Everyone is talking about eating local these days! Your neighbour is following the 100-Mile Diet, restaurants are advertising “farm-to-table” menus, and everywhere you look food is being advertised as locally-grown.
But what’s the deal? Does it really matter where your food comes from?
Here are 5 good reasons to eat local food:
1. You evolved for it!
Historically humans have had no choice but to eat local food. In fact, it wasn’t until very recently that we had easy access to foods grown in different countries. Ask your grandma if she ever ate a papaya growing up. (The answer will likely be no.)
Plus, eating locally automatically means eating seasonally. This is nature’s way of making sure you have a variety of foods in your diet, because eating the same foods all the time can lead to nutrient deficiencies and food sensitivities.
2. Fresh food just tastes better.
If you have ever eaten a garden fresh tomato, you already know that it that it's so much yummier than what you find at the grocery store.
But did you know that industrially farmed tomatoes are picked completely green? They are then shipped to a warehouse, and locked in a huge room pumped full of ethylene gas. This tricks the tomato into turning red even though it isn’t ripe.
But looks can be deceiving, and there is still no comparison between the taste of a naturally ripened tomato, and one that is just wearing a costume.
3. It reduces your footprint.
Eating foods that come from thousands of miles away can take a huge toll on the environment. Consider that it takes trucks, planes, sorting facilities, inspection agencies, and plastic boxes to get an out-of season strawberry onto your plate.
By choosing foods that grew within 100 miles of you, you automatically cut down on the fossil fuels needed in transportation.
4. Your bank account will thank you.
Do you remember the Great Cauliflower Crisis of 2016?
Cauliflower crops in California and Arizona were negatively affected by weather and this meant that there was a shortage, driving prices up. The further you lived from the growing region, the higher the prices were… some stores were selling cauliflower for over $8!
The moral of the story is that if you want to save money, local foods should be at the center of your diet.
5. It really is healthier!
You might be wondering how local food can possibly be healthier for you. A vegetable is a vegetable right?
Here’s the deal: when measured, the nutrient content of fresh foods is consistently higher than that of older foods. Local food is fresher because it doesn’t have to travel as far.
It’s easy to fall into a food rut when your grocery store aisles look pretty much the same all year round. But on the other hand, who really has time to go to 3 different stores and farmer’s markets for groceries every week?
Here are some easy ways to start buying more local food without even changing grocery stores:
- Read labels: Fresh produce is always labeled with a country of origin and also on the sign displaying the price. You might be surprised to see that one colour of bell pepper or apple is imported, while another is domestic. This is an easy way to choose a local version of a food you were buying anyway!
- Stick to seasonal favourites: There is a reason we eat pumpkin pie in the fall, and watermelon in the summer. Food traditions are based on what has historically been available to us, so keep them in mind when you’re meal planning.
- Try buying frozen: Local foods like berries are picked in season, frozen and sold all year round in the freezer section. An added bonus - since the food was picked ripe and frozen right away, it is often higher in nutrients.
- Check for sales: Fruits and veggies that are in season tend to go on sale because the supply is abundant. Check the country of origin labels and stock up on local deals!
- Try something new: Eating seasonally means shaking it up! If your morning routine includes a bowl of cereal with sliced banana, try an omelette with fresh, local veggies or some oatmeal cooked with berries frozen when they were in season.