LOOK TO LOCAL FOODS FOR WHOLESOME NUTRITION
LOOK TO LOCAL FOODS FOR WHOLESOME NUTRITION
With the spirit of earth day and the spring abundance of local produce popping up at your area farmers market, I wanted to touch on the significance of eating as a Locavore or supporting your local food systems. The term ” locavore ” was adopted by New Oxford American Dictionary as 2007’s word of the year and in this past decade we have seen an increase in locavores as well as increased opportunities to eat fresh, local, foods. So what is the big deal?
Over the past century we have evolved to eat less whole natural foods and more food-like substances or products of the industry. The increased consumption of processed foods loaded with refined sugars and preservatives paired with over-consumption and decreased physical activity has led to our current food related epidemics. These food-related complications include obesity, diabetes, cancer, and various other contributions to disease pathology. With the industrialization of farming, we have seen a decrease in the variety and nutrient density of foods and fresh produce. Industrial farms have eliminated the use of heirloom varietals and work with a monocrop system to produce a single variety of each produce item. This mono-cropping results in nutrient depleted dead soil with an increased need for fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides. With increased application of these undesirable substances comes resistance by the pathogens or undesired pests only to create more of a need of application of another chemical agent.
This practice is far from the aspects of traditional farming, now seen on small family farms or moderate scale organic farms, where the focus is on enriching the soil and encouraging rebuilding of the microecology in a sustainable symbiotic exchange of gases and nutrients from microbes in the soil to the rhizomes on the root system of our food. Michael Pollan discusses the perils of industrialized farming in his books, In Defense of Food, and Omnivore’s Dilemma, when he notes a shift in the energy source of food coming from the sun in traditional family farming to an artificial energy source from non-renewable fossil fuels in the industrial farming movement. So thus comes the question, do you want to eat food made from the energy of oil and fossil fuels or the energy of the sun? Which would promote increased vitality, health, and wellness?
Advantages to consuming local organic foods:
Taste: local foods do not have to travel far, so farmers will pick them at their peak of ripeness to ensure the most flavor (did you know that conventional foods that travel long distances are picked before they are ripe and are sprayed with ethylene in the trucks prior to final delivery to accelerate ripening.) Local produce doesn’t have to stand up to undesirable temperatures or conditions during transport, so local produce is plump, ripe, and ready to devour!
Nutrition of organic, local produce: on a micro-nutrient level there is a significant difference. Research supports increased levels of minerals and phytochemicals or antioxidants in organic produce. Soil composition changes with geographic location as well as different types of environmental toxins in the area. Plants that are vulnerable and not protected by artificial pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers must produce their own “sheild” of phytochemicals or antioxidants to protect against insects, pests, and aid in growth. These sustainable conditions with focus on a thriving soil, sunshine, and intention to support a vulnerable plant provides for a more nutrient-dense end product that will contribute to wellness and support our system in the processing of toxins, provide cardiovascular support, and increase the absorption and delivery of nutrients in our bodies. (Follow my next blog on foods and detox to hear more about this concept!)
Nutrition of local pasture raised animal products: For meats, eggs, dairy there are significant nutritional differences in pastured (not pasturized, I am talking grass-fed, free roaming) animal products resulting in increased amounts of CLAs, which are omega fatty acids with research supporting efficacy as cancer fighting, aiding in weight loss, and supporting insulin sensitivity to promote blood sugar regulation. These CLAs are found 5 times higher in pastured grass-fed products which are also higher in amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, with 1/3-1/2 less fat and 1/3 less cholesterol than conventional products. When you look at the differences in animal products with local traditional foods compared to conventional products the two are really very different foods.
Local Economy: according to a study by the New Economics Foundation, a dollar spent locally comes back in two-fold to directly support the community; however, a dollar spent at a non-local business or food product leaves the community with each transaction.
Environment: buying locally promotes biodiversity of our food system which supports healthy soil paired with less chemicals so less run-off and cleaner water systems. Local food purchases also greatly reduce fossil fuels released during transport. Did you know, most food travels over 150,000 miles before it gets on your plate?
How to start your journey as a Locavore:
The great thing about venturing out into the world as a new locavore is the learning curve. This isn’t an all or nothing process; every step you take towards purchasing local foods supports the environment, provides wholesome antioxidant rich nutrients, and supports local farmers. Your dollar is one of the greatest votes that you have to support your local food system. Asking questions at restaurants about where they buy their foods from and requesting local options can be a great way to increase support in the greater Houston area.
First step to becoming a locavore, go to a farmers market. Meet some of the people that produce nutrient-dense heirloom varieties of foods that you may have never heard of or tasted. Ask questions about growing seasons, where their farm is, their methods of farming, and try to fit in a visit to tour the farm.
Try something new! For starters, identify three things that you can get locally and commit to buying these three foods from a local provider. Try eggs, salad greens, and grass-fed beef as a start. As your comfort increases expand these to include seasonal items and before you know it, you will only be getting the bare essentials from your grocery store, if at all.
Resources for the reader:
www.knoppbranchfarm.com (visit my friends at Knopp Branch in Edna, TX or at the Eastside Urban Harvest Market)
“A literature Review of the Value-Added Nutrients Found in Grass-Fed Beef Products.” Nutrition Journal, June 2006
Cancer Letters 1997;116:121-130
Ip, C., J. A. Scimeca, et al. (1994). “Conjugated linoleic acid. A powerful anticarcinogen from animal fat sources.” Cancer 74(3 Suppl): 1050-4.
Bourn, D., and Prescott, J. (2002). “A Comparison of the Nutritional Value, Sensory Qualities, and Food Safety of Organically and Conventionally Grown Produced Foods.” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 42(1):1–34.
Hartman Group (2000). Organic Lifestyle Shopper Study: Mapping the Journey of Organic Consumers. Bellevue, WA: Author.
Williams, P. R., and Hammitt, J. K. (2001). “Perceived Risks of Conventional and Organic Produce: Pesticides, Pathogens, and Natural Toxins.” Risk Analysis 21(2):319–330.