Wednesday, June 27, 2007

100 Mile Diet

Yesterday I was watching the Gill Deacon Show, a good Canadian daytime talk show on the CBC. Yesterday's show was about the 100 mile diet. That's where you live off of food only available to you within a 100 mile radius. It's meant to curb greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption by not eating food that has traveled half way around the world to get to your table. Sounds great right? And you all know I am a huge supporter of buying locally. But there is a little fly in this ointment when you try to exclusively buy only food stuff that can be found in a 100 mile radius.

First of all there is a nutritional impact. One of the issues that has been uncovered over the years in the fight against heart disease has been regional diets. Diets in the Mediterranean area are known to have significantly lower rates of heart disease and these diets are full of olive oil, fresh fruits and vegetables. Diets in northern climates like Canada and the UK have high rates of heart disease. So finally we are importing and including elements of the Mediterranean diet into our everyday lives and now we need to stop that?! That isn't logical. And for another example lets look at citrus fruits. Without vitamin c you'll get scurvy. So should we stop eating oranges, lemons and limes and stop drinking OJ that all comes out of Florida? And what about the great high blood pressure fighting potassium in a banana? Last time I checked there wasn't a single banana grown in Canada. Imported items are important to maintaining a balanced diet. And this leads me to my second point.

The food industry is an industry that relies on exporting and importing. We have a food industry here in Canada but also there are many parts of the world that rely on exporting food stuff for their economic stability. It's a give and take situation. If Chili no longer exported grapes to Canada the cost to their economy would be $144 million according to the information on the Gill Deacon Show. That means money out of people's pockets and not being able to put food on their families' tables. And there are side industries like shipping that also rely on the exporting and importing of food stuff to keep them in business. Economic instability creates serious political issues and affects the world economy. It's the big picture here.

It can be frustrating to walk into your grocery store during the height of broccoli season in the summer here in New Brunswick and only see broccoli from Ontario. Grocery store chains have contracts with major suppliers, it's how they keep you supplied during the off season but it means they have to keep buying from these sources year round. Farmers markets are popping up all over the place and they are the best places to hit during the growing season. Nova Scotia has a website for the ones around their province New Brunswick links theirs through the arts and entertainment section of their tourism site which strikes me as funny...

Also be aware of where the food stuff you are buying is coming from. According to the Gill Deacon show Canada imports $278 Million of fish and seafood. As a maritimer, I'm not buying any seafood that hasn't come out of local waters. It just doesn't make sense to me. It's not just about supporting local industry, it's also about quality of taste!

Stock up when things are in season but don't forgot great leafy greens in the off season, it's just too important to your health. I like frozen broccoli in the off season myself. And corn on the cob? Unless you know it was picked that morning, don't even bother! The sugars in the corn start converting to starch the minute it comes off the stalk. I buy a large quantity when I can get it fresh and bbq it all, taking the extra off the cob and freezing it. I end up with wonderful roasted corn all year long this way!

Bottom line is that it is a balance. I love supporting local farmers. I love buying in season. But I also love eating healthy and that means buying imported food stuff. Heart disease runs in my family. Olive Oil, fruits and leafy greens are crucial to my long term health. And to yours!

And that's my 2 cents.

(My camera should be back today or tomorrow, so stay tuned for recipes and pics.... I have a plan for leftover rice, chicken and broccoli - quick and easy!)

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