NEWMARKET – Are you looking for a fun family activity for the summer? Why not visit a farmers’ market or local farm to buy or pick your own fresh produce? Nutritionists from York Region Health Services say that August and September are the best months of the year to take advantage of the goodness and freshness of locally grown produce.
Local produce not only includes the produce you would pick or purchase at a local farm or farmers’ market, but also any other Ontario grown produce.
Buying locally grown produce provides many benefits – because it is fresher and has the chance to fully ripen, it is also tastier and has a higher nutritional value than its imported counterpart. Local produce maintains its nutritional value much better because there are minimal losses through transportation compared to imported produce that travels longer distances.
Health Canada recommends that Canadians eat five to ten servings of vegetables and fruit per day. The health protective compounds in vegetables and fruit may help reduce the risk for diseases such as cancer, heart disease and stroke. But for the number of times we may have heard this important message, surveys indicate that we are still far from meeting this recommendation. “In York Region, 61% of residents aged 12 and over consume vegetables and fruit less than five times per day,” says Nancy Bevilacqua, Public Health Nutritionist at York Region Health Services. “As a result, these people may be at increased risk for developing chronic diseases. We also know that people who eat more vegetables and fruit tend to have fewer problems with their body weight and with health problems associated with being overweight or obese. Eating locally grown produce provides many nutritional benefits, and if you pick your own, you’re getting a great form of physical activity as well.”
But the benefits of eating locally grown produce do not end here. Buying locally grown produce protects local farmland, supports local agriculture and can boost the local economy with food dollars. At a time when many open spaces are being consumed by urban development, buying locally grown produce can also help to support our local farmers and recognizes them as important members of our community.
August and September are the best months for produce such as tomatoes, beans, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, blueberries and plums, just to name a few. Vegetables and fruit contain
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health protective vitamins and minerals, fibre and other beneficial plant compounds. “All vegetables and fruit are considered nutritional powerhouses,” states Bevilacqua, “but aim for the most colourful ones for the greatest nutritional value. Remember that variety is key.”
Adding vegetables and fruit to your diet can be easy:
• Plan your meals ahead of time and stock up on vegetables and fruit for the week
• Pack portable veggies and fruit in your lunch bag every day
• Make a point of having vegetables or fruit with every meal and snack
• Double up on your servings
• Visit a local farm to buy large quantities of produce – preserve some by freezing or canning for later use
Many communities in York Region have local farmers’ markets that are open on a weekly basis during the summer and early fall months. You can also visit a local farm to purchase or pick your own produce.
For a copy of the York Region Farm Fresh Guide or for more information on this or other health-related topics, contact York Region Health Services Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653 or visit www.york.ca
Media Event/Photo Opportunity
Wednesday, August 17th at 11:00am
Reesor Farm Market, Town of Markham
10825 9th Line (between Markham and Stouffville, on the 9th Line at Elgin Mills Road)
Come learn, first hand, the benefits of buying local and buying fresh, on site at the Reesor Farm Market. Talk to a Public Health Nutritionist. Speak to farmer Jay Reesor about growing and harvesting the produce that stocks the shelves of his farm market. Come prepared to pick tomatoes and walk the fields of this farm that features strawberries, sweet corn, beans, tomatoes, pumpkins and more, in season.
Attachment: Printable flyer, “Vegetables and fruit – 5 - 10 a day for better health.”
Contact: Kim Clark, York Region Health Services