In today’s world, when it comes to food, the choice really is endless. Limitless food options, many available easily and conveniently, mean that we can sometimes forget to think about where the foods we are eating are coming from, how they’ve been produced, and what effect they have on the environment, the economy, and our holistic health. Let’s look at 6 benefits we can reap from choosing local, in season foods!
1. Better for the Environment
Two-thirds of water use, 20-30% of greenhouse gas emissions, and the leading cause of deforestation: This is how food production affects the environment, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). There is no doubt that mass food production has a harmful effect on our planet. But there’s good news as well—it turns out that we can make a difference simply by being mindful about our choices.
The process of transporting food all around the world has a much higher environmental impact than transporting it locally. By eating foods that are in season and produced locally, we can reduce the environmental burden created by the demand for locally out-of-season foods, which have to be imported from parts of the globe where they are in season.
We can start by getting to know what foods are available in what seasons in our regions, visiting farmer’s markets to avail of the fresh, local, and season produce available, and being mindful when in grocery stores, paying attention to labels and symbols—if a product has been sourced from a local farm, this will usually be highlighted.
According to the WHO, food safety requires attention during the whole process: harvest, transport, processing, storage, and later, preparation or storage by consumers. Potentially harmful additives like pesticides, growth hormones, and veterinary drugs are designed to expand the quantity and quality of food so they can endure the transportation process. In addition, transportation and storage processes can accelerate the loss of nutrients of the products, as well as introduce toxins to the foods, depending on the storage conditions. When eating locally, there is a better chance that the products we consume have not been genetically modified, or treated with hormones and agrochemicals that are harmful to our health.
At the same time, we’re benefiting from more nutrients and better flavor, plus we’re also better able to establish the origin and, by extension, the quality of the products, as certain produce items, such as meat, do not have the same production standards all over the world. When buying local rather than imported produce, we have more access to the standards and processes that were used to produce it, giving us a better awareness of the food’s quality and impact on our health.
Tastier and Fresher Products
When consuming local products, most fruits and vegetables are picked when they are ripe and can be sold less than 24 hours after harvest. Fruits and vegetables are fresher and tastier when bought locally and seasonally. On the contrary, when they need to be shipped far away, they are picked before being fully ripe so they can endure the journey and can lose nutrients, freshness, and taste as a result. One 2010 study concluded that local foods are perceived to be safer than conventional foods because of a greater sense of accountability when buying from local farmers than when purchasing products shipped from overseas.
Personal Enjoyment and Higher Involvement
Research shows that cooking with fresh and local products can help us feel more motivated in the kitchen, as items that have been produced and sold locally can create a higher level of engagement and enjoyment than those that have been imported or highly processed. The study linked above also found that when we consume local foods, our involvement in food preparation is higher, allowing us to be inspired by all the different local ingredients available in our kitchen. Cooking mindfully and being present during the whole process, has numerous benefits for our health, ultimately resulting in a more joyful activity that allows us to enjoy the meals that we passionately prepared.
Boost for the Local Community
By consuming local products or purchasing from farmers’ markets, we support and empower our local community. We can even personally know or get to know the farmer or owners of the market, making it easier for us to ask questions and become informed about how the products are treated and delivered. The money we spend on buying local products stays within the area and can generate employment and new economic opportunities.
Chance to Experiment and Discover
The majority of foods are seasonal and only available during certain periods of the year. Therefore, if we do not adjust the dishes we cook to suit the available foods, we can end up needing to buy out-of-season ingredients that may not be as nutritious or as tasty, while being more expensive. Adjusting to the season can give us the opportunity to try new products that we don’t usually consume and learn how to cook different meals. By following the seasons, we contribute to local food production and eat a greater variety of products that provide different essential nutrients for our body.
Adopting mindful eating habits can take time, effort, and dedication, but once you get to know the products you can buy locally and seasonally, you can plan your meals in advance and start enjoying the fresh and tasty foods of your area, all while supporting your local economy and community, as well as your health. For more ways to make healthier food choices and promote your holistic health, book a personalized consultation with one of the Holisticly Nutritionists today!