A question I often get as a Registered Dietitian is, “What is the healthiest food?” My response changes constantly because the location where someone lives and the time of year in question both influence the nutritional quality of fresh foods.
We live in a global food system, something many of us took for granted until we saw firsthand interruptions in the supply chain during the global pandemic. Walk into any supermarket in America, and you will find bananas, broccoli, mango and bell peppers year-round. However, people who live in agricultural areas often do not have access to the foods produced near them because they were spoken for prior to planting by a complex web of big agricultural processors and sellers. So, depending on the time of year, your zucchini may travel from as far away as Spain, the Netherlands, New Zealand or Mexico with considerable differences in carbon footprint due to transportation methods and distances.
The answer to the question, “What is the healthiest food?” is simple. Eating seasonal ingredients grown in your region is the healthiest. Whether asparagus, snap peas and lettuce in the spring; tomatoes, cucumbers and raspberries in the summer; winter squash, apples and collard greens in the fall; or cabbage and flash-frozen fruits and vegetables in the winter. The best way to identify the healthiest fruits and vegetables is to attend your local farmers market and choose those items which are fresh and on display.
Not only are you supporting your health by ensuring retention of vitamins and phytochemicals in freshly-picked produce, but purchasing directly from farmers also means they retain a larger percentage of the produce purchase price. According to the USDA, farmers see on average 12 cents of each dollar spent on fresh foods in grocery stores compared to 90 cents of each dollar spent at farm stands and farmers markets.
Purchasing from your local farmers market is a small way to make a significant impact. It’s good for you, good for the farmer and good for the community.
Island Hospital’s Farm Stand runs Tuesdays from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. from June 8th through September 7th in the 24th Street Courtyard. The Farm Stand is open to hospital employees and the community. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to our mailing list.
Amber Phillips, MS, RD is a registered dietitian at Island Hospital. She has a Master’s degree in nutrition from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA and a Bachelor’s degree in biology from Metropolitan State University, St. Paul, MN. Phillips has a keen interest in community education. “Nutrition advice can be confusing and sometimes conflicting,” says Phillips. “My role as a dietitian is to follow the latest research and make it easy to understand for my patients and the public.” To schedule an appointment with Phillips, call (360) 299-1300 x2567.