Shopping at our local farmers markets is better for the environment and the local economy, and it turns out that there can be a nutritional benefit to buying local, as well.

Farmers can let produce ripen more fully before harvest, and more time spent on the branch or vine means more time receiving nutrients from the soil.  Plus, locally-grown produce hasn’t been in transit for days, which means that it’s probably been exposed to less oxygen, light, and time, all of which can deplete produce of nutrients. 

And our options for buying local aren’t limited to just farmer’s markets.  Local seafood, dairy, and produce are available in many of our grocery stores, and websites like www.realtimefarms.com and www.localharvest.org are useful tools for finding nearby farmers markets, family farms, and restaurants that use locally-sourced ingredients.

New Orleans’ 2nd annual Eat Local Challenge starts Friday: 30 days focused on eating foods that are caught, raised or grown within a 200-mile radius – and the kickoff party is tonight at Rouses Downtown Rooftop!   Find out more at www.nolalocavore.org 

Beef   

Much of the beef sold at farmers markets is grass fed, which has more omega-3fats, carotenoids, and vitamin E precursors.  Plus, many local farmers use organic practice (including no added hormones), but may not be certified organic.   Added bonus:  All types of beef are high in iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and niacin.

Greek yogurt

Rocking R Dairy (http://www.rockingrdairy.com) serves up protein-rich, lower-carb Greek-style strained yogurt at our local farmers markets… made with fat-free cow’s milk yogurt, with zero added sugar! 

Tomatoes

Not only are tomatoes super-low in calories and carbs, they also have more lycopene andbeta-carotenewhen they’re ripened on the vine.

Louisiana Shrimp

You really can’t go wrong with any fresh Louisiana seafood.  And ounce for ounce, shrimp have about half the calories of roasted, skinless chicken breast. Although they’re high in cholesterol, it’s actually saturated and trans fats that have more of an impact on our cholesterol levels, and a 3-ounce serving of shrimp has zero saturated fat.  Added bonus:  Shrimp are an excellent source of vitamin B12 & selenium.

Berries

Blueberries, blackberries and strawberries top the list of antioxidant-rich fruits, and many local farmers use organic practices (even though their farms may not be certified organic), meaning that they don’t use synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.