Do your health a local flavorPublished 12:30am Sunday, April 3, 2011
Did you know that a carrot travels about 1,800 miles to your dinner table? So, how old is that carrot and how much of its original nutrients are still there? Then, compare the nutritional value and taste of that carrot to one that has just been pulled from the Earth. Interestingly, many of us don’t even give it a second thought. If we want to eat for optimum health and get the most benefit from our food, we could become a locavore. Webster’s Dictionary describes a locavore as one who eats foods grown locally whenever possible. Enter a new health movement: eating locally. People who value local as their primary food source are sometimes referred to as locavores. This includes fruits and vegetables as well as items like meats, poultry, fish, eggs and other dairy, herbs, honey, and bread. The concept is to buy food produced, grown or raised as close to home as possible, ensuring its optimum health.
We have a tendency to get so caught up in our fast-paced world involving frequent visits to corner stores and large grocery chains that we forget the importance of fresh foods. There are countless reasons why buying local food is both rewarding and delicious, including enjoying the taste of the food, improving health and nutrition, environmental stewardship, supporting family farms, rural communities and ensuring animal welfare. There’s also significant peace of mind knowing where our food comes from and keeping food miles to a minimum. About 40 percent of our fruit comes from overseas and 9 percent of our red meat comes from foreign countries, some as far away as Australia and New Zealand. In the United States, the average grocery store produce travels nearly 1,500 miles between where it was grown and our refrigerator!
Right here in beautiful eastern North Carolina, we have access to local family farms with items ranging from natural beef, eggs and produce to stores that have local seafood and even places to buy locally made bread and cheese. Or you might consider growing your very own vegetables. With little effort and some TLC, you can grow tomatoes, squash, zucchini, and herbs and take pride in enjoying your own crop. If you don’t have the land for a small garden, you can look into purchasing a plot of land through the Beaufort County Community Garden. For more information, contact the N.C. Cooperative Extension.
If getting your hands dirty is not your thing, purchase local by joining the growing movement of consumers around the world who are making a little extra effort to find food nearby. But start small and don’t expect to change your eating habits overnight. Commit to purchasing one thing locally each week or each month. An easy way to start buying local is to choose just one product to focus on. Vegetables are often a good place to start. The perfect time to start is now, enjoy seasonal local produce and notice the difference in flavor alone. Additionally, feel confident that the unbelievably fresh flavor equates to more nutrients! In general, local food is fresher, riper, better tasting and of overall better quality than food that has been shipped thousands of miles.
Another way to eat local is to visit the farmer’s market right here on the waterfront in Washington, N.C., starting April 16 running every Saturday from 8 a.m. ą noon until October. Or, consume local food by joining Community Supported Agriculture. CSA is a plan where you pay the farmer in advance to be a part of a 15-week program that provides you, the consumer, with a weekly basket of fresh, local, in-season produce. CSA programs are available for spring baskets of seasonal harvest and fall baskets of bountiful harvest products. You can also get involved in CSA with a natural beef farmer. The beef farmer will set up a plan where you will pay in advance and receive a monthly box containing assorted cuts of natural beef, with recipes! And an added bonus, their cattle are usually grass fed and the beef contains no nitrates or MSG.
If you don’t find what you are looking for at the Farmer’s Market, CSA, in your own garden or the Community Garden, our area is abundant with family farms providing everything from seafood, poultry, eggs, honey, dairy, fruits and vegetables, herbs, bread, antibiotic-free meat and more. Take the time to stop at those vegetable stands along the road and partake in the local harvest all spring and summer long. North Carolina is not only beautiful, but plentiful! So, now that you know how to become a locavore, why not give it a try and see how you feel. You see, good food is wise medicine. Do your health a local flavor.
Connie Cipriano, Fitness and Yoga Instructor at Lifestyles Medical Fitness Center, a division of Beaufort Regional Health System.