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How To Make the Most of Your Next Trip to the Farmers Market
By Rumana Hoque, MD
Spending a Saturday or Sunday morning at the local farmers market might sound like a great idea. After all, you will leave with bags full of nutrient-rich food, ready to prepare healthy and delicious meals for your family to enjoy.
Shopping at the local farmer’s markets has a lot of benefits. Most often than not, the food you purchase at the farmer’s market has just been harvested a few hours before, which means it is likely to taste better and include more antioxidants, which helps fight disease and inflammation.
Do Your Homework and Know What’s in Season
Before you head out the door, you may want to become familiar with what’s in season. Keep in mind that what’s in season varies with geography and weather. The following list provides you with a good idea of what to expect and when:
Fruits and vegetables in season during the fall include:
- Baby arugula
- Green beans
- Sweet corn
Fruits and vegetables in season during the winter include:
- Winter squash
- Bok choy
- Baby arugula
Root vegetables such as carrots, beets, and turnips are packed with fiber but are low in calories, fat, and cholesterol.
Have Some Recipes in Mind
Shopping at a farmer’s market should serve as an inspiration for healthy, delicious meals. As such, it may be a good idea to make sure you have some ideas in mind as to how you are going to prepare certain ingredients before you buy them. Or take advantage of the one-on-one time with the local farmers and ask them for ideas on including their fresh ingredients into a nutritious meal.
In addition to asking the local farmers tips on preparing certain foods, use the time to ask them some questions about their produce and/or meat.
Knowing where your food comes from is essential, and who better to ask than the farmers themselves? You may want to ask the farmer where they grow their produce and/or raise their cattle, chickens, etc. How and what cows eat is directly linked to the health benefits of beef. Grass-fed cows, for example, result in meat that is lower in fat but rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have proven helpful in raising high-density lipoprotein, or what is known as “good cholesterol,” and lowering blood pressure.
You may also want to inquire about what sprays, pesticides, or herbicides farmers use. Some farmers are strict about their farming practices, while others are not. Organic foods – those grown or raised without the use of sprays, pesticides, or herbicides – are higher in antioxidants, which can help in boosting your immune system and provide other benefits. If you are trying to follow what is known as a “clean diet,” organic is probably the best way to go.
By doing some homework and spending a few extra minutes with the local growers and farmers, your trip to the local market will be well worth both your time and money.