Monday, January 11, 2010

Five Reasons That Local Food Is Better For You

It’s a new year, and you’re looking for ways to stay healthy. Well, eat already! Eat! While many people may be looking for ways to lose weight, healthy food full of nutrients is a great thing to put into your body.

When this food is local, it’s even better. Yes, I know that mangoes are delicious, but fresh local produce is a delight for your body too. Just keep a few mangoes and a little chocolate around. You’ll be fine.

Why is local food better for you than food that has been imported from far away?

1. You can more easily trace the history of local food. Food that comes from far away may have a dodgy history. Different countries have different rules about pesticide use, and pesticides that are banned in your country may be used in others.

2. Storage time. While there are clever ways to store and preserve food so that it maintains some of its nutritional value, if you’ve tasted a tomato fresh from the vine you know that it is so much better than a tomato that has been flown in from another country. That tomato has likely travelled more than you have. It’s been sitting in a plane, truck, and on a store shelf, gradually degrading.

3. Later picking. This is the inverse of storage time. Foods that are local can be picked at the peak of the harvest, because they have such a small way to travel. This means that the food is perfectly ripe or almost ripe. The fruit does not sit green on store shelves, its micronutrients degrading.

4. While food from far away needs to be transported using vehicles that burn fossil fuels, pollute the air, and lead to climate change, the transportation impacts of local food are much smaller. This means that local food leads to cleaner air and a healthier place to live.

5. Gardening is the ultimate in local food, and it’s exceptional for your health. Gardening gets you out in the fresh air, moving your body and doing a sneaky amount of exercise. Digging and lifting and planting and harvesting are all excellent ways to get exercise and to work up an appetite to eat some of the local food you’ve harvested.

I find that eating my share of our local community supported agriculture share means that I honor my produce by eating vast quantities of it. We also eat a diversity of local foods in the winter time, so eating local has added new flavors to our diet. Do you swear by the health benefits of local food?

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