Written by: Paul Hodges, General Manager, O2 Fitness Cary
It’s a widely accepted fact that eating fresh fruits and vegetables is important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Pick up any health or cuisine magazine, read any food blog or tune in to any cooking show and you’re sure to hear a lot of terms being tossed around to describe ways to make healthy eating choices.
There’s vegetarian, dairy free, low sodium, organic, cage free, no trans fat, grass fed, hormone free and a dizzying array of others. While having choices is a good thing, it can sometimes also be overwhelming. You may find yourself in the supermarket aisles not knowing which might be the better option for you and your family.
Defining the Term "Locally Grown"
However, one easy-to-remember term to keep in mind when purchasing food —specifically fresh fruits and vegetables — is the term “locally grown” or local food. Local food is produced or grown within a one-hundred-mile radius of where it’s finally purchased. Whether in the central Piedmont or Eastern Carolina portions of the state, we as Carolinians, are fortunate enough to have the accessibility to many local farms, where going local is even closer than that 60-mile benchmark.
The Benefits of Locally Grown Produce
One of the many advantages of living here is our rich agricultural area within the metropolitan Raleigh-Durham region.
There is a large and unique variety of produce grown including zucchini, okra, tomatoes, squash, strawberries, and green beans, potatoes, cabbage, peaches, and various peppers.
These wholesome vegetables and fruits look and taste better, mainly because they've had a long time to ripen on the stem.
Crops are harvested at the point when nutrients are the highest and can be trucked to nearby store shelves within 48 hours of harvest, unlike imported produce or produce grown outside of North Carolina, which has to instead be flown in.
The difference boils down to produce that is picked within days of purchase versus produce that is picked early and then sits weeks in cold storage and transit losing its nutritional value as well as flavor along the way.
Nutrition is important, but nutrition without taste just doesn’t cut it. Local restaurant chefs heavily stress the superiority of seasonal and locally grown produce and some even build their menus around the local theme.
So challenge yourself to become a “locavore.” Eat local and seasonal. Start by preparing at least one meal a week using fresh local Carolina field ripened vegetables, fruits and herbs. Try making a vegetable dish with long traveling or imported produce and one with local produce and compare, you’ll be sure to taste the difference.
O2 Fitness and The Produce Box have recently partnered up through our O2 Rewards program to bring our members fresh local produce! 750 O2 Rewards points will cover The Produce Box enrollment fee and 1 veggie box! For more information click The Produce Box logo:
As you can see, there are excellent reasons to seek out local produce. Local means fresher, healthier, better tasting food, it means supporting our local economy and overall healthier environment. It’s also great to know exactly where your food comes from and feel confident that you are eating wholesome, nutritious and delicious food.