One of our favorite summer activities is going to farmer’s markets. We love everything about them…sunshine & fresh air, chatting with local artisans & farmers, the smell of fresh-picked fruits & vegetables. It gives us a deep sense of connection to the farms where our food is grown.
Perhaps most of all, farmer’s markets are a place to discover nature’s incredible bounty of mouth-watering anti-inflammatory foods.
Read on to learn how to choose natural anti-inflammatory foods at your local farmer’s market.
Download your anti-inflammatory foods list as part of our Healthy Eating Guide.
Delicious Sources of Polyphenols & Fiber
The Gene Smart anti-inflammatory diet plan emphasizes two types of foods that can be found in abundance at local farmer’s markets — those containing fiber and those containing polyphenols. Many foods found at farmer’s markets contain both!
Increasing fiber in your diet is one of the Gene Smart principles for losing weight and following an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. The best sources of fiber are whole foods that are naturally high in fiber, like fruits, vegetables & legumes. Fiber provides many health benefits for your heart, digestive system and more. It also fills you up and helps you stay full longer, which is a huge boost for lasting weight loss. And since the fat in our body is pro-inflammatory — especially belly fat — lowering our body fat by losing weight can help lower inflammation.
Another anti-inflammatory lifestyle principle is to eat more foods containing polyphenols. Polyphenols are compounds made by plants to protect themselves. When we eat the plants & their fruits, these same polyphenols also protect us. Polyphenols are a large family that includes over 4,000 diverse compounds. Polyphenols can be found in most legumes, fruits, vegetables, red wine, dark chocolate, green tea, olive oil, bee pollen, and many grains.
The science of polyphenols foods is at an earlier stage than foods with fiber or omega 3 fats, but what we know is very exciting. Perhaps most importantly, there is strong evidence for their ability to control gene expression, specifically the genes that control inflammation.
Why Local Produce is More Anti-Inflammatory
Fruits and vegetables at your local farmer’s market typically come from nearby farms and gardens. Since you are buying the produce directly from local farms, there is a greater likelihood that it has been responsibly grown and picked when it was fresh & ripe. These foods typically contain higher levels of polyphenols than those grown industrially.
There are three reasons that industrially grown produce typically contains lower amounts of polyphenols than those grown on local farms:
Nutritional Content vs. Appearance
The produce sold in our grocery stores are often chosen for their appearance & ability to withstand shipping, not their nutrition or polyphenols content. Year-round, the produce sections in our grocery stores are filled with pyramids of perfectly formed, symetrical cucumbers; enormous, plump, blemish free berries; and bright red, and perfectly round tomatoes without the slightest mark or discoloration anywhere. The produce looks beautiful, but the prioritization of cosmetics & durability over nutrition eliminates the very things that will make it best for our bodies.
Local Produce is Picked Ripe
Store-bought fruits and vegetables are often grown far away in places like Mexico or South America. This produce needs to be shipped, and that means that it must be picked before it is fully matured so that it will not be over-ripe when it arrives at your local store. Research shows that polyphenols content increases as fruits get darker – as most do when they ripen, suggesting that fruits & vegetables that are picked prematurely have lower levels of polyphenols than those ripened on the vine.
Stressed Produce is More Anti-Inflammatory
Plants produce higher levels of polyphenols in response to stress. In the book, The Gene Smart Diet, you can read about the adaptive stress response in humans. A related dynamic happens in plants. When plants are stressed, they produce greater levels of polyphenols to protect themselves. However, the goal of commercial agriculture is to grow plants efficiently, which means the plants are rarely stressed. Local produce may contain greater levels of polyphenols, because local growers may not be able to grow plants in such low-stress environments.
Finding Anti-Inflammatory Foods at Your Farmer’s Market
You can find a variety of mouth-watering whole foods that are rich in polyphenols and fiber at your local farmer’s market.
As you walk the farmer’s market this summer, grab a few of your tried-and-true favorites, and don’t be afraid to try something new!