Enjoy the Bounty of the Farmers’ Market

Are you stuck in a food rut? Do you seem to be eating the same foods over and over again?  Do the foods you eat seem to be all the same color?  IF so, you are definitely in a food rut. IF your food repertoire seems dismal, I encourage you to explore your local farmers’ markets as a way to expand your food horizons.

Summertime markets, in particular, might introduce you to varieties of produce you didn’t even know existed and might get you excited to try some new foods. When a bounty of colorful plant foods are in season during warmer weather, farmers’ markets dazzle with heirloom tomatoes in yellow, orange and even purple. (Not that there is anything wrong with the red ones!) And summer squash isn’t limited to zucchini and yellow squash.

Summer squash comes in many shapes besides the oblong ones you’re likely most familiar with. There are round ones, pattypan, crookneck, and more. Even cauliflower comes in multiple varieties – with different array of nutrients – than the white one most commonly stocked at super markets. Cauliflower comes in yellow-orange, and purple too, and while you are not likely to encounter them at your local big-box store, a farmers’ market might surprise you. Did you know that the nutrition of a food is as different as its color?  SO, eating a variety of colors better ensures that you are getting the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals from your food.

If you are concerned about your overall body burden of potentially harmful compounds and chemicals, shopping at a farmers’ may be one way to reduce dietary exposure to pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. Not all small-scale, local farms are certified organic, or leave their crops completely untreated, but the benefit of a farmers’ market is that the people who are familiar with how the foods were grown are right there to converse with. Even if they do employ certain compounds to help ensure a good harvest, the size of the farms and the economic resources available to them suggest that the total amount of compounds applied may be less than that used on produce grown in large-scale industrial operations.

Vegetables, fruits, local honey, and artisan baked goods aren’t the only things available at a farmers’ market. Local markets can also be a great source for high-quality grass-fed meats and dairy products, pastured pork and poultry, and eggs from free-range hens. Dairy products and fatty meat from grass-fed beef contains higher amounts of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a type of fat that may be helpful for weight loss and supporting a healthy inflammatory response. Dairy foods from grass-fed ruminants (cows, sheep, and goats) may also be higher in vitamin K2 than that of animals that are primarily grain-fed. Vitamin K2 is required for the proper regulation of calcium in the body, as it helps to direct calcium into the bones and teeth, while keeping it from depositing dangerously into soft tissue, such as joints and arterial walls.

Meat vendors at farmers’ markets may also have a more diverse selection of items available than is typically found at supermarkets. For example, with the growing popularity of bone broth and nose-to-tail cooking, local farmers may be able to supply customers with knuckle bones, marrow bones, and organ meats, such as liver and heart, which are both extremely nutritious.

Besides the variety of meat and produce available, there are other reasons for shopping at a local farmers’ market. It helps support the local economy and keeps those food dollars in the community. People might also enjoy having a closer personal connection to the farmers who grow and raise some of their food, without several layers of middlemen in between. Additionally, some farmers offer “workshares” – in which customers provide a few hours of helping out with planting, harvesting, or other farm work, in exchange for farm-raised food. This is a great arrangement for those who are interested in having a deeper connection to how their food is produced and learning just what it takes to have a safe and nutritious food supply.

For the Fort Myers area try Southern Fresh Farms for locally grown fruits and vegetables, eggs, honey, and even tilapia.  Buckingham Farms is a local hydroponic farm, and the last I heard they were trying to get certified to sell beef.  Farm 31 is also nearby to offer a wider variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables.

My personal goal is to eat as much organic as possible and to eat as wide a variety of fruits and vegetables as possible.  Shopping the local farmer’s markets is one way for me to get a variety of seasonal produce.

That my friends, is Food for Thought!

If you need nutritional counseling and help evaluating your diet, just call (239) 243-8735.

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