As we celebrate Heritage Month, Roxanne McLean, the owner of Founder Foods, encourages us to pay more attention to where our food comes from and choose to support local producers.
“Thirty years ago we ate almost entirely locally grown food. But, over time, our diet has changed and we no longer eat the variety of locally grown foods we used to. At the same time, our rates of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity have increased tremendously. When it comes to healthy food choices, we need to pay more attention to where our food is coming from,” says McLean.
Here are seven reasons why eating local food is a healthier choice:
1. Local foods are simpler foods: Processed foods generally require large amounts and a variety of imported ingredients combined in one product. The only way to be sure of where your food is coming from is to ditch the processed foods and opt for single-ingredient, natural wholefoods with clearly disclosed origins. Moving from processed foods to natural wholefoods is automatically a healthier food choice for your family.
2. Local foods are more likely to be safer: The more steps, handling and transport in the food system the more risks there are for contamination or damage. If there are more risks, more chemical additives are required to maintain the quality. Eating local wholefoods results in fewer steps, less handling, less risk and fewer additives.
3. Local wholefood is more nutritious: With a shorter time from farm to table and less distance to travel, the more local the food is the more the nutrient value is retained.
4. Local food has more flavour: When comparing the same fresh foods grown in similar conditions, foods that have to travel over long distances have to be picked in advance and left to ripen in transit or storage. The more local your food, the shorter the period from farm to table. With less time in transit and storage, fresh foods can be left to ripen in the field, delivering more flavour and nutrition.
5. Eating local means eating with the seasons: When you are conscious of the benefits of eating local, you learn to eat more with the seasons. Eating seasonally means you are always eating the freshest, most nutritious food.
6. Local food has less chance of food fraud: In order to detect food fraud, you have to understand how a product is grown and produced. With just a few phone calls, or a trip to a local farm, you can find out everything you need to know about locally grown food. Even if you aren’t able to investigate yourself, you would certainly be able to find someone who has. Anyone who sells natural wholefoods should be able to tell you about the food production process. When you eat imported foods all this information isn’t as accessible or widely known. With imported foods, we are at the mercy of the trader to pick up things that shouldn’t be there.
7. Local food benefits the environment: Local food means less transport, less processing, less packaging, fewer additives, less waste, fewer resources. You are also more likely to get local food with less or even without packaging. Protecting the environment requires minimising our waste and resources. Eating local is an overall better choice for the environment.
“With an agriculture sector that produces all major grains except rice, all major vegetable oils except palm oil, all our fruits and vegetables as well as a huge range of nuts, wines and other products, it is not only possible to eat entirely locally grown food, it is becoming necessary – for our own health and the sake of our economy,” says McLean.