With so many food options available these days, choosing the best tasting and healthiest products can be a bit overwhelming. From grass-fed beef to organically grown fruits and vegetables, the choices are seemingly endless. As consumers become more and more aware of the different ingredients included in packaged foods and how additives and preservatives can impact their health, the more they are gravitating toward choices that are organic and “clean.” And many nutritionists agree that the healthiest—and tastiest—foods are often those that are grown locally and can reach your dinner table soon after being harvested.
“People are paying attention to what is in their food and where it is grown,” says Sue Bourque, a registered dietician with the Barnstable County Cooperative. In her role with the cooperative, Bourque is a nutrition educator who talks to various groups—from preschoolers to senior citizens—about their food choices. “Because we have been eating all of our lives, we have established habits and we tend to take our food options for granted,” Bourque says. “But there is a real science to nutrition, and we are never too old to change and develop new habits.”
Bourque says there are many benefits to eating healthy, but the most obvious one concerns the taste buds. “The biggest and the best reason for choosing foods that have been grown locally is that they taste better,” she says. “Taste is always going to be king. But people are choosing the “buy local” practice for other reasons as well. For some, it’s also about reducing our carbon footprint. The less distance fruits and vegetables have to travel, the fresher they are and the less fossil fuels that have been burned getting them here. For others, it is the economic benefit of supporting local farms and businesses.”
Michelle Itzkowitz, the owner of Innerglow Yoga in Mashpee Commons, is also a chef who specializes in preparing healthy vegan meals. She teaches cooking classes at the Falmouth Community School and is an advocate of buying locally grown and organic foods whenever possible.
“Eating clean foods—those without pesticides—means choosing foods that are grown and harvested close to your home,” Itzkowitz says. A former health teacher, Itzkowitz compares eating organic foods to loading super unleaded fuel into your car or truck: it will help your body run better and more efficiently.
She adds that transitioning to a healthier diet can be as simple as choosing brown rice over white rice, or quinoa over both. “Eating mindfully means you are aware of what you are putting into your body,” Itzkowitz says. “You can still eat healthy even if you are eating on the run. It means choosing to visit a place like an organic market as opposed to a fast food chain.”
Itzkowitz says the results from eating healthier can be seen in all aspects of your life—from your work and daily activities to sessions on the yoga mat. “When we eat healthy, we have mental clarity,” she says. “Eating well goes hand in hand with our body movements and heightens everything we are doing on the mat. The sister science to yoga is Ayurveda, which refers to our nutrition. Pesticides will settle into our joints and our bloodstream and leave us with an overall feeling of lethargy. When we eat clean, our body will move better and we have better overall balance.”
Now, deciding to buy local is one thing; following through on this decision— especially in winter—is not always easy. Harvest Right, an online company that specializes in building freeze dryers for the home, makes this practice a bit easier for consumers with its line of in-home freeze dryers.
“Freeze-drying foods offers a shelf life of 15 to 25 years, depending on the food” says Stephanie Barlow, marketing director for the Salt Lake City, Utah-based company. According to Barlow, food that is freeze-dried not only retains its taste, but also retains its nutritional value. “Ninety-seven percent of the nutrients are retained,” she says, adding that most foods, from fruits and vegetables to meats, ice cream, yogurt and entire meals can be freeze-dried for consumption at a later time, whether that’s a few weeks or even a few years. Once the food is freeze-dried, it can be stored safely in a pantry in sealed mylar bags or mason jars.