Diabetes Diet

Eating Locally and Seasonally

Community Supported Agriculture or CSA connects us to a local source of our food in season. While this makes sense for everyone, it is even more important for people with diabetes.

We need to eat the highest quality food of the least quantity to stay healthy, because those of us with diabetes have an impaired immune system. Since type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder, it has long been recognized that it is an impairment of the immune system. But several studies, including one in 1998 and another just this year now indicate that type 2 diabetes is also a problem with our immune system.

A few days ago my friend Jeff Myers and I were discussing why it is important for people with diabetes to eat the highest quality food.

“Organic foods – like those we get from Community Supported Agriculture – have a higher nutrient density,” Jeff maintains. Until recently we didn’t have proof that organic produce was nutritionally superior. But several recent studies have confirmed Jeff’s assertion.

One study compared the same varieties of corn, strawberries, and blackberries grown on neighboring plots, but using organic or conventional methods. The researchers found that the organic fruits and vegetables had significantly higher levels of vitamin C and of several different polyphenols, which we now know have an important role in human health.

Another study analyzed the government’s nutrient data for 43 crops and how they changed between 1950 and 1999. The study found marked declines in six different nutrients and suggested that they were a trade-off for higher yields.

You can read more studies about nutritional quality at The Organic Center’s website. The address is http://organic-center.org/science.nutri.php.

If this science doesn’t yet persuade you, then be sure to read the best book ever about food, Michael Pollan’s Ominvore’s Dilemma. Published just two weeks ago, this thoughtful, comprehensive, and wonderfully written book had a bigger impact on my eating than almost anything else that I have ever read.

How is organic food better? Pollan considers taste, for health, for the environment, for the farmer and for the taxpayer. He concludes that in all of these respects organic food is superior to conventionally grown food.

In fact, as soon as I read about Community Supported Agriculture in Pollan’s book, I signed up for a share of this season’s produce from the local CSA. Last year as I was getting settled here I didn’t buy a share, but I had before when I lived in Santa Cruz, California.

It was only about 30 years ago that CSAs began. They started in Japan when a group of women there became concerned about their food. They agreed with their local growers to directly support certain farms.

Then, about 20 years ago the idea came to the United States. Now there are more than 1,500 CSA programs. An easy way to find those in your area is to go to the website of The Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association.
When you become a part of a CSA, you are making a commitment to eat locally. This gives you fresher food at the same time as you help to reduce both the amount of gasoline used to transport produce and the chemicals used to extend its life.

Different fruits and vegetables are in season at different times. So when you join a CSA, you focus on a great selection of foods available in each season. Eating out-of-season food means they come from far away, reducing its nutritive value.

Now that it is getting warmer here on the Front Range, shopping at the local farmer’s market and my CSA share means I will be eating more nutritious food than ever. This is something I hope everyone with diabetes will do too.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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