Nutrition Articles

Farmers Market Food Finds

Local Produce is Healthier for You and the Planet!

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Late summer and early fall are perfect seasons for visiting farmers markets. From the small, mom-and-pop stand at the corner, to the large, organized market with multiple vendors and extensive selections, it is definitely worth the trip. Experiencing food at its finest can encourage even the pickiest eater to try a few bites.   When it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables, the market is the perfect place to locate some fabulous food finds for everyone in the family! 
 
Benefits of shopping at the Farmers Market
 
  • The fruits and vegetables are grown locally and picked when perfectly ripened. This enhances the taste, texture, and aroma of the produce. 
     
  • Often, market prices are lower than at grocery stores.
     
  • Our existing system of food transportation and distribution requires enormous amounts of energy and resources. Before reaching your table, the average food item in the United States will travel 1,300 miles! In fact, only about 10% of the fossil fuel energy used in the world’s food system is used for production. The other 90% goes into packaging, transportation, and marketing of the food. All this inefficiency creates many environmental problems. 
     
  • Shopping at the Farmers Market benefits the local farmer and strengthens your local community.
     
  • Since the produce is picked at the peak of the season, nutrients, and phytochemicals will be more abundant. Hippocrates said, “Let food be your medicine.” The following chart shows many of the health benefits of fresh produce. Don’t get bogged down trying to remember the names of these different phytochemicals—just eat a RAINBOW OF COLOR!

 

Color

Phytonutrients

Health Benefits

Food Sources

Red

Lycopene

Anthocyanin

Prevents certain cancers.  Strengthens collagen proteins.

strawberries, tomatoes, watermelon, cherries
Orange

Beta-Carotene

Liminoids
Protects against bronchitis, asthma, cataracts, and lung cancer.  Can decrease cholesterol levels. carrots, squash, melons
Yellow

Liminoids

Beta-carotene

Zeaxanthin
Protects vision.  Prevents colon and breast cancers. yellow peppers, corn
Green

Lutein

Saponins

Glucosinolates
Protects eyesight.  Heart and skin maintenance.  Prevents cancer. Lowers lipid levels.

spinach, collard greens, broccoli, tomatillos

Blue Anthocyanin Prevents colon, cervical and prostate cancers. blueberries, grapes, plums
Purple Anthocyanin Prevents cancer.  Anti-inflammatory.  grapes, raspberries, blackberries, eggplant

 



Farmers Market Fun
 

  • Try a new fruit or vegetable, or prepare your produce in a new way.
     
  • Ask the vendor his favorite way to prepare a particular type of produce.  Many have recipes to share.  
     
  • Check if there are any special events being planned at the Farmers Market.  Many have cooking demonstrations, tastings, and fun activities for the kids.
     
  • Give your children each $2.00.  Let them explore the world of produce and make a new selection.  There is a much greater chance your child will try this new food since it belongs to them.  (When my daughter was 3-years old, she loved the color purple and selected a purple turnip.  To this day, she still enjoys eating raw purple turnips with ranch dip!) 
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

  • I miss the roadside stands of PA and OH, especially this time of year when the squashes, tomatoes, and so many things are ripe. A lot of produce is grown in NC, but I never see little stands by someone's house. There are some Farmer's Markets but the prices are very high. - 9/24/2014 8:55:26 PM
  • You have to know your farmers market. Some use the same chemicals as big agriculture. Some vendors get their stuff from the same sources as the supermarkets. Organic and non GMO certified is what I'm looking for. For that, I will pay extra. It's cheaper in the long run than health care. - 9/24/2014 5:50:51 AM
  • I am fortunate to live near an agricultural area with easy access to roadside stands of farm fresh produce. Have enjoyed some wonderful fall squashes in recent days. Utilizing this resource more in recent months has been beneficial in so many ways. I am not only fortunate. I am grateful! - 9/23/2014 9:00:50 PM
  • I used to shop at a co op and was extremely disappointed to find that most of the prices were much higher than other health food stores in town but this article has inspired me to try again. - 11/4/2013 2:58:14 PM
  • Our town just started a farmers market on Wednesday afternoons until dusk this year. This makes it more convenient for me to hit after work. I love the fact that we do have local farmers that provide good produce. And ones that I've spoken to asking about organic and non GMO are onboard with those concepts. I was so pleased to see a local farmer there offering grass-fed beef and free range eggs. I found the prices less or comparable to those in the grocery store. The flavors can't be beat! And it's great when the farmer says "Thanks for your purchase. Here's a couple of cucumbers at no charge." - 9/24/2013 9:43:29 AM
  • I like going to Farmers' Markets, but only go once in a while since I don't have the money to buy stuff. I have gotten a few tomatoes there this year. Unfortunately, after the first one the tomatoes have been overripe (I had to throw one out) or not ripe enough, though they looked like they were. They are also $4-6/lb when they are less than $2/lb in the stores now. Peaches are starting to come in and they are over $2/lb with those in the stores at $1.75. Of course, I did find a ripe peach the other day, which I cannot find in the stores. - 7/14/2013 11:32:06 PM
  • Our local farmers market does have a lot that is locally grown but it's all the same thing week to week to often they have the produce divided into such large quantities (3lb cucumbers?)it's not worth it for me. And it's usually double the cost of the grocery store. We recently vaca'ed in Florida and visited a farmers market there, it was heaven! Some items obviously weren't local but were cheaper than store, w many local venders having diff items and samples. I am so jealous of those of you who are close to good ones like this. - 7/14/2013 6:28:53 PM
  • theres a fantastic one in my town every saturday. i go whenever i can, but im usually working. i know that some of their stuff is definitely not local, but the prices make it worth the trip. - 7/14/2013 12:05:47 AM
  • I wish the farmer's markets here had local produce but the truth of the matter is they do NOT!! They actually get their produce from the same places that the grocery stores and wal-mart do and they only get to pick from what's left after the grocery stores and walmart get their supplies. Usually the odd shaped/misshaped fruit and veggies on the verge of going rotten. - 7/13/2013 9:00:45 PM
  • The produce and other items featured at our local markets are more expensive than grocery stores. Most of the time it's definitely worth it. I would definitely do all my shopping at local markets if I could. - 7/13/2013 12:37:33 PM
  • I love the farmer market. I grow alot of my stuff as well. - 6/30/2013 9:57:41 AM
  • Giving the kids a couple of dollars to purchase what captures the imagination is a brilliant idea. - 5/5/2013 5:23:31 PM
  • The farmer's markets in my area also do not necessarily sell locally grown produce. I live on a budget and the prices at the farmer's markets are quite a bit more expensive. I know there is a big push for the markets, but for me they don't make sense. - 5/5/2013 8:56:16 AM
  • The farmer's markets around here do NOT sell fruit and veggies that are grown locally. I actually live within 1/10th of a mile of 2 farmer's markets. Let's put it this way....they are open now and selling fruits and veggies...uh...it
    's May in VA and the only thing actually producing right now is strawberries. Meanwhile these farmers markets have cantaloupes, watermelons, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, etc. - 5/5/2013 6:44:12 AM
  • I really appreciate this article, its very important to buys as much made in America and organic foods as possible to support our economy and good farming habits. I found a great article here about a Local organic farm and which farmers markets they attend in Los angeles, and great recipes. http://www.chefmo
    rgan.com/deep
    -roots-signif
    icant-growth-
    and-organical
    ly-so-mcgrath
    -family-farms
    -and-three-fresh-salads-for-spring - 8/27/2012 2:30:37 PM

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