Summer is finally here! Cooling fruits and vegetables are plentiful this time of the year. An important component of living a healthy lifestyle includes living in harmony with nature’s seasonal cycles. Relying on locally produced foods means eating in sync with the seasons. Local foods tend to be picked closer to peak ripeness and do not have any chemicals used to prevent spoilage when transporting food long distances. According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), “On average, our food travels from 1500 to 2500 miles on its way to your plate, via transportation that guzzles gas and spews toxic emissions along the way.”
So the benefits of eating seasonally and locally extend well beyond just healthier diets for us; they include a healthier planet as well. The food that is healthiest for you – whole, fresh, unprocessed, organic, and nutrient dense – is produced using sustainable practices that are good for the earth. On the flip side, foods that are high in fat, highly processed, highly caloric, and nutrient deficient are produced using large-scale agri-business practices that are heavily dependent on non-sustainable fossil fuel inputs for fertilizer, pesticides, transportation and processing.
The U.S. industrial food system has created a gorge-yourself environment with too many choices and too much food (the wrong kinds of food) available any time, anywhere. There are no seasons in the American supermarket. This type of food system is toxic to people, animals, and the environment. Did you know that less than 1% of government agricultural subsidies goes towards growing fruits and vegetables!? We need to move away from the industrial food system model and support organic, sustainable and locally grown food. By aligning ourselves with the environment, with the seasons we live in, we make healthier food choices that impact our health and well-being in a positive, conscious way.
A note about choosing organic food – there are clear health benefits to eating organic. The three primary health reasons include: 1) the link between pesticides and cancer (over 80% of the most commonly used pesticides have been categorized as potentially carcinogenic – and kids are particularly susceptible to the adverse affects of pesticides), 2) the link between pesticides and an increased risk of birth defects and human reproductive problems, and 3) overuse of antibiotics (given to livestock) has contributed to drug resistant bacteria in humans.
If you’re uncertain about what is in season near you, click on the following NRDC link to find out. This website also includes information about farmer’s markets near you. http://www.simplesteps.org/eat-local