As the hot summer sun beats down, I can’t help but be jazzed about all the locally grown fruits and vegetables that are now available. Not only does food grown on a nearby farm leave a smaller carbon footprint and support our 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 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 local’s health benefits, like Kathleen Frith of the Harvard School of Public Health, who found these 4 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’s 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 vs. a conventionally farmed russet potato. The broader your diet, the more nutrients you consume.
4. Local, organic farmers just grow ‘em healthier. Many 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 when you can. With the growing season in full swing, it’s the perfect opportunity to enjoy local, organic nutrient-dense foods. And we can help by delivering local, farm-fresh food right to your door.
Mary Mesenburg earned her B.S. in Food Management and Nutrition Science from Oregon State University. She’s passionate about teaching people how health is related to the food they eat. Mary works on improving quality across the Door to Door Organics experience.