The Benefits of Local Food ConnectionsJun 30, 2021 09:31AM ● By Tamara Luck
Food is nourishing, life-sustaining and uniting. It can bring together families, connect communities and deliver the healing properties of nature to the dinner table. However, not all food is created equal, nor lends itself to the community and family connection. Luckily, locally sourced foods are the perfect option for providing nutrient density, connecting local communities and families and more.
One benefit to consuming local produce is the increased amounts of vitamins and minerals. Hallmark studies on the subject published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition and British Food Journal showed that today’s conventionally grown produce contains significantly fewer nutrients, such as magnesium, calcium, iron, potassium and vitamin C, when compared to the same produce from the 1950s. This decrease in nutrients may be attributed to modern, conventional farming practices such as mono-cropping, picking vegetables before peak freshness to allow for travel time to grocery stores and selective breeding. Selective breeding creates extra-large produce, which often contain less nutrients.
Fruit and vegetables derive their minerals from the soil and vitamins from the sun. When the soil is depleted from unsustainable farming practices like mono-cropping and being picked too early, the produce does not have the ability to acquire their intended nutrients. Unfortunately, most of today’s food is just not as nutritious as it used to be. On the other hand, produce from smaller farms are grown in more mineral-rich soil, are grown and picked at the correct time and travel shorter distances, allowing higher-quality produce to reach local consumers. This model supports the natural ecosystem of a farm, builds community connections and provides neighbors with more nutrient-dense foods.
Additionally, eating locally forces people to eat in-season foods, helping to rebalance the body during seasonal shifts. For example, in the winter, most crave hearty, grounding foods, like potatoes. In the heat of the summer, most crave refreshing, vibrant foods, like watermelon. When shopping locally, the freshest crops will be the ones that the body needs to thrive. Eating with the seasons also promotes nutrient diversity by encouraging the rotation of different fruits and vegetables, rather than relying on three to four favorite vegetables, regardless of the season. Each piece of produce contains a unique ratio of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, vital for all cells in the body. Each color found in plants represents different antioxidants, some of which have not even been discovered or named yet, providing unique anti-inflammatory, anti-aging and immune system benefits.
This summer, follow these three easy steps to increase food diversity, prioritize nutrient density and expand community connections. First, when shopping at the grocery store, opt for local and in-season produce whenever possible. Second, visit your local farmers’ market or join a farm share to support local farmers. Thirdly, start a garden. This can be done with any amount of space. Start small with a few easy herbs, like basil or thyme, in the kitchen and work up to bigger plants, like cherry tomatoes, lettuce or zucchini in outside gardens.
Tamara Luck, RDN, LDN, is an integrative and functional dietitian in Waltham, MA. She is currently accepting new patients at Johnson Compounding and Wellness for virtual nutrition appointments. Schedule a free 15-minute introductory call at NaturalCompounder.com/Tamara.
Find a Nearby Farmers’ Market
The Rhode Island Summer Farmers’ Market Guide 2021 is available at FarmFreshRI.org/summer2021.
Find affordable, healthy and fresh local produce at Boston farmers’ markets. Boston.gov/departments/food-access/boston-farmers-markets.