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The benefits of eating local foods

Are you a locavore? Locavores are people who try to choose locally grown or locally produced food that is in season. There are many definitions of "local food", but the concept is based primarily on distance. Many people like to purchase food locally by starting within their own community, then moving out to the region, province, country and so on. This type of food consumption is the basis for the popular 100-mile diet, which promotes buying and eating food that's grown, manufactured or produced within a 100-mile radius of the consumer’s home.

Why eat "local"?

These are just a few of the numerous potential benefits of eating local:

  • It’s good for the environment. Local food doesn’t have to travel as far to arrive on your plate, so it helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to improving our carbon footprint.
  • It benefits the local economy, including supporting local farmers and other producers.
  • It encourages sustainable agriculture, and facilitates tracking the supply chain back to the point of origin to evaluate ecological practices.
  • It ensures that food has passed some of the highest safety standards in the world. Very strict regulations regarding additives, pesticides, herbicides, etc. ensure that Canadian food is safe.
  • It may have a higher nutrient value, as food that is grown and harvested locally is usually given more time to ripen. This does not, however, automatically mean that local food is necessarily more nutritious, as other factors come into play (see below).
  • We might be biased, but we think eating local just tastes better. Have you ever tried any strawberry as good as a Quebec strawberry?

Are local foods more nutritious?

There are several factors that influence the nutritive value of produce including crop variety, how it's grown, ripeness at harvest, storage, processing and packaging. Its vitamin and mineral content depends on the practices of people all along the line, from the seed to the table, whether or not produce is local or transported from a distance.

Produce such as broccoli, green beans, kale, red peppers, tomatoes, apricots and peaches are susceptible to nutrient loss when harvested and transported from longer distances, while those that are heartier such as apples, oranges, grapefruit and carrots keep their nutrients even if they travel long distances.

To learn more on the topic, please consult this great reference by Harvard Medical School entitled Healthy and Sustainable Food.

Did you know?

  • No growth hormones are given to pigs, poultry or dairy cows in Canada.
  • Annual fruit consumption in Canada rose to 47.5 kg per person in 2008, a record high. Berries, in particular blueberries and cranberries, are becoming more popular all the time.
  • The consumption of vegetables such as asparagus, eggplants, kohlrabi and sweet potatoes are slowly but steadily increasing on the menu.
  • Field crop farms, which include wheat, barley, corn, oats, rye, canola, flaxseed, soybeans and other specialty crops represent 40% of the farms in Canada. Other type of farms include: beef (27%), dairy (6%) and fruits and vegetables (5%).
  • Of the 665 distinct cheeses made in Canada, 477 varieties are produced in Quebec.