NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS OF EATING SEASONALLY AND LOCALLY

You’ve probably already heard that it’s important to include a fair amount of fresh vegetables and fruits in your daily diet. (Perhaps one of the few recommendations upon which doctors, dieticians, and health experts alike can agree!) But eating seasonally and locally are the next important steps toward reaping the health benefits associated with a produce-rich diet.

Eating seasonally is quite literally all about what’s eating “in season.” When produce is grown and harvested according to the natural, seasonal cycles, you can rest assured that it will be higher in key nutrients, like vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.

Not to mention, it will taste better! (Have you ever tried to eat a tomato in the middle of December, or butternut squash in June? Not exactly full of flavor.)  The higher the nutrient values, the more vibrant and delicious your produce will taste.

Additionally, sourcing your diet as locally as possible is key not only to boosting nutrition, but alleviating unnecessary strain on the environment. The farther produce has to travel to get to your plate, the earlier it has to be harvested. This often leads to lower nutrient-density, as vitamins and phytonutrients degrade over time and under less-than-ideal travel conditions. (Upon consideration, it’s also quite obvious that the longer the distance something has to travel, the more likelihood it will have a negative environmental impact, whether we’re talking by plane, train, or automobile.)

Local can mean as nearby as the next town over, or even several hundred miles away. Although this can seem like a logistical challenge, just by narrowing most of your haul to what’s in season and available within your region, you’ll make great progress.

While it might seem like another task to add to your list of to-do’s, it’s becoming more accessible to support local farmers and purveyors. Visit your local farmers’ market, which many towns offer from late spring all the way through the fall. (Just check out what’s available in MontclairRidgewood, and Glen Rock!)

These days, even your average grocery store makes it easy to find seasonal, local produce. Look for signs indicating local farms, or just pay attention to what’s on sale! Often during the height of a harvest, surpluses of seasonal produce means stores will try to unload deliveries more quickly and therefore, at a discount.

Or, if you’re into setting-it and forgetting-it, sign up for a CSA delivery. CSA – or “community-supported agriculture” – makes it easy for the consumer to receive regular deliveries of fresh, seasonal, local produce. Simultaneously, supporters help out farmers by guaranteeing orders throughout the harvesting season. While you’ll have less control over what you get in each delivery, this option is great for those of us who could stand to be a bit more creative in the kitchen!

As we head into the fall and winter seasons in the northeast, the next time you’re at the grocery store, looks for root vegetables like beets, butternut and other squashes, pumpkin, and potatoes. Heartier greens and cruciferous vegetables like kale, swiss chard, and brussels sprouts are a perfect alternative to warmer weather-appropriate salad or sautee greens. Apples, pears, and citrus should fill your fruit bowl, and are tasty fresh or cooked.

By highlighting seasonal, local produce in your refrigerator and on your kitchen table, you’ll benefit not just your immediate family, but the greater agricultural community.

For more information on what’s available locally and by season, visit the NJ Department of Agriculture Jersey Fresh website

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