Photo: Produce at a Farmers Market

by Tandis Bishop

We all know that eating fresh fruits and vegetables is an essential part of our daily diet. Many people are now choosing locally grown when shopping for produce. But buying locally grown food is not only good for the environment and the economy, it’s also great for your health.

The key word in describing the health benefit of locally grown is “fresh.” Since the produce is local, it is fresher than produce that has come from the mainland. Fresher produce means better and more nutritious. How? Fruits and vegetables lose their optimal nutritional value as soon as they are picked. When picked, vitamins such as C, E, A, and some B vitamins begin to deteriorate and thus decrease. Other factors such as the exposure to air, artificial lights, and temperature changes can also contribute to the decrease in nutritional value. Thus, the longer the food sits the more it decreases in nutritional value. That is not to say that you will not get much out of eating fresh produce even if it was picked a week or two ago. It still provides a lot of nutrients but it just won’t be as optimally rich as when first picked. Another health benefit to buying locally grown is that you are getting produce at its peak state. Local farms can allow their fruits and vegetables to ripen longer or even fully ripen, which also adds to nutrition.

If you’ve already read this issue’s Feature Article, you know that Down to Earth has been buying from local farmers since we first opened in 1977 and most of those farms are also organic. What can be better than buying fresh organic local produce rich in nutrients and free of chemical pesticides, fertilizers, irradiation and genetic modification? So eat fresh, locally grown organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible and get the most nutrition out of your produce.