adventure for your favorite fruit or veg, most non-local produce is picked before it is fully ripe so it can survive the trip to the grocery store. This may be great for business, but when a plant is allowed to linger on the vine and fully ripen before being harvested, its nutrient content is higher.
3. Local produce offers more nutrient variety, too. When eating closer to home, you gain access to a more diverse selection of produce because more nutrient-rich varieties that may not be hardy enough for transportation or popular enough for mass markets are available locally. Think: Local red leaf lettuce instead of iceberg or a locally-grown purple fingerling potato versus a russet potato. The broader your diet, the more nutrients you consume.
4. Local, organic farmers just grow ‘em healthier. Many (although not all) small-scale, local farms nourish plants with cover crops and other sustainable methods that put nutrients back in the soil. Allowing the fruits and veggies to grow at their own pace with abundant natural nutrients enables their roots to dive deeper into the earth, increasing the nutrients the food pulls from the soil.
Get the most nutritional bang out of your produce buck by eating local and organic when you can. Although the summer season has come to a close, there are plenty of delicious fall fruits and vegetables to choose from wherever you may be!