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Food & Cooking Articles   |  Seasonal & Holiday Tips

Farmers Market Food Finds

Local Produce is Healthier for You and the Planet!

-- By Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietitian

Late summer and early fall are perfect seasons for visiting farmers markets. From the small, mom-and-pop stand at the corner, to the large, organized market with multiple vendors and extensive selections, it is definitely worth the trip. Experiencing food at its finest can encourage even the pickiest eater to try a few bites.   When it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables, the market is the perfect place to locate some fabulous food finds for everyone in the family! 
 
Benefits of shopping at the Farmers Market
 
  • The fruits and vegetables are grown locally and picked when perfectly ripened. This enhances the taste, texture, and aroma of the produce. 
     
  • Often, market prices are lower than at grocery stores.
     
  • Our existing system of food transportation and distribution requires enormous amounts of energy and resources. Before reaching your table, the average food item in the United States will travel 1,300 miles! In fact, only about 10% of the fossil fuel energy used in the world’s food system is used for production. The other 90% goes into packaging, transportation, and marketing of the food. All this inefficiency creates many environmental problems. 
     
  • Shopping at the Farmers Market benefits the local farmer and strengthens your local community.
     
  • Since the produce is picked at the peak of the season, nutrients, and phytochemicals will be more abundant. Hippocrates said, “Let food be your medicine.” The following chart shows many of the health benefits of fresh produce. Don’t get bogged down trying to remember the names of these different phytochemicals—just eat a RAINBOW OF COLOR!

 

Color

Phytonutrients

Health Benefits

Food Sources

Red

Lycopene

Anthocyanin

Prevents certain cancers.  Strengthens collagen proteins.

strawberries, tomatoes, watermelon, cherries
Orange

Beta-Carotene

Liminoids
Protects against bronchitis, asthma, cataracts, and lung cancer.  Can decrease cholesterol levels. carrots, squash, melons
Yellow

Liminoids

Beta-carotene

Zeaxanthin
Protects vision.  Prevents colon and breast cancers. yellow peppers, corn
Green

Lutein

Saponins

Glucosinolates
Protects eyesight.  Heart and skin maintenance.  Prevents cancer. Lowers lipid levels.

spinach, collard greens, broccoli, tomatillos

Blue Anthocyanin Prevents colon, cervical and prostate cancers. blueberries, grapes, plums
Purple Anthocyanin Prevents cancer.  Anti-inflammatory.  grapes, raspberries, blackberries, eggplant

 



Farmers Market Fun
 

  • Try a new fruit or vegetable, or prepare your produce in a new way.
     
  • Ask the vendor his favorite way to prepare a particular type of produce.  Many have recipes to share.  
     
  • Check if there are any special events being planned at the Farmers Market.  Many have cooking demonstrations, tastings, and fun activities for the kids.
     
  • Give your children each $2.00.  Let them explore the world of produce and make a new selection.  There is a much greater chance your child will try this new food since it belongs to them.  (When my daughter was 3-years old, she loved the color purple and selected a purple turnip.  To this day, she still enjoys eating raw purple turnips with ranch dip!) 
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