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Exploring the Nutritional Benefits of Eating Local Foods


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By the time fruits and vegetables reach your kitchen counter – whether from a stall at a local farmers market, or the supermarket produce department – several factors determine their nutritional quality: the specific variety chosen, the growing methods used, ripeness when harvested, post harvest handling, storage, extent and type of processing, and distance transported.

The vitamin and mineral content of fruits and vegetables depends on decisions and practices all along the food system – from seed to table – whether or not that system is local or global. This white paper takes a closer look at local food and nutrition

When it comes to nutrition, many people believe that choosing locally sourced foods is the best way to go. But is this really true? In this article, we explore the connection between locally grown foods and optimal nutrition.

The Benefits of Eating Local

One of the main reasons people choose to eat locally sourced foods is because of the belief that they are more nutritious. And there is some evidence to support this claim. Here are some of the benefits of eating locally:

Increased Nutrient Density

Locally grown foods are often more nutrient-dense than their counterparts that have traveled long distances to reach your grocery store. This is because they are typically harvested closer to peak ripeness and are transported a shorter distance. As a result, they have less time to lose nutrients and can retain more of their natural flavor and texture.

Fresher Produce

Produce that is grown locally is also fresher. This means that it has a higher water content, which can help to increase the nutrient density of the food. In addition, fresher produce is more flavorful, which can make it more appealing to eat.

Support for Local Farmers

Eating locally sourced foods also supports local farmers and the local economy. By buying from local farmers, you can help to ensure that they are able to continue growing healthy, nutritious foods for your community.

The Potential Drawbacks of Eating Local

While there are many benefits to eating locally sourced foods, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider. Here are a few to keep in mind:

Limited Availability

Depending on where you live, it may be difficult to find a wide variety of locally sourced foods. This can limit your options when it comes to meal planning and can make it harder to get a balanced diet.

Higher Cost

Locally sourced foods may also be more expensive than their counterparts that have traveled long distances. This is because the cost of production may be higher for smaller-scale farmers, and there may be additional costs associated with transporting the food shorter distances.

Seasonal Limitations

Finally, some locally sourced foods may only be available during certain times of the year. This can make it difficult to get a diverse range of fruits and vegetables throughout the year.

How to Make Informed Decisions About Eating Local

So, is eating locally sourced foods the best choice for optimal nutrition? The answer may depend on a variety of factors, including where you live, what foods are available, and your personal preferences.

To make informed decisions about eating local, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Do your research. Find out what local foods are available in your area and how they are grown.
  • Shop around. Visit different farmers' markets and grocery stores to compare prices and availability.
  • Consider your budget. If cost is a concern, look for ways to save money on locally sourced foods, such as by buying in bulk or shopping seasonally.
  • Balance your diet. While eating locally sourced foods can be beneficial, it's important to make sure that you are still getting a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods from different food groups
Aaron Bernstein, MD, MPH

Aaron Bernstein is the Interim Director of The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics.

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