Did you know that your average carrot travels 1,838 miles before it lands in your salad? Most of us have become heavily reliant on produce from the grocery store that is coming from across the country, or even the world. One way to reduce the amount of “food miles” or the distance it takes for your food to travel from where it’s grown to a grocery store near you is to eat locally and seasonally.
Eating local, seasonal food isn’t a new idea that just came on the scene - think back to before we had semis to ship food across the country or planes to import foods from other countries. We were eating foods that we or our local farmer was able to grow during the current season. That means we weren’t eating strawberries in January or apples in March. Instead, we were eating more grounding, warmer foods in the cooler months like potatoes and squash and fresher, cooler foods in the warmer months like greens, melons, berries and cucumber.
Now that we do have semis and planes to transport food, we can have any food that we want at our fingertips at any time throughout the year. There are benefits to having whatever foods we want whenever we want them but there are downfalls, too. For example, the longer and farther the distance our food has to travel to get to us, the less nutrients the food will have by the time we eat it. The nutrient density begins to decline as soon as the plant is harvested and on average, produce travels 1,300-2,000 miles to get to us - that leaves a lot of time for nutrients to decrease. “In North America, our fruits and vegetables can spend as much as five days in transit, sit on the supermarket shelves for 1–3 days before purchase and then sit in a home refrigerator for up to seven days before being eaten.” says Dr. Josh Axe.
With that being said, ideally we’re eating the foods rather quickly after harvest to reap all the benefits from the nutrients it contains. One way to ensure that is to eat local, seasonal foods from farms near you. Farmers markets are a great way to buy from many farmers all at the same time. Not only will you be supporting your local economy and increasing the nutrients your body is receiving but you’ll also be decreasing your carbon footprint. The produce that we consume from the grocery store travels far, requiring a high amount of energy to get to the shelf - usually in the form of fossil fuels.
So what changes can you make today? Start by visiting your local farmers market and buying what you can there and then buying the rest from the grocery store. You can even plant a small garden on your deck or in your yard. Start to become conscious about what you’re consuming and where in the world it’s coming from. Small changes made by each person, add up to large changes in the quality of nutrients we’re getting and the health of our communities.
~Bri Young, Integrative Nutrition Coach