Why Buy Local Food? It’s Healthier for You and Better for the Environment

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Discover why it’s important to buy local food, the health benefits of eating locally grown produce, and why choosing local food benefits the environment.

Have you wondered why it’s important to buy local food?

Local food is now a mainstream trend, with more and more people seeking out fresh, local options for produce and other foods. And more restaurants are sourcing locally grown ingredients as well, often using the term farm-to-table.

But what is “local” food? How big of an impact does eating local food have on your health and the planet? And why is it important to know more about where your food comes from?

What Is Local Food and Why Should You Care?
There’s no formal definition of the term local food. But one common definition of “local” food is food grown within 100 miles of its point of sale or consumption.

But it’s up to you to decide what buying local food means to you. Maybe it means foods grown and produced in your state or your region. Or maybe it means that it comes from farmers you know and can talk to — for example, at a farmer’s market or through a CSA. And for some people, “local” is more about the values of small-scale and community-based than about a specific geographic configuration.

More and more people want to know where their food comes from and the farming practices of the farmers that grow and produce it. And this is important for many reasons:

It helps you develop a connection with food.
You become more aware of what you’re putting in your body.
You vote every time you shop, and with knowledge comes the ability to support foods and growers you believe in.

Why Buy Local Food? For One Thing, It May Be Better for Your Health
Local food can be better for your health for a few reasons. To begin with, local foods often retain more nutrients. Local produce is allowed to ripen naturally, while food that travels long distances is often picked before it’s ripe. And food picked fresh and in season doesn’t have far to travel before being sold.

Choosing fruits and vegetables grown in season may also be healthier. When researchers at Montclair State University compared the vitamin C content of broccoli grown in season with broccoli imported out of season, they found the latter had only half the vitamin C.

Another study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that the levels of health-promoting anthocyanin pigments more than quadrupled as blackberries became fully ripe.

In addition, locally grown produce may be safer. When they are imported and out of season, fruits like tomatoes, bananas, and pears are often picked unripe. And then, they are artificially “ripened” with ethylene gas.

Also, foods from local growers may contain less (or no) pesticides. Farmers have to pay an extra fee to become certified organic. Some small-scale farmers use organic methods but aren’t certified because they simply aren’t big enough to be able to afford the certification fees. Even if they aren’t organic, small farmers tend to use fewer chemicals than large, industrialized farms.

If you can, talk to your farmers at your local market and ask them what (if any) pesticides they use. And be sure to wash your produce thoroughly to reduce your exposure to pesticides — which is especially important for pregnant women and children.

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