The Benefits of Eating Local Food
If you need a vegetable, there is no source more local than your backyard. As a family, growing your own veggies is not only a rewarding experience, but something that kids enjoy immensely. There are many books and websites available on building vegetable gardens.
If you do not have the inclination, or the space, to start your own veggie garden, the next best local food source might be your local farmers markets.
There are a few reasons why local food is better than commercial foods:
• Even if commercial foods meet the highest post-harvest handling standards, they still spend significant time on the road. Minimizing transportation and processing can ensure maximum freshness and flavour, as well as phyto-nutrient (plant nutrient) retention.
• Farmers growing for a local market favour taste, nutrition and diversity over shipability when choosing varieties. Greater crop diversity from the farmer also means greater nutritional variety for you.
• Indirect and local marketing strategies means crops usually sell within 24 hours of harvest, at peak freshness and ripeness, when the produce is more phyto-nutrient dense.
Phyto-nutrients are valuable for their protective, disease preventing compounds. Their role in plants is to protect against disease, injuries, insects, drought, excessive heat, ultraviolet rays and poisons or pollutants in the air, soil or water. They form part of the plant’s immune system.
As omnivores, humans have been eating plants packed with phyto-nutrients for eons. Our genes expect a certain level of them. Phytonutrients are associated with the prevention of at least three of the leading causes of death in Western countries: cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
They are also involved in many other wellness processes, including ones that help prevent cell damage, prevent cancer cell replication, and decrease cholesterol levels. Even small increases in phyto-nutrients in a person’s diet can have drastic effects on the prevention of chronic disease.
One of the most important groups of phyto-nutrients is the phytosterols, or phyto-hormones, as they are sometimes known. These are plant-based hormones that act as precursors (precursors are substances the body uses to produce other substances) to our human hormones. When we eat them, they work with the intelligence of the body to regulate the human endocrine system.
One of the most important human hormones affected by phytosterol intake is dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). This hormone, produced in our adrenal glands, serves a variety of functions. Often called the ‘mother’ hormone, it can convert itself into other hormones such as oestrogen, testosterone, progesterone and cortisol.
Adequate DHEA levels help to slow the ageing process and prevent, improve and (given enough time) allow our body to reverse conditions such as cancer, heart disease, memory loss, obesity, osteoporosis and many more.
Unfortunately, phyto-nutrients in freshly harvested plant foods may be destroyed or removed by modern processing techniques. For this reason, industrially processed foods likely contain fewer phyto nutrients and are always less beneficial than unprocessed, organic foods. Fresh is always best.