(article by Dr. Al Sears)
What’s wrong with organic fruit and veggies at your grocery store?
Well, ever wonder why the lettuce at your supermarket seems so lifeless? It has a lot to do with how it got there.
The food at major grocery stores travels an average of 1,500 miles to get there.1 A lot of produce comes from Mexico, Asia, Canada, South America and other countries. By the time it lands at your supermarket, it just isn’t the same as when it was fresh from the ground or the tree.
And produce is especially sensitive to transport and storage. Spinach is a great example. A Penn State University study published in the Journal of Food Science found that spinach stored at 39 degrees Fahrenheit for eight days loses most of its folate and cartenoid content.2
Why is that important? Folate is a B vitamin that is essential to women’s health. And cartenoids in fruits and veggies help to prevent blindness and some cancers.
Unfortunately, many trucks ship spinach across far distances at temperatures well above 39 degrees. Storing them at high temperatures in trucks can deplete their levels quickly.3
Vitamin C gets depleted, too, because it’s sensitive to heat, light and oxygen. It tends to degrade very soon after harvest. University of California researchers found that fruits and veggies lose vitamin C the longer they’re stored at higher temperatures.
So the sooner you can eat fruits and vegetables after they’ve been pulled from their nutrient source, the more your body benefits. And taking nutrients in through your food is the BEST way to get the nutrition you need.
That’s why buying your fruit and veggies from local farms you trust is better than buying organic. I buy fresh, local and organic food from small farms for many reasons.
- First, the food is more nutritious because small farmers harvest their crops a couple of days or less before they sell them. This makes them taste good, too. Better than anything you’ll find at a supermarket.
- Many small farmers use organic farming methods and seeds, even though their foods aren’t certified organic. That’s because they can’t afford the government’s expensive organic certification process.
- I find varieties I can’t get anywhere else. Small farmers can raise several selections of crops – many which have been passed down through generations. The local fruit stand is one of the only places to find these rare selections.
One of the best reasons I buy from local farms is that I want to support my community. There are less than one million farmers in the U.S. And they get paid as little as 18 cents per item at stores. But when I buy directly from small farmers, they get all the profits. And those are profits that are invested in supplying natural food to my community.
So if you want to experience all these benefits, too, you can start by checking out these websites to get started buying locally today:
- Alternative Farming Systems Information Center (afsic.nal.usda.gov): A library of resources about local, fresh, organic food. It includes everything from articles to full reports and databases.
- Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (buylocalfood.org): Includes an excellent list of general resources about buying locally.
- Eat Well Guide (eatwellguide.org): Just type in your zip code to find fresh food sources in your community.
- Food Routes (foodroutes.org): National nonprofit dedicated to rebuilding local food systems through outreach, events, local food guides, and educational materials. They can connect you to your community’s cleanest, freshest food.
- Local Harvest (localharvest.org): Online community for buying local. It includes a national directory of small farms, farmers’ markets, and other local food sources – that’s constantly updated. Plus you’ll chat online with others who share your interest in farm-fresh food here.
Also, remember these three things to reach your goal of fresh, local and organic:
- Don’t assume all Mom-and-Pop farms use organic methods. Some could use chemical pesticides and fertilizers on their crops. So the only way to know for sure is to ask.
- If you’re at a farmer’s market, it’s always good to find out where the produce was grown. Especially if they’re selling out-of-season produce.
- It’s also good to ask about the best ways to pack and store your food. And ask when their fruits and veggies were picked – and whether they used organic seeds.