Weighing In: Why should I visit my local farmers market?

Heather Reese Health Guide
  • Question: What are the benefits of shopping at a farmers market versus the grocery store?

    Heather: This is the time of year that farmers markets start springing up everywhere. I know here in the Washington, DC area there are organized farmers markets every day of the week, but in smaller towns and more rural areas keep your eyes peeled because produce stands are everywhere.

    I remember growing up, how exciting it was when my parents pulled over to the side of the road to visit the local produce stand. While it may not seem like much to us adults, making a spontaneous stop at the roadside stand can be the height of excitement for a child.

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    In fact, farmers markets are a great experience for the whole family, and a great teaching tool to educate children about where food comes from. Sadly, most children today believe that food comes from the grocery store; we’ve lost touch with the origins of the foods we eat everyday. Farmers markets provide a wonderful opportunity to teach our children that food comes from the earth, which is why we need to take care of our world.

    Farmers markets are a completely different and exciting experience for children and allow you to involve your children in choosing healthy foods for your family to eat at mealtime. It’s also a great way to encourage their interest in fruits and vegetables as well as increase their fruit and vegetable intake.

    Since the produce sold at farmers markets is locally grown, they are fresher and more flavorful than the ones at the grocery store. The offerings are seasonal so you are going to find foods that are at their absolute best.

    Fruits and vegetables are nutrient-rich and every one provides a different vitamin or mineral. Here’s a hint, the vitamins produce provides is related to the color so for the widest variety of nutrients pick a rainbow of produce.

    The phytonutrients lyopene and anthocyanins found in red fruits and vegetables promote heart health and lower the risk of some cancers as well benefit the urinary tract and memory function. Red apples, strawberries, beets, red potatoes and tomatoes are all rich in lycopene and anthocyanins.

    Yellow and orange fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamin c as well as carotenoids and bioflavonoids, which are great for heart health. They also help the immune system and help lower the risk of some types of cancer. Popular yellow and orange foods are oranges, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, squash and mangos.

    Green beans, leafy greens, green apples, honeydew and other green fruits and vegetables are rich in lutein and indoles, which help promote strong bones and teeth. They also improve vision and lower the risk of certain types of cancers.

    Blue and purple fruits and vegetables such as, blueberries, grapes, purple cabbage and eggplant contain anthocyanins nd phenolics. These phytochemicals help lower the risk of some cancers and are also thought to help urinary tract health and memory.

    Because farmers markets cut out the middleman, the prices are usually lower than your local grocery store. They also provide a great opportunity to talk to the growers and find out how the produce is grown.

  • Shopping at your local farmers markets is better for the environment and it also supports the local agricultural industry and strengthens your community.

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Published On: June 22, 2008