Soon, the farmer’s markets will be sprouting up in all the parks across town. With this in mind, I wanted to discuss the benefits of eating fresh, local and, when possible, organic produce.
Did you know that fresh produce starts to lose its nutrient value immediately after it has been picked? So, you might say, “At least we’re eating fresh produce instead of processed food.” Well, good point. It is still better than a sodium- and preservative-filled canned good. However, I challenge you to not just look at food as a way to get full, but rather, as nutrients to fuel your body to help it run to its fullest potential. Nutrient dense food will:
So, if you are going to eat fresh produce, why not eat the most nutrient dense kind and get more bang for your buck?
Local is Freshest
This is where buying local and fresh comes in. Fresh produce is going to have more nutrients than produce that spent weeks being shipped overseas or across the country. Thus, when you eat local, you are ensured that the produce is relatively fresh and retaining many of its nutrients. Produce that spends long amounts of time in a shipping process loses nutrients. It usually also has to be preserved, which means it may have chemicals and preservatives on it to allow it to withstand the time it takes to get to your table.
This leads me to the benefit of organic. Our bodies were not designed to break down hundreds of chemicals at one time. Yes, you will read labels that say that the chemicals and preservatives used are safe for consumption. However, our bodies are inundated with hundreds of chemicals at one time. It is the culmination of all these chemicals at once that our body has to try to detoxify. Eventually, it becomes too much, and we end up storing it in our fat cells. This is when things start to break down. Our bodies don’t run efficiently, we gain weight, develop chronic disease and get sluggish as we become filled with chronic inflammation.
Guidelines for Your Groceries
However, the down side of organic food is the cost. I am not naïve enough to think that we can all afford to buy organic food 100% of the time. This is why the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) comes up with their list of the “Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen” each year. This list includes the 12 most chemical-laden foods that we should always try to buy organic and the 15 cleanest foods that are ok to buy at any grocery store. The 2018 lists are as follows:
The Dirty Dozen The Clean 15
Strawberries 1. Avocados 13. Cantaloupes
Spinach 2. Sweet Corn 14. Cauliflower
Nectarines 3. Pineapples 15. Broccoli
Apples 4. Cabbage
Grapes 5. Onions
Peaches 6. Frozen Sweet Peas
Cherries 7. Papayas
Pears 8. Asparagus
Tomatoes 9. Mangoes
Celery 10. Eggplants
Potatoes 11. Honeydew Melons
Sweet Bell Peppers 12. Kiwis
Download copies of both lists here.
So, get out and enjoy the spring weather (I promise, despite the recent snow, spring IS coming!). Visit your local farmers’ markets and look for local produce being sold at your local grocery stores.
For more information on the benefits of organic produce and the consequences of chemicals, check out this article released by the EWG.
Happy, healthy shopping!
Angie McCormick is a Physical Therapist, Nutrition Consultant and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist for Balanced Fitness and Health in Hiawatha, Iowa. Her professional expertise and personal experience with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) enrich her work helping clients with the exercise, nutrition and life skills required to conquer pain.