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Farmers’ Markets link older Ohioans to fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables Bookmark

Farmers’ Markets link older Ohioans to fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables

By Ashley Davis MA, RDN, LD
Population Health and Nutrition Manager

Aug. 5-11 is National Farmers’ Market Week. Ohio’s farmers’ markets link older adults to fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables, that not only help older adults and the people who care for them maintain a delicious, nutritious diet, but provide so much more.

As we age, our bodies change, and so do our nutritional needs. Our metabolism may slow down and, while we still require a variety of nutrients, we may need fewer calories. Whole fruits and vegetables are rich in important nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and low in calories, which make them a perfect (and crucial) part of older adults’ diets. People who eat more produce as part of a healthy diet are likely to have reduced risk of chronic diseases, including stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various cancers. Good nutrition has been shown to help support a healthy and active lifestyle, reduce frailty and disability, improve health outcomes and reduce health disparities and health care costs.

Shopping at farmers’ markets gives you access to the growers, who are generally knowledgeable about their products. They can explain how to prepare and store your food and can also discuss how their crops are raised and what (if any) chemicals are used. Markets also provide opportunities for socialization and entertainment. They often provide the chance to mingle with your neighbors and learn more about your community and its residents. Some markets also offer entertainment and classes.

If you need another reason to shop at your local farmers’ market, consider this: When you do so, you are supporting your local farmers and keeping the money you spend on food closer to your neighborhood.

Right now in Ohio, a variety of produce is available at farmers’ markets, including:

  • Tomatoes – Tomatoes are versatile and can be served raw on salads and sandwiches, stewed for a hearty side dish or cooked into sauces. They have been shown to protect against cancer, maintain healthy blood pressure and reduce blood glucose in people with diabetes.
  • Sweet corn – Sweet corn is a summer tradition in Ohio. It can be boiled, grilled or baked, and eaten right of the cob, or you can cut it off the cob for canning, freezing and use in different recipes like salsas, casseroles and even ice cream to add texture and flavor. Corn is rich in nutrients that guard against eye diseases, as well as a is a good source of fiber, which helps with digestion. It also provides good amounts of vitamin C, magnesium and potassium.
  • Blueberries – You can enjoy fresh blueberries by themselves or in yogurt, oatmeal, salads and main dishes. Some nutritionists believe that if you make only one change to your diet, it should be to add blueberries. Not only can they lower your risk of heart disease and cancer, they are also anti-inflammatory. They also are a good source of vitamins K and C, fiber, manganese, potassium and other antioxidants.
  • Zucchini – You can enjoy zucchini raw in salads and salsas, bake or grill it as a delicious side dish, or bake it into the ever-popular zucchini bread. Zucchini is packed with nutrients that decrease the risk of stroke, reduce high blood pressure and lower cholesterol.
  • Peaches – Peaches are a popular summer fruit in Ohio and are great for eating raw, blending into smoothies, as a salad topping or charred on the grill. They are rich in vitamins E and K, niacin, iron, potassium, zinc and copper. They contribute to bone health and strengthen your immune and nervous systems.
  • Cucumbers – Cucumbers are fresh, delicious additions to your summer diet. You can eat raw slices by themselves or in a salad, or add creamy goodness to soups and other dishes. They are good sources of fiber, potassium, magnesium and vitamin B-5. Cucumbers can help reduce blood sugar levels.

People with limited incomes may benefit from programs designed to help them access fresh fruits and vegetables:

  • The Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program, available in 45 counties, provides older residents with $50 worth of coupons that can be used at participating farmers’ markets and roadside stands for fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs.
  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps eligible low-income Ohioans stretch their food budgets and buy healthy food. The average monthly SNAP payment was approximately $132.
  • The Produce Perks Program helps you buy fresh, healthy food from participating farmers markets and grocery stores. Produce Perks provides people receiving SNAP with a dollar-for-dollar match when spent on healthy foods.

Learn more about these and other resources to help you or your loved ones maintain a well-balanced diet as you age. And, be sure to explore local farmers’ markets all summer and fall.

National Farmers' Market Week is sponsored by the Farmers' Market Coalition.

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