Is Eating Locally Grown Food Healthier for You?
Fruits and vegetables are a key part of a healthy diet. But did you know where they grow matters? Food grown nearby carries many extra benefits—for your family and our local farmers.
What does ‘locally grown’ mean?
Food is considered “local” if it’s grown and harvested within 100 miles of your home or the restaurant where it’s served.
Locally grown foods are found at farm markets, roadside stands, “pick-your-own” farms and some grocery stores.
Is locally grown food healthier?
The main health benefit of locally grown food is that it’s fresher. Fruits and vegetables begin to lose their nutrients within 24 hours of being picked, so fresher produce is more nutritious. In addition, locally grown food is picked at its peak ripeness, when it’s most dense with nutrients.
Most produce in the grocery store is harvested before it’s fully ripe so it can make the trip to store shelves without rotting. Air, artificial lights and temperature changes during transport also lower a food’s nutritional value.
Eating local also means you can meet the people who grow your food. You can ask them questions about their farming methods and pesticide use (if any). Local farmers typically focus on soil health and safe growing practices, especially if they’re farming organically. Better quality soil and more sustainable farming practices typically mean better tasting, more nutritious produce.
Is locally grown food more expensive than store-bought food?
Fresh produce is usually more expensive than processed, canned or frozen foods, but you can save money on fresh, locally grown food by eating it when it’s in season. If you buy local produce during the growing season, it’s around the same price (or maybe even less expensive) as produce in the grocery store, and preserving foods by canning or freezing can help you save money during the off-season.
With the goal of improving health and ensuring good nutrition in under-served areas, Virtua offers a Mobile Farmer’s Market that provides access to produce year-round. The market, a 23-foot bus brimming with fresh produce, sells fruits and vegetables at significantly reduced prices in communities throughout Burlington and Camden counties four days a week.
Why should I consider buying locally grown foods?
By eating locally grown food, you support your local farmers and help grow your local economy. Buying locally also cuts transport energy costs and reduces food waste.
Farm markets also are great places to find new foods to try. That’s because smaller growers often offer heirloom and other varieties that you may not be able to find in the grocery store. Eating a wider variety of colorful fruits and vegetables gives you a broader range of antioxidants and phytonutrients, and may help expand your food horizons. Your local grower may even provide you with a new recipe or two.
Virtua’s registered dietitians can teach you how to incorporate in-season foods into a healthy eating plan. Call 1-888-847-8823 to make an appointment.