(credit: Hyacynth Worth / undercovermother.net)

By Hyacynth Worth

It’s harvest season here in Illinois, and that means it’s prime (delicious) time to focus on eating as many local foods as possible!

With a surplus of farmers markets in the Chicagoland area, there’s nothing stopping most of us from making these weekly markets our grocery-shopping destinations. Aside from markets being, well, everywhere, here are FIVE compelling reasons to eat locally and take advantage of what our local farmers have to offer.

Trim Your Waistline

Unlike many packaged foods lining the shelves at grocery stores, fresh fruit, vegetables and pasture-raised meats and eggs are not just filled with good carbohydrates, fats and healthy proteins; they are also nutrient-dense foods that boast vitamins and minerals, helping our bodies to acquire and store more than just calories, making these foods more satisfying and nutritious and thus more beneficial for weight loss or healthy weight maintenance. When our bodies are fed high quality nutrients–not just calories–maintaining a healthy weight or achieving one is much more likely than simply cutting calories. And since farmers markets don’t often boast much of the processed, packaged foods that are calorie laden and nutrient poor, chances are you’ll walk away with more numerous amounts of healthier choices. If you’d like to learn more about nutrient density as it relates to weight loss, this is a pretty good beginner’s article.

(credit: Hyacynth Worth / undercovermother.net)

Slash Your Grocery Bill

By shopping at the local farmers market, not only are we buying healthy, nutrient-dense foods, but we’re also not buying non-essential consumables like soft drinks, cookies and crackers. That alone contributes to a reduction in the grocery bill. Additionally, you’ll likely pay less for your tomatoes and zucchini at the market because there’s no middle man to pay (the grocery store) and the cost of bringing the food to the consumer is less, which is reflected in your bill. We’ve actually been taking an Eat Local Challenge in my house this month, and the amount we spend on food at the farmers market versus the grocery store is drastically different! You can read about our challenge and see what we spend weekly to feed a family of four.

Boost Your Immune System

When we eat locally grown produce and animal products, we’re not just consuming the actual food – we’re also consuming the natural flora of the land. Recently, researchers have been exploring how being exposed to the microbes in our natural environments actually encourage the development of healthy immune systems. To read more about the science behind being exposed to all the rich bacteria in our environments, check out this New York Times article.

(credit: Hyacynth Worth / undercovermother.net)

Support Your Local Economy

It’s obvious, but it still needs to be said: When we shop locally, we’re keeping money circulating in our communities instead of filtering it through multiple channels to myriad destinations. Buying from your local farmer puts almost all of the money you’ve spent at his or her store in that farmer’s pocket instead of dividing it between marketing programs, a middle man, a distributor and so on, which in turn allows the farmer to spend more money within the community.

Connect with the Land

When we buy locally, we connect with the land even if we aren’t physically in the fields uprooting weeds, planting seeds and reaping harvests. Buying our food locally means that we are eating seasonally. It also means that we know what kinds of produce and animal products our land supports. And, importantly, if we’re shopping our farmers markets with the kids in town, it means we’re teaching our kids what real food from the ground and farms looks like. As a bonus, when we shop farmers markets, we also get to know our local farmers, thus building a relationship with them that might lead to the opportunity of visiting their farm and learning even more about how our food is grown.

Farmers Markets Around Chicago

Try these recommended Farmers Markets to fulfill all your local eating needs!

Logan Square Farmers Market

Grayslake Farmers Market

Elawa Farm Foundation

Woodstock Farmers Market

You can also buy produce from Growing Home, a non-profit that provides employment opportunities to those who need a little help. Find out where to buy their produce here.

Hyacynth Worth writes almost daily about motherhood, faith, healthy living and the intersection of it all at Undercover Mother.