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Eating Local and Seasonal is Important for Your Health & Community - Dietitian's Top Reasons Why

Eating seasonal and local is not only economical but it is also so healthy for you as an individual--and here's why!

Farm To Table, Locally Grown, Shop Local, Eat Local, and Homesteading are all the rage nowadays. It seems that more and more people are realizing that we are living unsustainably in regards to our food, product consumption, and even our schedules. We are more out of touch than ever with the seasons and our food system. This is something can eventually become a huge problem. Most children have no idea where their foods come from and how they grow. With my current job as a community wellness planner in the rural Mississippi Delta, you would think that most people would know a lot about farming and agriculture-- but it is simply not the case. We have almost gotten so far away with how our ancestors live that no one even knows how to eat with the seasons-- unless you are talking about Starbuck's Pumpkin Spice latte, Thanksgiving dinner, and Christmas cookies.

This has been a journey that I myself have been on in the last few years. It all started a year before covid when I had a summer garden with my sister. I loved having fresh produce to eat and because realizing how great it was to grow my own food. I then went on to have another summer garden the next summer, and so did my sister. I also worked on a farm a little bit more during these years and realized how much I enjoyed slower living and how amazing agriculture is. While living on a farm with her husband, my sister has been able to keep up a garden every year while I have put my gardening journey on hold for now. I have been researching more and more about homesteading and living more sustainable ever since. While also enjoying my sister's extra produce that she gives me whenever I go back home. I have made this post as a way to share the importance of eating seasonally and locally. I feel like these are easy tools to live more sustainably, even if you can't have your own farm or garden. Not only it is more sustainable-- but it is so much healthier to consume with the seasons and as local as possible.

Why eating local and seasonally is best:

More nutritious than store bought produce

Studies have actually shown that when crops are ripened on their host plant, they end up having more nutrients than when they are picked prior to being ripened. Most of the produce that we get at our grocery stores are picked prior to ripeness because they have to be transported for such a long time in order to be shipped out to the stores (1). Essential seasonal nutrients like vitamin C, folate, and carotenes can be lost when food is stored for extended periods of times. These nutrients are antioxidants that are supposed to be supplied in our foods seasonally to help us with things like allergies and colds (2). For example, late winter and early spring vegetables like leafy green and cruciferous vegetables have tons of vitamin C in them that boost the immune system. Consuming items like local honey, produce, and locally source meat and dairy are great ways to combat losing nutrients that God wants us to have in our foods. There is an ancient Indian concept known as "ritucharya" in the ayurveda practice. It basically means that you eat with the seasons in order to maintain good health and prevent disease (3). Some could say that just gibberish, but I think this can apply to you no matter where you live or what you believe.

Fun fact: summer vegetables have extra beta-carotenes in them that help to protect our skin against the sun. Fruits are also more available in the summer, giving us more carbohydrate-rich fuel to have energy for when the weather is nice (2).

It tastes better than store bought produce

Having produce that is picked at the point of ripeness is not only better for you since it does not have the pesticides sprayed on them prior to a long time traveled on a produce truck, it also tastes better. Crops that are picked at the peak ripeness taste better than crops that have to be picked prior to ripeness, like most of the foods we find at our grocery store (1).

Supports Local Farmers

Don't you love the idea of being able to know exactly where your food comes from? Even who planted it? Buying local is a great way to do that. It also is a great way to support those around you. Farming, especially sustainable farming, is a dying occupation nowadays. Farmers can be hit the hardest when inflation comes, since the inflation ratio does not affect their selling costs as much as it affects their operating costs (1).

“The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.”

Another perk of supporting local farmers is getting their insights on how they grow their crops or raise their animals. If you are very picky about the food you eat, this is a great way to insure that you are actually getting what you pay for. Packaged food labels can be very deceiving and even "organic" labeled foods are not what they use to be. The industry will always find wormholes to cheapen the farming practice when it comes to growing organically-- for the sake of money. Nothing in our stores are as healthy as the claims on their packaging would like us to believe (1).

Supports the Local Economy

Speaking of the local economy, we cannot forget how important it is to support local. I say this as someone who struggles to do this. Especially since I am so cheap and buying from a chain grocer or from the internet is sometimes cheaper than local retail. I think starting my own blog and trying to grow my own side business has shown me how hard it is to have your own business that you steward. Money spent in the local community, stays in the local community. To have more money circulating in your local area means more money for everyone in the community who is willing to be a local consumer. It stimulates the local economy in a way that Amazon orders and Thrive boxes never could (1).

Forces You to be more creative in the kitchen and try new foods

With seasonal foods, comes less variety during certain parts of the year. This is not a bad thing though.

Eating with the seasons helps use to stay in touch with the seasons and how nature changes throughout the year. It gives us something to look forward to as new seasons come.

So, be creative! Make a seasonal bucket list and add a something fun and local to the list. For example, fall is coming up. Some things on my fall bucket list are:

- Carve pumpkins and then bake with pumpkin puree

- Go apple picking and then can apple with my mom

- Make an apple pie (one of my dad's favorites)

- Have a chili night and try out a new sweet potato chili recipe

- Make a healthy-ish appetizer for a football watch party

- Make a William Sonoma copy-cat aroma blend in my dutch oven that makes my house smell like fall while I am binging Gilmore Girls

Like this post if you would like more content like this one. This was such a fun post to write and I love talking about agriculture and the food system anytime I get the change. If you need, you know where to find me-- contact me through the website or on my social media: @talley_sara on Instagram.


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