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'Locally Grown' May Mean Healthier, But Not Always
Date:8/6/2010

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Aug. 6 (HealthDay News) -- "Locally grown" has become a catchphrase for healthy and environmentally friendly foodstuffs. It's a concept that has made many Americans scan their supermarkets' shelves for signs that the foods they buy have been raised nearby.

But are locally grown foods necessarily better for you?

That depends, dietitians say. Some foods grown locally will be much healthier; others, not so much.

The main message of the locally grown movement is by and large a very healthy one for people to heed, said Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian in Chicago and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

"Most of what the locally grown movement is about is not eating processed foods from large companies, but rather eating more natural, unprocessed, wholesome foods," she said. "A local apple may or may not be any better than an apple grown farther away, but it is most definitely better than an apple-flavored product you get from a package."

That said, dietitians also generally believe that an apple shipped in from far away won't be as nutritious once it reaches a consumer's hand as a locally grown apple would be.

"The longer produce goes from being picked to being eaten, the more nutrients are lost," said Andrea Giancoli, a registered dietician in Hermosa Beach, Calif.

Of all types of food, fresh produce is most likely to be best when it is grown nearby and sold quickly, she said. That's because exposure to oxygen and light causes produce to lose nutrients from the moment it's been picked, she said. Produce with water-soluble nutrients such as vitamin C tend to lose nutritional value more quickly than produce containing more stable nutrients, such as beta-carotene.

So people who buy locally grown produce will probably get a little more nutrition as a result -- but only if they eat the produce soon after it's purchased
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