You probably know that your grocery shopping habits influence your and your family’s health. Did you know that your food-buying choices can also impact the planet as a whole?
Reducing the impact of climate change is a collective responsibility, and minor changes can make a significant difference. They can also make your life more nutritious and delicious. Consider the following five health benefits of buying your food locally.
Transportation accounts for nearly 30% of global greenhouse emissions, and much of those fumes arise while driving produce from the fields to the store. The more foods you buy from local vendors, the greater your impact on reducing climate change.
For example, buying Asian seafood requires a plane or boat to cross an entire ocean before landing in your local grocery. Once it reaches the shore, it still has a truck ride to go, further impacting its carbon footprint. The lengthy transportation process also requires suppliers to freeze such goods, impacting the overall texture when you thaw and serve them.
A carrot is at its nutritious best right after emerging from the ground. By the time three days have passed, it’s already lost around 30% of its nutrients. You won’t get nearly the same dose of beta carotene from a Bugs Bunny snack flown in from overseas as you will from your local farmer’s market.
Over time, buying your food locally could significantly improve your overall health. Scientists still haven’t finished classifying all the various phytonutrients found in fresh produce. However, they know that some, like lutein and zeaxanthin, play crucial roles in preserving visual acuity. Getting fruits and vegetables as right-off-the-vine ripe as possible increases your intake of various substances vital to your well-being.
The same chemical compounds that give foods their nutrients influence their flavor profiles. When foods go stale, moisture creates molecular changes that impact the taste and texture of foods.
Foods bought locally also look more appealing on your plate. Picture a two- or three-day-old wilted salad next to a nice, crisp one. You’ll also notice your purple cabbages and red peppers also appear less vibrant.
Many people complain about conditions on factory farms but feel helpless to influence current practices. While you can practice a vegan lifestyle to oppose animal cruelty, selecting produce grown without chemical pesticides using sustainable techniques is harder.
One way to make a difference is to patronize small local farmers. You can do so best by shopping at your local farmer’s market. Doing so allows you to discuss growing practices with individual vendors, like discovering how they use techniques like crop rotation to keep soils fertile without chemical additives. You can also inquire about the full ingredient list, including any preservatives, in any prepared foods you buy.
Hitting the farmer’s market can also save you considerable cash, especially if you time your visit. Since most vendors transport their goods themselves, they would often rather sell things at a discount than cart them back home — especially if they could rot before the market once again opens. Going at the end of the day can score you a discount, particularly if you become friendly with the merchant.
Have you ever read a food label with ingredients you couldn’t pronounce? Many of today’s ultra-processed and convenience foods contain chemical additives and preservatives that may negatively affect human health.
Use your judgment, but remember — fresh and natural is best. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned Alar in 1989. Before then, producers sprayed it on apples to enhance growth and color before research revealed its carcinogenic properties. Although this chemical is gone, others like nitrates remain. Shopping locally gives you more control over what you put in your body.
Small actions can make a big difference in your overall health. Your grocery shopping choices can also address climate change. The next time you make your list, consider the five above benefits of buying your food locally and hit the farmer’s market as your first stop.
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