There’s something about going to the farmers market that just feels right. Maybe it’s the cool breeze and peek of sunshine in the morning, the calm gathering of people with their adorable babies and furry dogs, or the colorful array of foods that stand in front of the hard-working farmers. Supporting local agriculture and entrepreneurs is supporting the community you live and work in, and that is why your heart feels good after every purchase. But it’s not just the feel-good endorphins you get while shopping, it’s the true health benefits you get from consuming those fruits and veggies you buy.
According to the USDA Economic Research Service’s Food Availability data, Americans’ diets do not align with the federal recommendations that come out of the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines. When looking at diets in 2017, Americans are eating more than the recommended amount of meat, eggs, nuts, and grains. However, we are desperately falling short in the consumption of vegetables, dairy, and fruit. According to USDA’s MyPlate, most adults need 1 ½-2 ½ cups of fruit and 2-4 cups of vegetables each day. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer. What better way to meet your fruits and veggie needs than purchasing from your local farmers market?
Farmers markets, farmstands and CSA (community supported agriculture) boxes offer a variety of familiar and unfamiliar produce. It’s the unfamiliar that can be a bit intimidating. What does one do with a rutabaga, daikon radish or kohlrabi? How do they taste, and what dishes can you make with them? It’s natural to be hesitant, but like many wise parents tell their children, “how do you know if you never try them?” The benefit of buying direct from a local producer is the ability to talk to them and ask these very questions. Find what foods grow in Illinois, what season to find them, and recipes to help you use them at University of Illinois Extension Eat.Move.Save. Plus, tune into the next session of Illinois Extension’s Eat Fresh, Eat Local series, “Sample the Season” on May 19 for more ideas on ways to prepare and use a variety of produce. Register for these monthly thirty-minute webinars and find ways you can sample the season!
Written by Jenna Smith, MPH, RDN Nutrition and Wellness Educator serving Livingston, McLean and Woodford Counties.
USDA Economic Research Service, Food Availability and Consumption
USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, dietaryguidelines.gov
USDA MyPlate, myplate.gov
University of Illinois Extension, What’s in Season
University of Illinois Extension, Eat.Move.Save.