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  • Writer's pictureCathy Dyer

You Don't Have to Shop at the Farmers Market to Eat Healthy

Are the fruits and vegetables there any better than at the grocery store?

Very pretty. But just how long have they been sitting there in the summer heat? (NC Farmers Market, Raleigh, NC)

There's a lot of noise in the nutrition world about buying foods at your local farmers market. And a lot of claims about the alleged health benefits of those foods. But are these claims realistic? And is it practical for you to shop there on a regular basis?

Frozen fruits and vegetables likely have higher nutritional value

Frozen fruits and vegetables are picked at the peak of ripeness, when they are most nutritious, and frozen within a few hours.

Admittedly, blanching vegetables before packaging to kill harmful bacteria and preserve color, texture, and flavor can result in the partial loss of B vitamins and vitamin C (1). But the vitamin C in fresh vegetables begins declining immediately after picking and all through storage (1, 2) . Fresh fruits and vegetables start losing moisture, and nutrients, soon after harvesting. Fresh fruits and vegetables, after just 3 days of refrigeration, can have less nutritional value than those that were frozen within hours of being picked (2).

The fruits and vegetables at the farmers market in Raleigh, where I live, are not refrigerated. They sit out on tables, sometimes for days, during the summer heat. There is no telling how long it was since they were picked before they were put on display, either. And then, how many days will it be after you purchase them before you eat them?

Most fresh fruits and vegetables are best kept cool

My local grocery, Food Lion (yes! I said Food Lion - the one on Avent Ferry Road), does a great job of this. Almost all the fruits and vegetables are kept cool, and the vegetables are regularly misted to prevent water loss and retain freshness. There is high turnover and a fresh supply of produce all the time.

You're busy

You barely have time to do your grocery shopping at your local grocery store, much less make a special trip to the farmers market for a few things!

If you have felt guilty about not buying your produce at the farmers market, let yourself off the hook. The fresh product at your local grocery store is just as nutritious. The frozen produce you buy there may be even more nutritious and is definitely more convenient.

Enjoy your farmers market

Don't get me wrong - I love my farmers market! It's fun to make a trip to the farmers market, browse the different stands, and bring something interesting a beautiful home to cook. Just be conscious about what you're buying and realistic about how fresh it is. Tomatoes available when it isn't tomato season have probably spent days being transported in from somewhere far away. Apples during apple season, though, can be a great fresh find and a delight to your family.


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