"If you leave it on the counter a week or two before you're eating it, you're doing yourself a disservice," Giancoli said. "Every day that goes by, your produce is losing more nutrients."
Another bonus from buying locally grown produce involves taste.
"Many people, because locally grown food is picked in season, find it tastes better," Blatner said. "My patients enjoy healthier foods more because they taste better. It leads to people eating better overall."
There are exceptions. Nuts and legumes, for instance, tend to retain flavor and nutritional value whether they are locally grown or shipped in, Giancoli said.
"Because nuts come in a shell, their nutrients are pretty well preserved," she said. "Beans have a tough outer covering that serves the same purpose."
People also can buy meat from locally raised livestock, but the label may not be as important for that type of food. Dietitians say that meat does not lose flavor, freshness or nutritional value as quickly as just-picked produce does.
However, buying meat from a local farmer can bring some health benefits for those who ask how the animals have been raised.
"It all depends on the farmer's methods," Giancoli said. "A local farmer may use the same methods as a big industrial farm. There's no guarantees that just because livestock is grown locally it's going to be better for you."
People who want to buy beef should ask the farmer how the cattle have been fed. Corn-fed cattle fatten up more quickly, but grass-fed beef is healthier for you.
"Grass-fed beef is leaner and has a better ratio of healthy fatty acids," Giancoli said. "That's why you need to ask your farmer those questions."
A smart consumer might also want to ask whether the cattle were given antibiotics or hormones if they wish to avoid such things in the foods they eat.
People purchasing chickens or eggs should ask if the poultry was raised free-range. They also should ask if th
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