Saturday, January 03, 2009

Eat Produce in Season for Better Health

Family Food & Nutrition

Get the maximum health and nutritional benefit from the fruits and vegetables you eat by choosing produce at peak ripeness, locally grown & freshly harvested.

Today's food shopper has choices our ancestors never dreamed of. Year-round, they can go to the grocery store and buy produce that was once available for only a few months or weeks of the year. Have strawberries in November, corn on the cob in February!

Given these options, why would one want to eat like our ancestors did, eating produce in season, grown within a short drive from their homes? Because it's better for you, and it tastes better too.
Produce is at its peak nutritional value when it is ripe. But fruits and vegetables that will be traveling long distances to market aren't picked when they are ripe, but before ripeness. While the produce gains color and softness on its journey to the supermarket, once harvested, a vegetable is as nutritious as its going to get. Its nutritional value comes through the stem from the living plant, and its nutritional value actually decreases every day past harvest.

Nutritional value is not on the top of the large commercial vegetable farmer's agenda. In times past, when all produce was local, horticulturists' primary criteria for developing new strains of fruits and vegetables were taste and nutritional value. But today, with much of the growing, harvesting, handling by machines and shipping of produce around the world, other criteria such as sturdiness, shippability, uniformity of size and grocery case eye appeal take precedence.

While these new criteria are important to the grower's profits, they add nothing to the consumer's health, rather, they detract from it. Sturdy produce that stands up to lengthy shipping loses nutritional value with every day that passes between harvest and eating.

So for your health's sake, when you're shopping for produce, find your local vegetable stand, preferably one on the road right in front of the farm where the fruits and vegetables are grown, selling what was picked that day. Eat produce intended to be grown in the area where you live, and buy it at its peak of ripeness, rather than produce that was picked unripe and shipped thousands of miles.

If you live in the city, finding the farm stand might take some doing, and getting there will require some driving. Look for a farmer's market or your local health food store's fresh produce section, or maybe add some healthy outdoor exercise into the mix and grow your own! If you lack the yard space, time, or inclination, by all means, support your community fruit and vegetable growers by buying your produce ripe, locally grown, and freshly harvested.

1 comment:

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