Why eating local and seasonal food is good for you

Pick up local produce at the Brooklyn Borough

Pick up local produce at the Brooklyn Borough Hall Greenmarket, open year-round. (GROWNYC) (Credit: Pick up local produce at the Brooklyn Borough Hall Greenmarket, open year-round. (GROWNYC))

Eating local foods in season may sound like just another hip foodie trend, but this time you actually might want to buy into the buzz.

Carolyn Brown, MS, RD, nutrition expert at Foodtrainers, a nutrition and fitness company on the Upper West Side, said there are several reasons to hop on the bandwagon.

First and foremost, local foods are packed with more nutrients. The term local means produce was picked when it was in season and ripe, said Brown, and was trucked at most a few hundred miles, ending up on your table within days if not hours of leaving the farm.

"Picked when ripe means that nutrients, antioxidants and - most important to your tastebuds - flavors, have had time to develop," she said.

Amy Blankstein, communications manager at the non-profit Just Food, agrees.

"Because they [farmers] are not shipping their produce over long distances, local farmers tend to be harvesting their produce at the peak of freshness, when nutritional quality is also at its peak," she said.

Local produce often means more variety, too, Blankstein said.

"Local farmers are typically growing a greater variety and diversity of crops, and the varieties that local farmers choose to grow are valued for their flavor profile, rather than shelf life," she said.

The benefits of taste cannot be denied: When fruits and vegetables taste great, they're more desirable.

"If the flavor is better, people are going to be more excited about making fruits and vegetables a regular part of their diet," Blankstein explained. Buying local produce "simplifies the amount of work you have to do in the kitchen."

Buying local also means the farmer is often available to answer any questions you might have about how your food is grown.

"If you're at a farmers market, you can ask the actual farmers all about the production methods, like whether pesticides or antibiotics were used," Brown said.

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What kind of veggie is that

Intimidated by the farmers market? GrowNYC offers this tip for venturing into the world of green:

"Ask the farmer! If you're unfamiliar with a product you come across, ask what it is and how to cook it."

WHAT'S IN SEASON IN NYC

January: beans, onions, pears
February: radish, turnips, cabbage, carrots
March: potatoes, apples
April: mesclun greens, parsnips
May: Lettuce, Scallions, Spinach
June: beets, broccoli, herbs, raspberries
July: peaches, prunes, tomatoes, Swiss chard
August: blackberries, canteloupe, rhubarb, peppers
September: blueberries, grapes, squash, leeks
October: celery, fennel, kale, watermelon
November: cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, collard greens
December: beans, parsnips, beet greens

Tags: HEALTH

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