Many people may not be fully aware but they are great benefits to eating local foods from our own backyard gardens and farms; and even from the local farmers and vendors, who pile their trade and sell their produce at their own fruits and vegetables stalls, which they had constructed to sell their produces, as well as from the local farmers markets.
Eating Local is a way to cut down on food miles and emissions. Economically, you support your own community, not large companies. Environmentally, your food travels less, and you know more where it’s coming from. Other benefits include solidarity with food producers doing things on a smaller scale, and the opportunity to eat more natural, whole foods. On that note, eating more natural foods is also good for your health — an aspect of local eating that isn’t always the center of the discussion about reducing food miles.
So, you ask me, what are the health benefits of eating local? If you needed any more convincing in order to start your own backyard gardening or small farm or go shopping local, here are a few of the health advantages.
Eating local means fresher food
When produce doesn’t travel to other parts of the world, its freshness means higher nutrient levels. Once produce is packaged its optimal nutritional level decreases, specifically some vitamins such as C, E, A and some B. There are other factors that come into play, such as exposure to artificial lights and air, and temperature changes. Of course produce that has traveled still has nutritional value, but produce consumed immediately after its harvest is not only healthier but tastier as well (ever compared a freshly picked peach to a grocery store one?). This is due to the fact that the fruits and vegetables are allowed to ripen longer on their branches, vines, bushes, etc. rather than being picked early so as not to spoil during transportation and packaging. This is because produce that is destined for local markets is picked at its prime ripeness, meaning your food will not only be healthier but also taste better.
Eating local means seasonal
Eating local also means following the natural flow of the seasons if you’re eating whatever the closest farmers have to offer. For ecologists, this means following the natural flow of diversity and discovering local varieties, which might not exist in increasingly uniform grocery stores. This certainly helps to avoid the issue of eating the same things all year round, which is not ideal for your health. Additionally, food that is grown seasonally and close by might contain more nutrients that we specifically need at that point of the year. It’s very easy in our big, box store world to forget what foods we should be consuming at which points throughout the year, but finding a balance with what we eat and the seasons can benefit us as well as the planet.
Eating local means being engaged
Many of our current environmental and health issues are due to modern agriculture, and if we engage with our local, natural sources of food, we not only help out local producers, but help our own health. Modern food is packed with sugar, salts and unhealthy fats and other stuffs, all of which have been linked to a variety of diseases. Getting our food from local sources such as from our own backyard garden, local farmers village stalls and at the farmers markets, means having a lot more fresh produce on our hands.
Engaging with what has traditionally been grown in an area is becoming increasingly popular. There are a number of websites, food blogs and even the agricultural divisions websites and others that speaks about how to plant the many different fruits and vegetables, health benefits and nutritional values that we get from fruits and vegetables, uses of food as medicine; not just for the body, but for the soul as well. Most of the food blogs and websites encourages eating the local, indigenous foods of an area in order to reconnect with culture and health.
Others goes above and beyond the health benefits, such a shift could help bring humans closer to the Earth, and foster a more concrete link between consumers and producers. In addition to the alternatives of indigenous crops to modern agriculture, wild foods also offer nutritional bonuses. And, when it comes to such nutrient-dense foods, it’s quality (not quantity) that matters, meaning that only a small amount of a wild food can contain large health benefits. “I once ate alligator tail and thought was boneless chicken in roti, at a friend’s get-to-together party and I am still here and it tasted really great”.
Fortunately, eating more locally is becoming easier as it becomes more popular. Roadside fruit and vegetable stalls have sprouted up in almost every rural village across the Caribbean and around the world, so too have the many farmer’s markets, which offers the general population a wide variety of nutritious home-grown fruits and vegetables. In most countries like the USA, UK and others the other options 0ut there, are food co-ops and CSA programs.
So what have you got to lose? Get out there and get cooking local!