Is the Farmers’ Market Really That Good for You?
Frequenting your local farmers’ market is not only an enjoyable way to spend your morning or afternoon; it’s also great for your health. Being out and about gets the heart pumping and the blood flowing, which contributes immensely to a healthy well being. To help power that well being, you need the right nutrients at the right time of year. Let’s explore how the farmers’ market can provide what your body needs, when it needs it better than a supermarket.
Peak Nutritional Value
Buying fruits, vegetables, and herbs grown locally allows you to eat foods that are typically harvested at a more appropriate stage of ripeness. This allows for maximum nutrient content. When a fruit ripens, its starch converts into sugar, making it softer and sweeter, says Joseph Scheerens, Ph.D., a horticulture professor at Ohio State University. “The ripening process is a somewhat oxidatively stressful situation for plants, so they develop antioxidants to defend themselves against that stress,” Scheerens says. That makes it easier for host plant to survive, and even better for your body when you eat the fruit or vegetable.
Produce found in the grocery store often travels many miles – even from other continents. With such a long journey ahead, farmers must harvest the crops long before peak ripeness sets in. The produce also typically goes through some process of gassing, waxing, or irradiation in order to keep it looking good and preserved after finally arriving at a supermarket. All of that processing just adds chemicals with no nutritional value whatsoever. Who really wants that?
At local farmers’ markets, you can usually speak directly to the farmer or those that work at the farm in order to get more insight into how the crops are grown. This helps you make informed decisions about what to purchase and, ultimately, consume. Perhaps you prefer produce grown with sustainable farming practices? Or, you like heirloom varieties of produce that is not genetically modified? Or, even more importantly, you want to be sure organic practices have been used with no pesticides? You can first-hand knowledge straight from the people who grew the crops. That’s comforting.
Right Food, Right Time
Eating food that is in season is better for your body. Humans have eaten “seasonally” for thousands of years before modern refrigeration technology. The body benefits from eating foods that are in season, such as lighter fruits and vegetables during hot summer months, heartier fruits in the fall, and heartier vegetables during the winter. Plus, as mentioned earlier, seasonally fresh produce is picked when it’s ripe and fully developed. That means it has had maximum time in the sun and soil to gather and produce nutrients which get passed on to you.
[Related: What Vitamins Should I Take? Getting the Essentials]
Diversity is Good
Generally, farmers’ markets offer a greater variety of fruits and vegetables than supermarkets, allowing for more diversity in your diet. A diet rich in diversity is very good for our bodies. By changing your menu according to what’s available, you are also less likely to develop food intolerances. We humans are complex creatures. We require between fifty and one hundred different chemical compounds and elements in order to be healthy. While we depend on animal products for a tiny handful of these, the vast majority lie within the roots, shoots and leaves of consumable plants. The more you consume, the better!
Safer is Better
Most cases of food contamination come from mass produced food in large industrial settings. Did you know that food from your local farmers’ market is statistically likely to be safer? This is mostly due to local farmers growing smaller quantities of crops and doing it naturally. Doesn’t that just sound better for you?
Knowledge is power, so if you would like to know which non-organic produce has the most pesticides, take a look at the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list. If you’re interested in the produce with the least pesticides, check out the Clean 15 guide. Of course, if you are at your local farmers’ market you can ask them specifically about what (if any) pesticides they use.
At Life Care Chiropractic and Wellness, we’re all about good nutrition leading to a healthy lifestyle. So definitely start shopping at your local farmers’ market versus the supermarket. The benefits are numerous. If you need some additional guidance on nutrition, don’t hesitate to give us a call.