Is Local Food Better?

Liz Cabrera, RD, CSO, LDN, CNSC

Young woman on the market

The “Buy Local” movement has a lot of momentum, not only for the local economy but also for a healthy lifestyle. The question: “Is local food better?” gets asked a lot.  When produce is considered local, it is usually sold within 24-48 hours after being harvested as opposed to “supermarket” produce which may have traveled several hundred miles before reaching the consumer. Eating local also makes the consumer more aware of their food choices and how they get to the farmers’ market, road stand or grocery store. Since local produce is seasonal and picked at the peak of the season, both the taste and nutritional value are at their best. Seasonal produce is often cheaper due to a relative abundance and lower transportation cost.

Some health benefits of eating local include eating fewer processed foods which are usually high in sodium and sugar content; in addition to promoting the intake of more fresh fruits and vegetables rich in fiber and phytonutrients. These small changes in your eating plan can decrease the risk of developing certain cancers or heart disease.

Start Eating Local in Louisiana

  1. Shopping at your local Farmer’s Market

Visiting a farmer’s market can be a fun family activity. It can be enjoyable trying

new foods and engaging with the vendors to learn more about farming practices.

  1. Choose Restaurants that Source Locally

Restaurants that support local farms and growers not only support the local

economy but are able to offer seasonal menus.

  1. Shop at Stores that Label Food Origin

Look for signs marking the origin of produce and seafood.  More grocery

stores are labeling their produce and seafood / meat section. If there are no signs,

speak to the manager about having the local items in the store labeled as such.

  1. Learn what is in Season

Knowing what is in season will help you know what to shop for at your grocery store

or what to expect at the farmers market.  You may want to plan on trying a new

recipe with a seasonal item.

Local Produce to Enjoy this Summer

Berries:  Most flavorful and loaded with cancer fighting antioxidants – low calorie snack

Corn:  Enjoy grilled corn with some lemon juice or in a salad – a good source of carotenoids

Tomatoes:  Louisiana Creole tomatoes are a good source of lycopene and can be enjoyed in your favorite recipe or sliced with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Watermelon:  Although watermelon is approximately 90% water, it is also a good source of vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin B6.  At 40 calories per cup, watermelon is a great summer dessert

Vegetable

Eggplant:  Most flavorful in the summer – contains phytonutrients and a is great high fiber veggie for a vegetarian meal

For anyone who enjoys food, summer offers the finest fresh ingredients. The key is to keep things simple and let the quality of seasonal ingredients shine through.

For more information on nutrition, click here to visit our Health Library.

Cabrera, LizLiz Cabrera, RD, CSO, LDN, CNSC, is the Lead Clinical Dietician for Touro Infirmary with over 25 years experience. Liz has advanced education and extensive experience in nutrition for a broad range of health conditions for which she provides nutrition support. Liz provides comprehensive nutrition care for inpatient and outpatient departments at Touro. In addition, Liz leads monthly healthy lifestyles community seminars and a nutrition after cancer cooking class.

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