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Best questions to ask at the farmer’s market

Who doesn’t love going to a farmer’s market on a Saturday morning and coming home with a plethora of beautiful local fruits and vegetables? But are you sure they are local? Are you sure you got the best bang for your buck as far as cost and what produce will taste the best? I know I’ve gone to the farmers market countless times only to come back spending more money than I wanted to and finding out little about the actual food.

There is no better way to find out everything you need to know about the produce (or meat) you are buying at the farmer’s market than from the mouth of the farmer. Don’t be shy! Ask the farmer or vendor at the farmer’s market some of these helpful questions to guide you to the best purchases of fruits and vegetables. By asking these questions, you enrich your own farmer’s market experience by learning more about your food and the farming involved with producing it.

What is selling for the best price?

I think it’s fair to say, we have all come home from a farmer’s market with far too much produce and spent more money than we intended too. But the produce is all so beautiful, right? Right. If you are working on a budget, ask the vendor which produce is selling for the best price. They are running a business too so they should give a you straight shot answer.

When was the fruit or vegetable picked?
No one wants to go home with fruits or vegetables that start rotting the next day. We want the freshest of the fresh depending on how we plan to consume the produce. If it was harvested over >48 hours ago, you may want to shop around and ask other farmers if they have harvested within the last 24 hours.

What produce are you spraying with pesticides or chemicals? Is it organic?
If pesticides and/or chemicals are a big concern for you, don’t be afraid to ask the vendor or farmer which produce do they spray or are they certified organic? This may help guide which produce you purchase. For example, you may gear more towards fruits or vegetables that don’t have edible skin if standard pesticides are used (i.e. bananas or oranges).

How can I cook this?
Variety in consumption of fruits and vegetables is key to great health. But often we are too scared to try something new or have no idea how to cook or prepare it. If you’re looking to try a new fruit or vegetable from the farmer’s market, the farmer is likely the best person to ask what it’s best served with or how to prepare it. Ask if you can try a sample!

Where is your farm located or are you a wholesale market?
Many of us shop at farmer’s markets because we love the idea of supporting local farmers and businesses. However, just because someone is standing behind a table selling produce, doesn’t always mean they are a local farmer. Vendors can be just as knowledgeable, but some travel for larger wholesale companies selling other people’s produce, which does not equate to supporting local business.

Do you need an extra hand?
If you are really eager to find out more about farming or how their farming is done, ask them if they need a free hand sometime. This may be an invaluable experience for truly understanding farm-to-table in West Michigan.

-EAW

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Navigating Food Trends

This morning I was on WZZM 13 helping the GR community navigate through the latest food and nutrition trends. The latest trends on the scene include matcha green tea powder, beetroot powder, spirulina, and activated charcoal. But are these foods or products worth your money and which ones may actually be healthy for you? Follow this true or false guide with explanation on which trends are worth your attention. Cheers to evidence-based nutrition advice and hump day!

Check out the WZZM audio guide here!

 

True or False

Beetroot powder vs. whole beets

Beetroot powder has the same amount of fiber per serving as a whole beet.

True. However this depends on the brand. Because beetroot powder is a supplement, the purity of the product may not be created equal due to lack of FDA regulations. When you are looking for the best beetroot powder, aim for at least 2 grams of fiber per serving (generally 2 tsp-1 Tbsp powder). Try adding the powder to smoothies, baked goods, pasta sauces, salad dressing, dips, and soups.

Activated charcoal for detox diets

Activated charcoal is a healthy and safe way to remove toxins from your body.

False. The use of activated charcoal is most commonly reserved for emergency treatment of severe poisonings. The administration of activated charcoal causes the charcoal to bind to chemicals, foods, drugs, and nutrients in the stomach to prevent being absorbed into the body. In other words, if you are taking this for a healthy diet detox and consuming with healthy food, these healthy nutrients will also not be absorbed. This not only prevents the absorption of the good nutrients that your body needs, but excessive intake can increase your risk of constipation or diarrhea, black stools, or dehydration. Stick to a plant-based diet with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables for the best long-term “detox” diet.

Spirulina

Spirulina is one of the few foods on the planet with a naturally high content of the healthy omega 6 fatty acid, gamma linoleic acid (GLA).

True. Spirulina is a green-blue algae powder that can be added to foods or taken as a pill supplement. Although it is safe to consume for adults, the algae flavor may turn most away. But what it lacks in flavor, it makes up in nutrient composition. Spirulina is packed with protein, vitamin A and K, iron, potassium, GLA, and other antioxidants, such as phycocyanin and zeaxanthin. Preliminary and mostly animal-based studies show promising potential health benefits, such as boosting the immune system, preventing infection and allergic reactions, anticancer properties, and improving liver and eye health. More research is needed to determine the exact impact spirulina has on overall health.

Matcha green tea powder

Matcha green tea may have a higher antioxidant content than regular green tea.

True. Matcha green tea uses the whole tea leaf and grinds it into a powder. This powder is then mixed in with hot water for a frothy tea beverage, ultimately allowing you to consume whole tea leaves. On the other hand, general consumption of regular green tea is the infused water from the leaves instead of whole tea leaf consumption. Matcha green tea leaves grow in shaded areas potentially increasing the chlorophyll content. Matcha green tea also contains l-theanine and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which have antioxidant properties, help fight inflammation in the body, and may improve alertness. Due to lack of scientific evidence specific to matcha green tea, there is no clear indication to drink matcha green tea over regular green tea. Try using in lattes, smoothies, and sweet or savory sauces. It is not recommended to drink more than 2 cups of matcha green tea daily due to its nutrient concentration.

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0008816/?report=details

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28784536

-EAW