Farmers Markets: Where Food is Medicine

Farmers markets are now cropping up throughout the Hudson Valley and if you haven't been to one yet, there's plenty of time to grab your reusable bag and head outdoors for some fresh, wholesome fruits and vegetables all season long.

There are so many advantages to farmers markets including protecting the environment, supporting local farmers and having access to seasonal, affordable fare. But chief among them is the benefits farmers markets have on your health and wellbeing. Farmers markets have a variety of organic, just-picked produce and specialty products devoid of chemicals and additives and packed with nutrients that can protect you against cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

It is no secret that we should aim for more plant-based foods on our plate but here are some reasons why:

  • Fruits and vegetables can keep blood pressure in check. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Fruits and vegetables are packed with potassium, a mineral that has been shown to lower blood pressure in clinical studies. Aim for 4,700 milligrams of potassium every day for good blood pressure. That's at least two cups of fruit and two-and-a-half cups of vegetables daily. The best picks are tomatoes, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, bananas and squash.
  • Leafy greens including kale, spinach and Swiss chard are a great source of vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, C and K, along with iron and calcium. These greens are also high in fiber, helping the body absorb all the vitamins you eat and maintaining bowel health.
  • Greens, along with berries, tomatoes, turnips, parsnips, radishes and beets are high in antioxidants. Research has shown that eating foods high in antioxidants have a wealth of benefits including skin, heart, brain and joint health, as well as a reduced risk in cognitive and vision impairment. Antioxidant foods may also protect cellular damage caused by free radicals that can lead to cancer. Antioxidants interact with and stabilize free radicals, preventing some of the damage they may cause.
  • Phytonutrients also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to reduce your risk of cancer, stroke, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Phytonutrient rich foods include peppers, carrots, squash, garlic, onions, chives and leeks. Fruits such as peaches, mangoes, melons and citrus are also high in phytonutrients.
  • Speaking of fruit, commercially grown strawberries, peaches, cherries and apples have high pesticide residue, so they are best bought organic or from a local farmer who practices sustainability. A big plus at farmers markets is being able to talk to the farmers about how they grow and treat their agriculture.  
  • Fresh herbs are packed with nutrients and flavors, adding a delicious and healthy component to your meals. Herbs such as basil, oregano parsley, cilantro, rosemary, mint and thyme are packed with anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant properties, as well as mental and cognitive health boosters.

As you can see, there are so many positives to frequenting your local farmers markets. I hope you find the time this summer to visit them and even test your palate with some new fruits and vegetables you've never tried before.

In Putnam County, there are a handful of farmers market. One such market is at Putnam Hospital Center. The hospital farmers market runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Thursday from June 14 through Oct. 4. It is located in the parking lot adjacent to the café patio (just follow the signs). I hope to see you all there.